Advertisement
Advertisement

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Smart, elegant and Atmos-enabled

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
899
inc VAT

Clever features and solid sound quality make the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 an elegant if rather expensive single-unit solution

Pros 
Stylish design and solid build quality
Effective Dolby Atmos presentation
ADAPTiQ room calibration
Cons 
No DTS:X
Expansion options are pricey
Glass top can be an issue
Advertisement

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is the company’s latest top-of-the-range model, offering its usual combination of stylish design and cutting-edge features along with support for the immersive Dolby Atmos audio format.

The Smart Soundbar 900 is certainly a looker, even if the glass top will divide opinion, and the build quality is fantastic. It’s easy to set up thanks to the highly effective Bose Music app, and the ADAPTiQ room calibration technology remains a useful feature.

Sonic performance is impressive, especially when watching Dolby Atmos content. There’s plenty of width and height to the soundstage, and the dedicated centre speaker ensures clear dialogue. The overall delivery is balanced and controlled, and there’s sufficient power to drive all the speakers.

However, the bass response is limited and there’s no real surround presence, and while you can add a subwoofer and rear speakers, this makes an already pricey soundbar even more expensive.

Buy now from Amazon


Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: What do you get for the money?

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 retails for £899, and is available from various outlets including John Lewis, Currys and directly from Bose.

While that price is fairly high for a single-unit system with no separate subwoofer or surround speakers, you do get a 5.0.2-channel system built into an elegant and well-constructed cabinet that uses a premium glass top and a metal grille.

Available in a choice of black or arctic white, the Soundbar 900 is rather large, measuring 1,045 x 107 x 58mm (WDH) and weighing in at 5.75kg. As a result, it’s primarily aimed at screen sizes of 55in and up, but at only 58mm tall it shouldn’t block the TV’s picture when placed in front of your television.

If you’d rather wall-mount it, you’ll have to buy the optional bracket for £35; given how much you’re paying for the bar, not including the bracket feels a little stingy on Bose’s part. At least there’s an HDMI cable and optical cable supplied in the box, along with the ADAPTiQ headset (more on this later).

Inside the soundbar’s cabinet you’ll find a dedicated centre channel flanked on either side by a pair of racetrack transducers. There are two additional transducers on the far left and right, plus a pair of upward-firing dipole transducers to create the overhead channels.

Bose uses its “PhaseGuide” technology to beam sounds out to the sides, adding width, and bounce them off the ceiling to create the illusion of overhead speakers. However, it doesn’t disclose how much amplification is powering the nine drivers in this immersive audio system.

In terms of connectivity, the Soundbar 900 is surprisingly basic considering its price. There’s a single HDMI (eARC) port, an optical digital input, an Ethernet port and a USB port that’s reserved for servicing. There are also 3.5mm jacks for a wired subwoofer, an IR blaster and the ADAPTiQ headset. Wireless connectivity is fairly comprehensive, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 complemented by support for Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2.

There’s a plethora of control options, although virtually nothing on the soundbar itself, aside from touch-sensitive power and microphone on/off buttons. The inclusion of the latter provides a degree of voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant, and Bose’s Voice4Video tech expands this functionality, allowing you to also control other connected devices such as your TV.

For day-to-day control, the included remote works well, providing a simplified selection of buttons that includes volume, inputs, playback and presets. However, the best control option is the Bose Music app, which not only includes all the controls found on the zapper, but also a host of other features such as ADAPTiQ room calibration.

READ NEXT: This month’s best soundbar deals

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: What do we like about it?

Despite its inherent sophistication, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is very easy to set up. All you need to do is fire up the Bose Music app and follow the instructions, which take you through the entire process, including connecting to your Wi-Fi network and choosing a voice assistant. If you’re invested in the Bose ecosystem, you can also control and share music across other Bose products in your home.

The app takes you through the ADAPTiQ calibration process as well, which is where the aforementioned headset comes in. You plug it into the dedicated jack at the rear of the bar when instructed, place it on your head, and take a seat on the sofa. The system then takes a series of measurements with you sitting in various positions, allowing the processing to correct for the more egregious sonic characteristics of your room.

