The Bose speaker that wasn’t a Bose

The image on the eBay listing

A couple of days ago, I got one of those promo emails from eBay. This one featured a Bose Soundlink Mini speaker going for around ₹1270 ($19). A friend has the same speaker, and I had been impressed by its clarity, deep bass, and solid metal finish, but depressed by its price of ₹18000 ($268).

Obviously, this was a fake but I was intrigued. Did the Chinese actually manage to make a speaker of Bose quality sound at a fraction of the price? My curiosity was piqued, and I decided to order it as eBay anyway has a return policy. The seller was a first time seller called Mr Gadget 1, so that made it all the more dicey.

But as the Brits would say, in for a penny, in for a pound. What’s life without a gamble once in a while. Worst case scenario, the return would not go through and I would be stuck with a Bluetooth speaker of unknown quality.

The next day, the seller sent me a message asking for my zip code. Since it was already in my eBay order, I think he was just probing to see what kind of a customer I was. I sent him the zip code without any comment.

Soundlink Mini morphs into Speaker Mini

A couple of days later, the speaker arrived. The packaging said Bose Speaker, not SoundLink Mini. The product description at the back didn’t have the usual mangled English but it mentioned Beats. Not a good start.

Bose becomes Beats

I opened the box and found inside an orange coloured speaker and ugly buttons on top that looked nothing like my friend’s polished, gunmetal Bose speaker.

Strike one.

Not too bad when it’s switched off

Okay, so it was a fake and I wasn’t really surprised at that price. Anyway, I turned it on, and it was like Christmas had arrived early. The thing began flashing lights of various hues and the word bLUE appeared. There was no way I could turn off the lights. What is it with the Chinese and their color blind attitude? They did a half decent job of the duplicating the Bose design but then completely ruined the effect with these gaudy flashing lights.

Strike two.

Ouch

On to the music. I went to the Bluetooth settings in my phone, and the phone easily connected to ‘King Won.’ (Don’t ask me why King or what he won!) I then fired up the Music app and a classical music piece began playing. The speaker began whispering. I jacked up the volume to full but it didn’t help much. This thing was absolutely powerless. It did sound louder when I switched to a pop music number. But even at full volume, it wasn’t particularly loud though I must admit the sound was clean. But all in all, it was no comparison to the sound of the original Bose Soundlink Mini.

Strike three.

Speakers and ports aplenty but do they work?

I next turned the speaker around to look at the back, and was surprised to see two more speakers and a bunch of connectors. USB, SD card, AUX in, a mini USB charging port, and an ON/OFF switch. Well, maybe it did have some positives. I plugged in a USB stick with some music. The thing started playing the music at full volume. I tried pressing the + and - buttons, but that only made the songs skip. So what we have is a music player without a volume control.

Is there a thing called Strike four?

If I were to put aside all those strikes what was I getting for my ₹1270? A portable, bluetooth player with an inbuilt lithium battery and passable sound. Was it worth the headache of contacting eBay and getting them onto Mr Gadget’s case to arrange a return? Or should I just keep it as a standby for those days when I wanted to quickly connect some music?

Maybe I will just sleep over it. Tomorrow is another day.


Update: I contacted Mr Gadget who informed me the listing says it’s an OEM, which apparently translates as ‘not original.’ He also told me to short press the + button to skip a song, and long press to up the volume (Chinese experiments in counterintuitiveness?). To keep it short, he convinced me to pretend those gaudy lights don’t exist and accept the ‘Bose’ into my gadget collection.

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