HJ Reviews: Does Bose’s new neck speaker hit the right notes?

Best known for its top-of-the-range speakers and home sound systems, Bose has made a push as of late into the personal electronics market.

But the products to note aren’t Bose’s sports earphones or voice-enabled smart speakers (of which it boasts many) but an interesting pivot into niche designs, chief among them the SoundWear Companion wearable neck speaker. Designed with a focus on embedding itself into your household routines, could the Companion become an indispensable part of your everyday lifestyle, or will it fall flat when tested against normal habits? We find out.

Pros
  • Great sound quality
  • Attractive form factor
  • Long battery life

Cons
  • Narrow range of uses
  • Difficult to charge
  • Not suitable for sharing music

The reaction from friends and colleagues was universally one of cautious wonder and mild bemusement whenever I broke out Bose’s venture into the nascent category of neck speakers, the SoundWear Companion. Boasting a sleek form factor that rests gently atop your shoulders, the device features two upward-facing “waveguide” speakers that connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone or computer to deliver powerful audio that envelopes your head in a bubble of sound.

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This is also what sets the Companion in a bit of a bind, as it is neither an entirely public (the sound quality and volume drops off rapidly once it’s off your shoulders) nor an entirely private experience, by virtue of it being a speaker. Bose angles this as an advantage in that you aren’t sonically isolated from your surroundings as you would be if you wore headphones, thus allowing conversation to happen naturally. However, the thought of being in the proximity of somebody using the Companion, and being compelled to listen to a tinnier version of their music, is an experience best avoided.

Indeed, Bose’s own press images, as well as the images of the influencers that Bose seeded the product to, all settled on what I also found to be the best use for the Companion: listening to music or podcasts while doing household chores. Another scenario in which the speaker could shine is for work-at-home freelancers, who would be able to reap the benefits of its discreet, wireless form factor, ability to make phone calls, and long 12-hour battery life.

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Bose offers several fabric covers to customise the Companion with, which are made from static-free and stretchable materials (a black cover comes in the box with the device). However, I found that the covers tend to get in the way of charging – to do so, you must remove the cover, connect a micro-USB cable, and re-cover the speaker once it is charged, although the cover itself is so form-fitting as to make the last step a struggle.

So should you buy the Bose SoundWear Companion? If you work from home, are a lover of household chores, or don’t mind a few strange stares on the MTR, a resounding yes. For everyone else, it might be easier to plug in your favourite earphones and let the band play you out.

The Bose SoundWear Companion is available at Bose Hong Kong locations for HK$2,788, with additional fabric covers for HK$249 each. Stay tuned for more honest opinions on the latest home tech in our new Reviews section.

All images courtesy of Bose