Customer Review

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but second-fiddle to Sonos (UPDATED), 30 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Bose ® SoundTouch ® 20 Wi-Fi Music System (discontinued by manufacturer) (Electronics)
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First impressions are that this is a well-packaged and nicely presented device.

The styling is handsome and the build quality is high.

It is about the same size overall as a Sonos Play 5 - of which I have two (plus a new Play 1) and with which I will be comparing this device to.

There is a selection of buttons on the top and a clear display on the front.

A Windows or Mac computer is required for setup. You cannot simply plug in and go. A required software download is approximately 52Mb in size and is only available by download, it does not come pre-packed on a disk.

The software is relatively easy to use. Initial setup was fairly straightforward, and the device promptly updated itself. That's not where it ends though...You then have to create a Soundtouch account... Why? It doesn't give any explanation as to why it needs your name and address details, which seems a little intrusive for something that's just there to play my own music or internet radio?

My first initial attempt to create the account failed as it claimed to be unable to contact Bose servers. A second attempt was successful however.

On adding a music library it states Windows Media Player or iTunes libraries only, it doesn't prompt you to any other types of music library. At the time of my review, adding a music library that is stored on a NAS drive is not possible - which I think is a massive oversight. I believe a lot of people who have large music libraries invariably locate them on network storage as opposed to having to keep an associated laptop or PC turned on all the time.

I keep a clone of my NAS music library on a laptop so opted to add the Windows Media Player library from there for the time being. The app gave no indication of the progress of this task, only choosing to produce an error when i tried to access the library and suggesting I check again in a few minutes. 5 minutes later I tried again and it let me view my library. I did find that it seemed a little clumsy in how it handled meta data for tracks, for example it showed 'Adele' and 'ADELE' where my Sonos system seemed to have the smarts to combine the two.

There is no pause, mute or skip function on the device itself, so you need to use the supplied remote commander or a tablet or smartphone which has the Soundtouch app installed.

I have a Nexus 4 smartphone so downloaded the app. I signed into my newly created Soundtouch account, but the app was unable to locate my system. I also have a Nexus 10 tablet, and that found the Soundtouch with no problems, so there must be some compatibility issues that need to be ironed out.

With regard to the app, I have to say it's not as intuitive as I would have liked. You cannot create playlists or stack albums in a queue, you are basically governed by whatever structure or playlists your connected computer's music library has on it.

When it comes to internet radio stations, the device works more like I would have expected. Again though, the app is a little clunky. If you are browsing categories you can drag a chosen station to a preset in order to store it, but if you have conducted a search for a station, you cannot drag a station from the list of results, instead you have to tune to the station and then hold down the required preset until it stores. Such changes in user experience only serve to confuse. While I don't use them right now, the ability to sign-in to other music streaming services such as Spotify is apparently due to be added some time this year, but it seems a little lacking in its offering so far.

Finally onto the sound quality. Directly comparing it to one of my Sonos Play 5s, it sounds near enough exactly the same to my 32 year old ears. There are some subtle nuances, but for all intents and purposes, they are within a hairs breadth of one-another. The Sonos allows for some rudimentary equaliser adjustments whereas the Bose offers no such settings. Either way, both are impressive for one-box music streaming speakers. I have read reviews by some people claiming that the Bose is "definitely superior" to the Sonos, but I really have to disagree. There is a more expensive 'Soundtouch 30' available which will likely offer more punch, but no doubt the interface and other foibles I have are the same. I cannot speak for how well multiple devices work in sync with each other, which is one of Sonos' party pieces that it is particularly good at.

In a nutshell, this Bose Soundtouch 20 is un-doubtably a good quality device. It is well made and nicely styled, as all Bose products usually are. The sound quality is very good and if you are content with accessing a music library on a switched-on laptop or desktop computer then it does the job, and access to internet radio works as expected. It falls down however in its lack of NAS support (at the moment), the convoluted setup process, and the unintuitive app experience. At a price of 349 it will be directly compared to the Sonos Play 5 which I also own and if I'm completely honest, the Sonos beats it hands-down on all fronts. The mesh-network of the Sonos, its greater compatibility with music sources and bolt-on music services, and its much more intuitive app interface make it a no-brainer.

Had this Bose been around when I was doing my research originally, I would likely have taken a look at it, but I'm further reassured that my investment in Sonos was the right decision to take even two years later.

As such, I am forced to give this Bose device a mere 2 stars and no more. If software updates improve any of the aforementioned issues, I'd be tempted to up it to 3 or even 4 if it becomes a more complete solution.

UPDATE (May 2014): Like any decent tech brand, Bose has been trying to improve their product offering and it would be unfair of me not to update my review accordingly.
The interface and app has been updated, offering greater functionality and connectivity, and you are now able to access music stored on a NAS drive, which will be a boon to some people.
Bose did survey it's audience to understand any issues, but I can't help but think they should really have done that before launching it.
I still think this is not up to Sonos standards as far as a complete package is concerned, but it has definitely improved, so I have bumped my score up to 3 stars. I can't see it going any higher though.
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Location: UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 330