As you sit there with the headset on you might feel a bit silly, but ADAPTiQ is worth running because it brings the 5.0.2-channel soundstage together, creating a greater sense of cohesion and tonal balance that results in a tight and controlled delivery.

This is especially true of the lower frequencies, which feel nicely integrated within the overall system. The midrange is clean and uncluttered, while the treble is free of sharpness or sibilance. Bose may be rather cagey about the amplification, but this bar can be used at unsociable volumes without sounding strained or harsh.

The Soundbar 900 is excellent with music, producing a solid two-channel delivery with plenty of separation and good stereo imaging. When it comes to TV and movies, the dedicated centre speaker plays its part, ensuring dialogue is always clear and focused.

With more challenging multichannel audio, the Bose gives a good account of itself, adding plenty of width and height to create a wall of sound around the TV screen. The placement of effects is precise, and the up-firing speakers do a good job of adding overhead effects – although how good will depend on the flatness and reflectivity of your ceiling.

Bose has included its TrueSpace tech to upscale stereo and 5.1 content, but it’s with Dolby Atmos that this soundbar really impresses. A dynamic mix such as Midway sounds fantastic within the limitations of a single-unit soundbar, with planes flying across the room, while flak peppers the space directly above the TV. This adds a pleasing sense of realism to the onscreen action.

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: What could be improved?

As impressive as the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is with Dolby Atmos, the impact is reduced by the bar’s inherent limitations. The lack of a separate sub means bass never hits with the depth expected by a modern object-based mix, and as a result a film such as Midway loses some of its impact.

Thankfully Bose includes a subwoofer output, so if you have one knocking about you can plug it into the Soundbar 900 and give the low end a boost. I did just this and found the added bass provided a much needed low frequency foundation to the soundstage. Bose offers an optional wireless subwoofer (Bass Module 700), although this will set you back an extra £800.

The other limitation of the Soundbar 900 is the lack of rear speakers, which means there’s no real surround presence. You can bounce sounds off as many walls as you like, but nothing can replace an actual speaker behind you. When planes flew from front to rear in Midway, they essentially disappeared into a sonic black hole at the back of the room. If you want to add rears, Bose offers the optional Surround Speakers 700, but that’s another £550.

Unfortunately, the front-heavy nature of the soundstage is typical of single-unit soundbars, and if you add the sub and rear speakers you’re looking at a total cost in the region of £2,500. For that kind of money, you’re better off looking at a soundbar system that includes everything in one box like the Samsung HW-Q990B.

While the Soundbar 900 supports Dolby Atmos, it can’t decode the rival object-based audio format, DTS:X. But this is less of a deal-breaker these days due to the utter dominance of Atmos on streaming services, and the fact that a lot of TVs no longer support DTS.

READ NEXT: The best PC speakers and soundbars

The final area of improvement relates to the design of the Soundbar 900. While it certainly looks stylish, the lack of a proper display means you have to decode the colour changes of a slim LED light at the front. Fortunately, this is where the Bose Music app proves invaluable, as it provides a clear way of checking the soundbar's various settings.

The other design issue is the glass top, which might seem like a stylish flourish but is actually an aesthetic own goal. Putting a mirror directly below your TV screen is a bad idea, and I found the reflections to be especially distracting at night.

Buy now from Amazon


Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Should you buy it?

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is an elegant and accomplished performer that delivers a solid front soundstage and some excellent smart features. The ADAPTiQ room calibration is useful, the Bose Music app highly effective, and sound quality is impressive given the inherent limitations of a single-unit soundbar.

If you’re invested in the Bose ecosystem, the Soundbar 900 makes sense, and you’ll definitely be pleased with how it sounds. If you’re not overly attached to the Bose brand, the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 and Sonos Arc are great alternatives available for the same price. The Panorama 3 has the edge on the Soundbar 900 in terms of aesthetic appeal and bass response, while the Arc delivers the most convincing height effects of any standalone soundbar we’ve tested.

Those wanting a complete surround-sound package should consider the Samsung HW-Q990B rather than forking out £2,500 for Bose’s Soundbar 900, subwoofer and rear speakers. It’s significantly cheaper at £1,599 and includes HDMI inputs, DTS:X support, a wireless subwoofer and rear speakers for a fully immersive 11.1.4-channel system.

Read more

Reviews