Years ago, Bose introduced the SoundLink Mini 2, the second generation of its mini Bluetooth speaker. Now, they have the SoundLink Mini 2 SE. The changes are minor, but in this case, that’s a good thing. As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Here, I’ll give an overview of the changes and my thoughts and opinions.
As I said, not much has changed. Instead of Micro USB, you’ll find USB type C on the side for charging with modern (non-iPhone) cables. On the inside, you’ll also get 2 extra hours of battery life (up to 12 hours from the previous 10), according to Bose. There’s no word on whether or not the Bluetooth version has been updated. The only other major change is that you can now purchase the SoundLink Mini 2 SE in black. There’s not much of a reason to upgrade if you have the non-SE unless you have a pathological hatred of micro USB, you want slightly more battery, or if you just really want it in black.
Physical Design, unboxing, and First Impressions
I’ve never had a good relationship with tech from Costco. They often commission a slightly customized version of the product. This makes finding replacement parts down the line very difficult, but the speaker sells for $150US. That’s 30 bucks less than on Bose’s website, and I got an additional discount on top of that. I’m also what most people would consider an audiophile. I’m not purchasing diamond coated XLR cables kissed by the Pope or anything, but I do have standards. Mackie mr824 monitors and ATH-m40x headphones are my weapons of choice. They’re not amazing, but they’re a few cuts above what you’ll find near the front of your local big box retailer. Now that I’ve shamelessly flaunted my audio setup, let’s move on.
If you’ve held any of the SoundLink Mini speakers, then you already know what to expect. For others, the speaker appears to be a very long inverted trapezoid with very steep sides and slightly convex top and bottom surfaces when viewed from the front. That front is dominated by a dark grill with a small rubber gasket surrounding it. The rear looks much the same. Both grills are ever so slightly recessed into the aluminium frame which holds the entire unit together. This thing is built like a tank. If you squeeze the grills, they’ll flex a bit, but you can pick this thing up, and it won’t have a problem. Just don’t squeeze hard. Holding the thing in your hand feels like holding a funky technobrick from the future. It’s very small and very heavy with a footprint of 5cm (~2 in) by 18cm (~7.1 in) by 5.8cm (~2.3 in). The metal frame has a courser finish than what you’ll find on an Apple product, but it still feels meaty and strong as metal should. The top features the product logo and 5 rubber buttons that are all easy to feel out. From left to right, you have a power button, volume down button, multifunction button, volume up button, and a Bluetooth button. The buttons on either end are concave, whereas the other buttons are convex. This makes them extremely easy to feel out. The right side of the Mini features the USB type C charging port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. I’ll resist the urge to make jokes about ancient relics. The bottom is dominated by a rubber pad that grips the surface it rests on and prevents the thing from rattling. There are also small ports for the charging cradle which is no longer included in the box.
In typical Costco fashion, the speaker is only offered in black, and the real box was locked away in a plastic clamshell sealed shut with a comically gargantuan cardboard surround. It was, mercifully, easy enough to peel open and extract the valuable contents. Opening this speaker has made me appreciate just how little plastic goes into Apple’s boxes. Inside, all you’ll get is the speaker, a USB C to USB A cable, and a bunch of manuals and booklets. There’s no cradle or charging brick to be found.
The Mini ships with a partial charge, but you’ll need to plug it into power in order to activate the unit. It beeps twice. Then you can turn it on, select your preferred language, and begin pairing! The voice prompts are still here, featuring what sounds like Microsoft Zira. I didn’t realize that they were using a TTS voice and not simple recordings until I connected my iPhone 11 up and, “Connected to Pepper’s iPhone” came out of the front grill (Yes, that really is my name). Then, I started using my phone to try out the sound, and the biggest feature hit me. Voiceover stays on your phone. No longer must you endure blasting Samantha at 95% speed for everyone to hear. Now you can do what you need to do on your device, and anyone else listening will only hear your music or audiobooks or cat video or what have you. That’s it, I’m in love with this speaker.
