Bose Smart Soundbar 300

Bose Smart Soundbar 300 (review) – compact and classy

SBA
7.9

The Bose Smart soundbar 300 fills a niche for a quality stereo soundbar. The only issue is identifying that niche as Bose marketing material doesn’t tell you a lot about it.

What is it Bose Smart Soundbar 300 best at?

The specs (below) and listening with various sound sources indicate a 2.0 stereo soundbar with a centre frequency crossover tweeter (3.0). It is also part of the Bose multi-room speaker ecosystem. As such, we expect good left-right separation, a good sound stage width, clear dialogue (from the centre tweeter) and adequate volume. It ably meets those needs.

In short, it adds better sound to free-to-air TV and catch-up TV streaming perfect for small apartments, bedroom TVs and for those that don’t care about cinematic Dolby Vision or Atmos sound.

What is it not best at?

It does not have the gravitas for movies. Try as it may; it is an entry-level, all-in-one soundbar.

  • Dolby Atmos downmix. It only has 2.0 audio channels, so the loss of surround and spatial presence is – for want of a more polite word – noticeable.
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 – ditto – it tries, but the effect is less than optimal
  • DTS any version – ditto
  • PCM 3.0/5.0 – ditto

Before Bose gets upset with me – the same downmix issues are true of almost every 2.0 soundbar. I wish Bose made it more explicit in its marketing as to what it can and cannot do.


Here is what we have found about the Bose Smart Soundbar 300

Bose do not publish any details of wattage, etc so most of the information below comes from testing.

  • A 3.0 soundbar (RMS wattage not disclosed but we suspect a total of 25-30W).
  • Front left, right (full range) and centre frequency crossover (tweeter). GadgetGuy does not usually count Tweeters as independent ‘channels’ – they reproduce treble sound above the main speakers’ capabilities.
  • What appears to be two passive rear’ air ports’ for bass radiation
  •  It has side left and right side-firing speakers to bounce sound off walls. These run off the same amps as the front-firing speakers, e.g., it is not 5.0!
  •  Please don’t get confused with Dolby Atmos – this has no 3D spatial height or surround channels
  • Decodes PCM 1.0, and 2.0 and Dolby Digital (up to 5.1) from the Optical Toslink Source. Does not support PCM 5.1 or DTS streams
  • HDMI (probably V2.0) supports ARC CEC – no cable supplied.
  • Optical In (Toslink cable supplied, and this is the only port supporting Dolby Digital)
  • IR remote control with CR2032 battery. Controls power, source, volume, mute, Bluetooth, bass, and Dialogue Mode
  • Wi-Fi 5 AC dual-band
  • BT 4.2 Rx for streaming content from a BT host. It can also be Tx for Bose 700/QC35 II headphones
  • No Chromecast (unusual for a Google Assistant compatible speaker)
  • Alexa built-in but can work with Google Assistant
  • Apple AirPlay 2 streaming
  • Bose Multi-room compatible
  • Bose Bass Module 500 mains powered wireless woofer makes it 3.1 – $599.95
  • Surround 2.0 mains powered, separate amp/receiver, wireless rear speakers makes it 5.0/1 – $449.95
  • Wall mount brackets – $69.95
  • 698.5 mm x 57.15 mm x 101.6 mm x 3.2kg
  • $599.95
  • Warranty 1-year
  • Website here
  • Other GadgetGuy Bose news and reviews here
Bose Smart Soundbar 300

The optional speakers were not tested.


2.0 or 3.0 or what?

It is technically a stereo soundbar – separate left and right channels – 2.0 (no sub-woofer). Why? It has two class D amps for Left and Right speakers and one frequency crossover amp for the tweeter. But we won’t argue the point – let’s call it 3.0. If you add a wireless sub-woofer, it becomes 3.1. If you add a pair of rear wireless surrounds, it is 5.1. As we show later, that is not the best use of your funds.

Setup

It is a small soundbar that will generally fit beneath a TV stand. It can be wall-mounted (optional bracket cost $69.95), but it needs convenient power and at least HDMI/Optical cables access. The rear entry cables all protrude well past the soundbar width, and the rear bass airports need a little more room to do their job.

