Bose SoundTouch 20 Review
Pros: Excellent sound, great volume, many connection options
Cons: Expensive, optional app can be problematic
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bose SoundTouch 20 is one of the best speakers we tested, but can't quite match the performance of the new Home Theater 500. Still, it is quite a good option if you're looking for a loud and great sounding single-speaker system.
The Bose SoundTouch 20 was one of the highest overall scorers in our testing. To find the best home wireless speaker we used a number of different tests organized into four different testing metrics. You can read about how well the SoundTouch 20 did in each of those tests below.
The SoudTouch 20 is a great sounding speaker, occupying the second step of our sound quality podium.
The SoundTouch 20 had the deepest and most powerful bass of any of the speakers in our selection. It backs that up with impressive clarity, creating a well-rounded soundscape that can make almost any genre of music sound great. The Bose Home Speaker 500 does sound a good bit crisper, but has slightly less booming bass. Overall we think the Home Speaker 500 is more flattering to a wider array of music, but if you tend to always crank the bass knob up to full you may actually prefer the sound of the SoundTouch 20.
The SoundTouch 20 is very simple and easy to use, but does lack some of the perks present in newer models.
We like the fact that Bose offers a simple and reliable Bluetooth connection for all of its speakers. This makes it simple to connect any device to your speaker and to switch between devices. Sonos, the only competitor to Bose in terms of sound quality, does not offer a Bluetooth connection. We also like the Bose remote control, which lets you raise and lower the volume and even give the thumbs up or down to Pandora tracks when your device is charging in the next room. Again, Sonos does not provide a remote control with its speakers, relying solely on its app.
If you'd rather stream your music over WiFi, Bose also offers an app that can accomplish that. This app is also used if you want to connect multiple speakers together. This is the one point where Bose lost some user-friendliness points. When using the app to manage multiple speakers it crashed on us many times, making for a frustrating experience. We found the Sonos app to be much more reliable for using multiple speakers together.
Smart Home Compatibility
Bose has an Alexa skill that makes using any Bose speaker alongside any Alexa enabled device very easy. Bose also claims it will be adding software support for Google Home in the near future, but has not yet given a specific date.
Bose speakers also include a physical line in, so theoretically you can connect them to any smart home device that way. However, you may need to make sure the speaker is on and woken up before you talk to the device.
User-Friendly Improvements in the Home Speaker 500
The new Home Speaker 500 improves over the SoundTouch 20 in two distinct ways. First, it has Alexa built right in, so it is a smart speaker straight out of the box. Second, Bose released a new app to be used in conjunction with the Home Speaker 500, which we found to be far superior to that used by the SoundTouch 20. In fact, it is nearly as good as the Sonos app. However, we would still recommend Sonos for those that want to build a multiple speaker system, as all of their speakers are compatible with one another. Bose speakers can only be linked to a limited number of their other products (for instance, you cannot link the SoundTouch 20 and the Home Speaker 500 together).
The Bose SoundTouch 20 was one of the loudest speakers we tested, likely providing all the volume you'll ever need.
Bose is known for packing a lot of volume per square inch into their speakers, and the SoundTouch 20 follows that tradition. It is plenty loud enough for a party in a large house with lots of people. Plus, if you want even more power, you can upgrade to the SoundTouch 30. You could also upgrade to the new Home Theater 500, which is a bit louder as well.
The Bose SoundTouch 20 offers a classic Bluetooth connection, a WiFi connection via an app, an ethernet port, and a 3.5mm audio-in jack. This is the most diverse connectivity suite of any of the speakers we tested, earning it a top score.
At $350 the SounTouch 20 isn't cheap, but if you're already spending that much we would suggest that most people pony up a bit more to get the field leading Bose Home Theater 500. However, you're likely to find the SoundTouch 20 on sale since it is no longer one of Bose's flagship models, and if you do find it for less it could be a steal.
The Bose SounTouch 20 is a great choice if you're looking for a single speaker for your home, but the new Home Speaker 500 fills that role with a bit more panache.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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