Don’t worry, I’m not here to rag on how Bose is a stupid company and all of its customers are sheep, or whatever most audiophiles do. I don’t like Bose. Back in middle school we did a science project about sonar that was sponsored by them. It amounted to a thinly veiled ad campaign. No, I don’t like how heavy they go on digital signal processing, but if you like the sound, more power to you. That memory is really my only problem with them. Anyway, this speaker goes heavy on the mid-bass and high frequencies. This is thanks in part to the dual passive radiators; this is a feature common to many portable speakers nowadays. That means Human voices will sound rich and full, guitars and pianos will sparkle, and you’ll get the impression of a much bigger speaker. Basically, you’ve got a v(-ish)-shaped sound signature. It sounds best in a small or medium room and really isn’t meant for much beyond near field listening. Music and voices sound good for the size, though the latter tends to be a little boomy, and watching a video with both will really show the weaknesses of the speaker. Background music can get lost, and people with particularly deep voices or a lot of chest resonance can be a little uncomfortable. You can also absolutely make this thing distort if you crank the volume up. The usual quality degradation is present, thanks to Bluetooth’s codecs. I can’t tell if it supports Aptx-HD, but even if it did, that’s not available for iPhone. This isn’t a flaw in the speaker. It’s just the way Bluetooth works. Stereo separation is non-existent. If I’m complaining so much about the quality, why did I even bother? Yes, it sounds like a Bluetooth speaker, but that’s the thing. It’s a Bluetooth speaker, and a tiny one at that. I’m willing to overlook a lot, and the sound signature isn’t so extreme as to be irritating. Besides, I already have equipment for better quality on tap. Even if I didn’t the fact that this thing has actual honest-to-goodness accessibility baked in is enough of a selling point. The sound is more sheep than wolf, but that sheep found some very nice wolf clothing at the dealer’s den.
Accessibility and Features
I didn’t know speakers could even have such a thing, but here is Bose giving us voice prompts for identifying devices, callers, and the battery level. I already talked about how it tells you which device is connected. That’s really great, especially since you can have 2 connected devices and an additional 6 saved to its pairing list. Just repeatedly click the Bluetooth button to cycle through active devices. Holding the power button will visually and audibly indicate the battery level. Voice prompts will relay that info in 10% intervals. When someone calls you, the Mini will also tell you who’s calling. It’ll even speak their name if the number is in your contacts. I thought you had to enable contact sharing, but the feature works regardless. This speaker is definitely geared for iOS users. Talkback users won’t encounter issues unless they connect multiple devices, and Windows users… well, I’ll get to that in the next section.
One feature that surprised me is just how quickly it connects to devices. Press the power button, and you’re ready to go near instantly. I thought this had something to do with the w1 or h1 chip, but it acts the same way on Android devices and my laptop. I’m seriously impressed by how good the connection is on this little thing. Latency is also very low.
Like everything else, the SoundLink Mini 2 SE isn’t quite perfect. Voice prompts have questionable pronunciation. It called my friend’s OnePlus 8t “pecan” instead of “beacon”, and it doesn’t handle names with all caps gracefully either. Using this device on iOS with Voiceover is fine, but connect it to a Windows machine running NVDA, and be prepared to very quickly disconnect it. It’ll be no surprise that it handles high speed speech synthesis about as well as a bald eagle piloting a blimp. Come on, guys. Surely it can’t be that hard to not clip the first and last milliseconds of Microsoft Mark? My computer also won’t play nice with multi-device support. If someone else is playing music, your computer’s speakers will go silent until they stop playing or you disconnect. Android faired much better. While it was still subject to silence from Talkback if another device was playing through the Mini (it didn’t stick to the phone like on iOS), there was no speech clipping at all. This holds true for my old Galaxy s9+ which mostly sits around collecting dust nowadays.
One quirk that is mildly annoying is the fact that the SoundLink gives no audible indication that it turned off. Turning it on will speak the battery and connected device but turning it off just… does nothing. You push the power button, and it’s just off. For other controls, while it’s much better about not making you tap ten times just to switch the volume, you must double click or triple click the multifunction button to skip tracks backward or forward, respectively. Here’s a tip for you; hold the Bluetooth button down for 10 seconds to clear the pairing list. That’s handy if it gets clogged up with devices you never connect or if someone paired a device with a rude name. Once connected to an iPhone, adjusting Voiceover’s volume becomes a bit of a nightmare. The volume buttons on your phone exclusively control the volume of whatever is coming out of the Mini… except when they don’t. Lastly, I’m not too fond of the placement of the charging port. It’s hard to get it in, and this really makes me wish that Bose had continued to ship the cradle. That said, I’m happy that they at least used USB C and not micro USB or a barrel plug like on the original.
The Bose SoundLink Mini 2 Se has proven to be an excellent speaker with stellar build quality, good sound, excellent battery life, actual proper accessibility, and a beautiful design. It takes the fantastic design of the SoundLink Mini 2 and brings it up to modern spec. Yes, you can probably find better sound quality, but will you get the other features in a package this size if you head elsewhere? I’m not willing to go looking further. This one is good enough for me. On the road, in a hotel room, or at the breakfast table, the Bose SoundLink Mini 2 SE is a great choice for VI users, however exclusive Windows users should look elsewhere.
My Own Disclaimer
I purchased the Bose SoundLink Mini 2 from Costco for $129.99US with my own money. No third parties have received early viewing or editing rights. I wrote it up and posted it here. I am not a journalist or part of the editorial team. I’m just some idiot on the internet who likes tech and wanted to review a thing.