Every so often a new product comes along that promises to change the way we think about traditional gadgets. A new personal speaker from Bose promises just that. Called the Bose SoundWear, this speaker has some unique properties; primarily that you don’t put it on a surface near you, you wear it. I recently received a Bose SoundWear unit for two weeks of testing and review.

What is Bose SoundWear?

Bose calls SoundWear a “companion speaker”. It’s a U-shaped speaker that wraps around your neck and directs sound primarily to you. Bose says the speaker, “rests comfortably on your shoulders, with sound that is full and clear to you—yet minimizes the sound for others.”

SoundWear works with Android or iPhone.

How to set up Bose SoundWear

The set up process is very easy and worked the first time, each of the two times I tried new pairings. You turn on the power, then push the Bluetooth button. You’ll get a message that says, “ready to connect”. Then head to your phone or device’s Bluetooth menu. Look for the Bose SoundWear device in your list, then tap to connect.

Once they’re hooked up to your phone, you place them around your neck, and let the music play.

Bose SoundWear – Fit and feel

The unit is pretty light and it’s shaped in such a way that it stays put as you walk around. Laying back it’s comfortable too whether reclining on the sofa or laying in bed. The neckband narrows enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re laying on something hard or obtrusive.

The band stays in place even when leaning forward and moving around, so it’s wouldn’t be annoying for gardening, cooking or working in your shop.

I tried a short jog in these and in a word… no. They move around with any vigorous up and down motion, so not surprisingly so I’d say these aren’t suited to a run.

Stretchable & flexible

The Bose SoundWear isn’t what I’d call rigid or hard. It’s quite flexible and can be bent, pulled apart and widened, and twisted, without feeling like you’ll snap it. The interchangeable cover is soft, and the zipper and seams are not noticeable while it’s being worn.

I do wonder how these would fit someone of the bodybuilder persuasion, who has a thicker neck, but I can’t imagine most folks having a problem with the neckband’s size, since it isn’t designed to be constrictive or like a collar… it’s truly more of a shoulder wrap.

SoundWear – Listening experience &sound quality

Wearing a speaker around my neck is a completely new sensation.

It’s a weird feeling, but not unpleasant. Just unique. You’re hearing speaker sound, but all around your head. It makes me think that if I was wearing a space helmet and it had Bose speakers inside, that this is what it would sound like.

Not surprisingly, the sound quality is outstanding. It’s crisp and clear. The vocals cut through well and there’s no raspiness or hollowness. The bass is actually good too. You can feel it around you and the reverberations inside your personal sound bubble are fun.

I listened to a variety of music with the SoundWear and I can definitely say I enjoyed all of it.

My test playlist:

  • Dashboard – Modest Mouse
  • Discovered – Kinnie Starr
  • Moby – Extreme Ways
  • Train – Hey Soul Sister
  • Montell Jordan – Something 4 da Honeys
  • Saint Motel – My Type
  • Jagged Edge – Where the Party At
  • Big Pun – Not a Player
  • Spanish Guitar Chill – Dance Amigo
  • State of Shock – Money Honey
  • at Wendy’s – Twitter Fingers

Montell and Kinnie’s voices sound silky suave. It was easy to discern the complexity and different instruments in My Type. The bass was thrumming on this track too.
The intricacies on Spanish guitar were fun to listen too. The background castanet, tambourine and the subtle hand clapping was easy to pick out.

Overall I really liked the feeling of the bass when using the SoundWear. In headphones, you feel the bass vibrate your ears or in some cases your jaw or your head. With these, it feels like someone is playing the bass as it’s connected to your shoulders. A musical bass massage, of sorts. Funky.

Can I use Bose SoundWear as a speaker?

In theory, you could take these off, set them down and use them as a speaker but they’re not designed for that.

I can clearly hear the audio emanating from the SoundWear when they’re sitting on the coffee table, for example, but it doesn’t sound as good. I noticed a lot of raspiness and the sound was flatter when they were sitting in front of me. It seems like you lose a lot of the low end and overall quality if you’re not wearing them.

Soundwear: “Minimizing the sound for others?”

On Bose’s website, the company says that by using the SoundWear device, you can enjoy top quality audio “while minimizing the sound for others”. I don’t agree with this statement.

In my testing at home, I wore the device around, as did my husband. We each agreed that it’s possible to clearly hear the sound coming from the SoundWear device even from across the room (See my demo in the video review). Is it as loud as what you might get from a Bluetooth speaker? Probably not. I guess it all depends on what volume levels were talking about.

