Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker

This story originally appeared at

And now, for something completely different...a personal speaker.

Well, not completely different I suppose. I'm old enough to remember the Bone Fone from 1979.


It didn't last long.

Sennheiser introduced the Surrounder in 1997. I remember trying one.


Can't remember how it sounded—not a good sign—and it was confining and weird to wear. Don't see those around anymore.

So, to say I looked at the Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker with a great deal of skepticism when I first saw one in the Bose kiosk at Denver International Airpot after RMAF is a serious understatement. Boy was I in for a surprise. Here's a short 2 minute video right after my first listening experience.

My understanding and evaluation of the product is much richer now, but my opinion hasn't changed very much: This is an amazing product.

Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker ($299)
The SoundWear Companion is a neck-worn, Bluetooth wireless, personal speaker. It comes with a black fabric cover; spandex on the top and outside, artificial leather on the side towards your body. Removing the cover reveals a medium gray, silicon rubber body (see photo at top) with integrated metal grills over the speakers on either side. It's hard to comment on the styling as it's so minimal, but too my eyes it looks clean and simple, functional and well suited to the task.


Three additional covers are available in blue, plum, and light gray for $29.95 each.

The product is built in three pieces: the two end modules containing the speakers and electronics; and the flexible neckband, which can be bent moderately to mold to the shape of your neck. At around 10 oz. I found the SoundWear Companion fairly comfortable around the neck.


I also found that it can be tucked into the neckband of a t-shirt to stabilize it on your body for more active use. I had no problem crawling in and around and under things while working on my truck. I think they would work well with a tight enough crew neck shirt for running and exercise. Sound wasn't effected much with a single shirt, but could change quite a bit with more layers, sometimes to good effect—more on that later.

At the heart of the SoundWear Companion is the new Qualcomm CRS8675 Bluetooth audio system on a chip. This is a very powerful integrated circuit with all sorts of DSP, Bluetooth, and digital audio capabilities. More information can be found here.


All control buttons are molded into the silicon outer skin and are located at the outer edge of the end modules. Bluetooth and power button are on the left side; volume and play/pause/answer multi-function buttons are on the right side. All controls acted as expected and were easy to effect.

Pairing was quick and easy, and the SoundWear Companion would pair and react appropriately when simultaneously attached to two devices.

A USB cable is provided for charging only. Battery life is about 12 hours for a full 3 hour charge. The USB jack is behind the zipper on the underside of the left module.


Though it works fine without, there is an app available with a few useful features. The SoundWear Companion gets its software updates via Bluetooth through the app. Phone ring-tone can be set to vibrate only; ring-tone only; or both. You can set the bass level—it only allows you to turn the bass down from the factory setting. The bass setting is saved in the,, shoulder-blaster...I don't know what to call this thing. Any ideas for a generic term for this kind of product?

Build quality, it seems to me, is simply outstanding. The silicon skin throughout makes it significantly sweat-proof. The silicon over-molded neck-band appears brutally durable. The one weak point is the bendable mild steel bar that goes through the headband might become dislodged from its glued termination in the end module if the end module is overly twisted relative to the neck band. I wouldn't characterize it as fragile, but I wouldn't want to torque the ends around too much. There are cautionary notes in the manual.


I'll go into more detail on the next page, but I'll briefly mention here that the SoundWear Companion has a very interesting acoustic configuration. Behind each driver there is a small, sealed enclosure that ports acoustic energy into waveguides that go through the neckband and exit through a port on the opposite side next to the other driver.

The patent application for the product illustrates a substantially different looking device.


It shows acoustic waveguides going around through the neckband, but also shows some acoustic spaces in the end modules as well. My curiosity became so aroused I couldn't resist the temptation to get a good hard look at what's going on. I asked Bose for a review sample, which they rapidly sent me, so I decided to take the one I purchased on InnerFidelity's dime it for a look inside. Turns out the only acoustic chambers are the waveguides going around the neckband. Here's the video.

View on YouTube.

Bose Corporation
The Mountain
Framingham, MA 01701