The Bose Soundtouch range is a great concept from Bose, you have a traditional soundbar set up but you can expand it to work a bit more like a 5.1 system. Not dissimilar to the way you can get Sonos to work as an AV system. But is it any good?
I was only sent the soundbar part of the system which probably represents most users. At £600 it in the upper middle area of pricing, coming in around £100 cheaper than a Sonos PlayBar. Overall this is quite good considering historically Bose has been a premium priced company. That being said if you want to expand the system, the price increases rapidly, the bass module is another £600, and the surround speakers are another £300. So if you went all in you would be paying £1,499.85, though this still isn’t the most expensive soundbar system on the market.
As you would expect from Bose, the build quality is impeccable and as far as soundbars go it is attractive. I don’t have experience of a large number of soundbars but I would say its dimensions are perfect for me, while it is quite long, it isn’t too tall, and the depth isn’t too bad either. This means it fits under my TV comfortably without blocking anything or looking weird.
The is largely just a soundbar, so there are no apps or anything built into it, apart from music streaming. So set up it quite simple, especially if you TV has HDMI ARC, you just plug the cable in from the ARC socket on the speaker to the TV, plug it into the power and you can start using it straight away.
It will auto power up with you TV, and with ARC all the volume controls on the TV control the speaker volume directly. So for day to day use you can probably get away with not touching the remote from the Soundtouch at all unless you use it as a universal remote.
There is obviously another optional setup procedures. You can connect to WiFi or wired ethernet, I chose ethernet as I hate using WiFi if it is avoidable. From there you can set up the mobile app, the takes a few minutes, mainly because the App will then update the speakers.
Once set up you have the option to stream internet radio or add streaming services. At the moment, there is only Amazon Music, Deezer, SiriusXM and Spotify as well as local music from a NAS or PC. This is considerably less than the options you will get on Sonos, but with Spotify, I think it should cover most people. Google Play Music and Apple Music would make very important additions, though.
What it does have over the Sonos is Bluetooth, so you can actually use any streaming app you want. This is a pretty big plus for me, as much as I like the new Spotify/Sonos integration, it is still a bit cumbersome and I would prefer Bluetooth in some circumstances. One argument against this is that Bluetooth won’t offer quite the audio quality as WiFi, but I doubt most people will notice.
The other important setup step is calibrating the speakers, and in typical Bose fashion, they have done this in an excellent user-friendly way. You do have to look like an idiot wearing a headset, though. The ADAPTiQ headset is just a little microphone that sits on top of your head, this allows Bose to know exactly where your listening position is. It sets up the speakers for 5 sitting locations, so it should cover most rooms quite well.
There is also a single HDMI in, this is mainly there so you don’t lose out on an HDMI socket on the back of your TV.
In terms of sound, the soundbar performs very well for its size. It doesn’t create a fake 5.1 like some newer soundbar but it performs very well with dialogue, keeping centre-placed vocals crisp and clear. It has a potent amount of volume for its size to, so is well suited for big movie fans and annoying neighbours. The overall range is superior to my LG sound base and the ADAPTiQ does seem to work really well with creating optimised performance for your viewing positions. The most glowing review possible was my girlfriend texting me “Is the speaker supposed to sound more surround soundy?”. Most of the time she wouldn’t notice between terrible TV speakers and the old LG sound base I use.
While it does have a decent level of base it is certainly lacking compared to a system with a dedicated subwoofer, this is unsurprising, as there just isn’t enough room to in the speakers to shift air for them deep lows. This can be a bit disappointing in action movies with lots of explosions, but it does also avoid that annoying situation where the speakers are a nice volume one minutes then the bass takes over and deafens you.
Obviously, Bose can accommodate any need for bass with the optional bass module, and depending on your requirements I would be very tempted to opt for this, I think it would make a big difference in movie watching.
For anything that is not bass dominant the soundbar by itself is excellent and would represent a massive upgrade compared to TV audio, which is confirmed by my girlfriend commenting on the sound quality.
Overall, as long as you are not expecting it to miraculously outperform a 5.1 system, this is a great soundbar that is reasonably priced with a good upgrade path for AV fans.
If I were to buy the system myself, I have to admit, I’d be inclined to get the bass module with it, just to add that extra depth, and at that point, you may as well add the surround speakers too. This would make the system £1,499.85, which is expensive, but not ridiculous really. A semi decent 5.1 system is going to cost £600-800 and it will be massive compared to the Bose, and difficult to set up with all the cabling, and if you have a girlfriend like mine, this would be a big no-no.
You can buy the Bose SoundTouch 300 from selected retailers today including John Lewis and Currys