Nonetheless, it was easy to hear what the other person was listening to. If you have the idea that this personal, wearable speaker will somehow direct sound straight into your ears and create a cone of silence around you so no one else can hear, that’s not the way it’s going to work.

I could liken these to wearing a pair of very powerful headphones around your neck with the volume cranked up to full; people will still hear what’s coming out of them, though maybe not at the same volume you will.

Who is Bose SoundWear for?

Truthfully I’m not sure who Bose is targeting this device too. I can see someone using them outdoors if they are gardening, and don’t want to bring a speaker outside, or for the type of person who finds headphones uncomfortable. But these would just not work for someone who’s using a lawn mower or power tools for example. Similarly, if you’re trying not to disturb others in your home, headphones are a better choice. And of course if you want to share your music, a Bluetooth speaker is the best bet.

Bose says these are for people who don’t want “to slap on headphones and shut out everything else around you,” however with today’s HearThrough technology and more that lets you allow levels of ambient noise into your headphones while listening to music and podcasts, this seems somewhat unnecessary.

If you think the SoundWear seems like a perfect gadget for you, let us know why, and how you’d use it in comments. I’d love to understand better.

One way I can see these being handy is for people who like to talk on the phone while doing other things. For example, if you routinely spend an hour on the phone with your mother, while you’re trying to clean up or use your hands for something else, these would be a way to give you hands-free calling, since they also can be used as a speaker phone.

Phone call quality on Bose SoundWear

I really loved using the Bose SoundWear for phone calls. The call quality was crystal clear, and my callers sounded perfect. They told me I sounded great too. SoundWear to me was the ultimate hands-free speakerphone and I could see myself using it regularly to do conference calls in my office. Overall the speakerphone capability of this device was outstanding.

Can I use Bose SoundWear for gaming?

Despite what you may think, Bose says the SoundWear are not suitable for gaming. That’s too bad, because I’m sure gamers would like this concept. Bose says in general, the audio/video delay will be excessive and quite noticeable in games where action and audio are supposed to be synchronized. So sorry gamers, these are not for you.

Can I watch videos with SoundWear?

The short answer to that question is no. Bose says this device is not meant to be used while watching videos. (At least they’re being completely upfront about that.) A lot of headphones that are truly wireless have issues matching audio and video properly and in sync. Here, Bose is transparent about there being a delay expected, so these are not meant to be used to watch videos on your smart phone or tablet.

Battery Life – Bose SoundWear

I’d say the battery life on these speakers is pretty good, and on par with wireless headphones and standalone Bluetooth speakers. SoundWear plays up to 12 hours, and a 15 minute charge will give you up to 3 hours of use. Worth noting: like many rechargeable headphones, the speaker does not operate while charging.

SounsWear has strong Connectivity

I was pretty impressed with the connectivity of the Bose SoundWear. I left my phone at one end of the house and walked all the way to the other end (50 feet, with walls in between) with no noticeable breakup or disconnects. The sound stayed clear and true and strong.

Overall review: Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker

Overall I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my SoundWear experience. The audio quality is off the hook great and the space helmet bubble effect of sound it creates around your head is really cool.

The bass you get from the device is strong and feels neat as it reverberates into your shoulders and around your head.

Overall the device is pretty comfortable to wear and is rather unobtrusive. I think I’d wear it while doing chores around the house or working out in the yard. I also really like it for its crystal clear phone call capabilities.

While I don’t agree with Bose that this truly “minimizes sound” for others, it is less loud than using a Bluetooth speaker.

It’s easy to set up and use, the connectivity is excellent and it’s a pretty cool concept. In this case I’m happy to be able to recommend the Bose SoundWear.

Erin Lawrence
Editor TV and Home Theatre
Erin is a journalist, writer, and TV producer with a fascination for technology and a love of gadgets. Check out her blog TechGadgetsCanada.com


  1. As to why some people would want this.
    Personally I’ve been looking into it because ear buds & headphones become uncomfortable after using them for a few hours. (Most over the ear, or behind the head headphones don’t really allow for arms of eyeglasses).

    When I’m working in my office — I try not to flood the hallway & the other areas with my music choices. But with really dynamic (quiet to loud to quiet) music — sometimes I end up holding my little Bluetooth speaker to my shoulder to hear the quiet bits. 🙂

    So if the speaker seems low to people 8′ feet away & loud enough for me — that’d be a worthwhile investment. 🙂

  2. You should update your video to include using this for phone callss, Skype, general home office use.

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