Bose has built compact "lifestyle devices" for years. And the network stereo SoundTouch 20 continues in the same style. The size is similar to a kitchen or a clock radio - on steroids.
There are two built-in speakers. The back holds the few necessary connections, in the form of an RJ45 network connector (for those who do not have wi-fi), Mains input socket and a 3.5mm minijack input for analogue sources. There are two USB ports as well, which is used exclusively during installation, requiring a computer.
Network Music For The Common Man
Internet radio is nothing new. Not music over a network either. But with the SoundTouch series Bose has tried to do a relatively geeky technology accessible to the common man and simplify management with a half row of buttons on a remote control. So far Sonos almost had a monopoly in this area, but now all established brands wants to fight for customers.
The series has two other systems as well: the larger and more powerful SoundTouch 30 and the battery-powered SoundTouch Portable. The three models have price and performance that is at the same levels as for example Play models from Sonos. Several larger systems are additionally on the way, plus a separate amplifier so that you can plug in a pair of full size speakers. Finally, Bose promises that their lifestyle systems can be upgraded with a wi-fi adapter.
Access To The Worlds Radio
SoundTouch 20 has neither FM or DAB, but direct contact with thousands of internet radio stations worldwide. To find them, use to control app available for smartphones (Android/iOS) and computers (PC/Mac). From there, you can search for the network's radio stations and in folders on networked devices. When you have found a music source it can be played either directly or saved as a preset.
Here we run into a problem: there's only room to store six presets. That is simply too little when the selection of channels is so massive. The U.S channels are great to have, obviously, and BBC also. And when my better half want to have access to a couple of Finnish radio channels and the almost-teenager requires direct import of reggae from Jamaica and dubstep from English Inner Bass Radio, it quickly becomes a fierce battle for the preset buttons.
SoundTouch 20 supports Apple’s AirPlay, so you can stream music from your iOS devices or iTunes from the network. That´s a big plus. On the other hand, Bose gets a minus because it does not support the popular streaming services like Spotify and WiMP. An update in the second half of 2014, however, provide access to Deezer. Until then, the only way to stream audio is from an iOS device. If you have an Android device you can remotely control the system, but may have to settle for Internet radio and locally stored music.
Inadequate Sound File Playback
In addition to Internet radio the SoundTouch 20 plays music files through a network. It can play MP3, WMA, AAC and Apple Lossless. Support for FLAC will come in an update soon, but you may be looking in vain for high-resolution audio formats. Unfortunately it doesn´t support either m3u-playlists or numbering of the files themselves. This means that the songs are played in alphabetical order rather than by the order in which the artists placed them on the disc!
Bose claims that the SoundTouch can be placed anywhere. Purely location wise, it is true, it does not take up much space. But if the sound is to be reasonably balanced it should preferably be placed a good distance away from walls and corners. Otherwise you´ll be drowning in bass – or rather midbass, as there is no real deep bass here. When placed in a windowsill the bass overpowered everything else. It could work with the children’s dubstep, but not with the news.
On a table, it becomes a little more balanced frequency-wise, although the bass is still a tad too violent. SoundTouch 20 reveals a pleasing sound without apparent deficiencies and noise. The treble could have been more resolved, the midrange more prominent and stereo perspective is naturally narrow. But if the living room is only to be filled with music without stealing attention from any design furniture, the SoundTouch manages the task perfectly.
Bose mentions nothing about power or other technical data. But this mini stereo can play violently loud considering its small size. Actually over 105 decibels in average sound pressure a feet away! Considering the power consumption we guess that SoundTouch 20 contains a 2 x 40-watt class D amplifier.
The Bose SoundTouch 20 is a nice little Internet radio in the lifestyle segment for those who like design and the Bose name makes the price reasonable. As a jukebox for your background music it does a really nice job. The sound is clear and powerful. It never gets uncomfortable to listen to, even when dialed up to considerable volume levels. However, it would be great if Bose tamed the bass a tad and added a few EQ settings for both speech programs and headbanging music.
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- IN ThE bOX
- Play music throughout your home easily and wirelessly
- Works with your home Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth® devices so you can play almost anything you can imagine
- Add SoundTouch® systems to play the same music throughout, or different music in different rooms
- Powerful app transforms your phone into your music remote control
- Press one of six presets on the speaker, remote or app to play your favorite music
- System:7.4" H x 12.4" W x 4.1" D (7 lbs)
- Remote:4.5" H x 1.75" W x 0.5" D (1.76 oz)
- Built-in Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth
- OLED display
- Wireless network compatibility: 802.11 b/g/n
- Supported audio formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, Apple Lossless
- AUX input
- Ethernet port
- USB ports
- SoundTouch® 20 wireless music system
- Power cable
- USB cable
- Remote control