Next, download the Bose Music App. If you have Bose speakers and headsets, you will already have an account. Add the device, give it a name, add Alexa (not tested) or Google Assistant voice control (tested), and voilà. The app allows you to select wall mount (adjusts the soundstage a little), dialogue mode (clear dialogue but not the best for movies), and adjust the centre, bass and treble (on a scale from 0-100). One setting that we found necessary was ‘Sync with TV’ – we encountered minor lip-sync issues otherwise.


How does it sound?

The maximum volume is 82dB with reasonably low levels of total harmonic distortion. But it is sweeter at 70dB, and that is plenty for most TV viewing. The sound stage is wider than the soundbar, courtesy of the side/forward-firing speakers. It is about 2.5 metres wide at 3 metres viewing distance. But the caveat here is that these speakers must have nearby walls to bounce off – without that, the sound stage narrows considerably, and the sound clarity is not as precise. There is no room tuning function to compensate either.

Using the Bose app (all settings to ‘0’), we found no low or mid-bass (up to 100Hz) and very late bass at 150Hz. Otherwise, the sound signature was reasonably flat to 2khz and slowly descended to 18kHz. When we ramped the bass up to ‘100’, we got hints of mid-bass from 75Hz to 107Hz then with the characteristic flat response to 2kHz, but that was at the expense of treble that fell away more quickly. In terms of clear dialogue, it pulls back what little bass there is and boosts high-mid – and yes, it works, but the sound lacks a little punch in this mode.


Downmix

We tested with a variety of Dolby Digital and other multi-channel formats. It does as well as any other 2.0 soundbar – which is to say disappointing. The sound stage narrows to not much wider than the bar.

HDMI/OPTICAL

According to RTINGS.com, the HDMI 2.0 port does not support any ‘pass-through’. And it says it could only successfully get Dolby Digital downmix on the Optical Link.

Bose Smart Soundbar 300
Bass is for a Bose sub. IR is for an IR blaster

BT 4.2

It is the older BT 4.2, which means no multipoint connections and a maximum transmission distance of about 8-10 metres.

Optional Speakers (not tested)

User reviews overwhelmingly agree that the complete kit at over $1700 for a 3.1/5.1 system that does not support Dolby Atmos is a waste of effort. We tend to agree that there are far better soundbars from LG that do. But I think they miss the point – this is a compact soundbar to enhance the TVs poor native sound. If you look at it on price, then most 2.0/3.0 bars will l probably be a couple of hundred dollars less but not offer Bose quality, expandability or sound.


Bose Smart Soundbar 300

GadgetGuy’s take

Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is a quality entry-level bar. If you are a Bose user, you are familiar with the price premium and ecosystem and don’t argue the point. Bose users are very loyal.

If you are not a Bose user, take a deep breath and look closely at your needs. If you have a Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos TV, then this is not for you. Look at LG’s ‘brand agnostic’ 2021 range and, in particular, its SN11RG 770W, 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar. At $1899, it is a bargain. LG also has 2.1, 3.1 And 5.1.2 bars.

I also don’t mind JBL, where a comparable 2.0 system is $279.95 up to a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos system for $1499.95. As long as you realise what Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is best at, we have done our job. It is an excellent compact TV reinforcement speaker.

Rating

The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 meets all our test paradigms for a 2.0 or 3.0 soundbar. We don’t usually comment on price, but as there are more than adequate, lower-cost bars in this category, it loses a few points there.

The question is: Can you use the multi-room functionality that Bose offers or will its use mainly be a soundbar? If the latter is the case, that also impacts the rating.


Bose Smart Soundbar 300
Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is a quality entry-level bar.
Features
8
Value for money
7.5
Performance
8
Ease of use
8
Design
8
Positives
Loud enough in smaller spaces with low THD
Voice assistant ready
BT and Wi-Fi music streaming (CD quality)
Spotify client as well as AirPlay 2
Wi-Fi AC but no Ethernet port
Negatives
No real app EQ – just dialogue cutover adjustment
No low or mid-bass - no room shaking here
Poor downmix of Dolby Digital 5.1 to 3.0
No Dolby Atmos, DTS, PCM 3.0/5.0 support
Lacks USB port, or a second HDMI input port
7.9