Bose's new soundbar is an impressive TV speaker and smart speaker in one compact package, but its music performance is lacking

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  • The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 offers cinematic audio performance in a sleek, compact package. 
  • It lacks some midrange fullness while listening to music, but it's a solid option for all types of uses.
  • AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, and integrated voice assistant support for Alexa or Google Assistant round out a rich set of features.
  • At $400, the soundbar may be a bit pricey, but it's comparable to other high-end compact options on the market, like the Sonos Beam.
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Adding a quality soundbar to your TV can improve how shows and movies sound, offering a nice upgrade over the mediocre speakers that most displays use. Some soundbar models now take things even further, enabling them to function as standalone wireless speakers for music, and full-fledged smart speakers with digital assistants. Instead of buying a separate soundbar and an Echo for your bedroom, for example, one device can now pull double duty. 

Sonos has banked on this dual functionality for some time with popular audio devices like the Sonos Beam, and now Bose is expanding support for this market with its new Smart Soundbar 300. 

The $400 speaker works beautifully, is easy to use, and features a convenient, compact design. Of course, there are cheaper ways to get similar results from other soundbars, including models that come with a separate subwoofer and surround speakers. It has its faults, but when it comes to size and smarts, the Bose presents a nice option for buyers who want something compact without skimping on features.

I've been testing speakers and home theater equipment for nearly a decade, and writing professionally about these types of products for seven years. Most recently, I've written about the Polk Signa S3 and Sonos Arc, both of which anchor two very different ends of the soundbar market, with the Bose 300 falling somewhere in the middle. 

To help assess the performance of the Bose 300 Smart Soundbar, I've also been testing the similar Sonos Beam. Is the Bose the right fit for your needs? Let's dig in.

Bose Smart Soundbar 300 specifications

  • Dimensions: 2.25 inches (H) x 27.5 inches (W) x 4 inches (D) 
  • Weight: Seven pounds
  • Drivers: Four full-range drivers
  • Remote included
  • Audio inputs: HDMI (ARC), optical, bass module connection
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect 

Design

Bose always aims for a contemporary design with its products, and the 300 soundbar is no different. All plugs and connections go in the back while the front features an integrated grille with tiny holes. The top contains two touch-sensitive buttons, including one for the microphone and one for mode selection.

The soundbar is very refined and aesthetically pleasing to look at, but its minimalist design and compact size allow it to become mostly invisible in your room. The outer plastic is more grey than black, but resides somewhere in the middle of the two. Again, it's designed in such a simple yet elegant way that it should work with any decor. Whether in your living room or bedroom, it will be right at home under your TV.

A huge benefit of the soundbar's design is its low 2.25-inch height. This physical attribute should give it the versatility to fit under most TV sets. Its height, combined with its 27.5-inch width, should also allow it to be tucked into a wide array of entertainment stands if need be.

I'm using one on the top of a dresser so there are no physical constraints, but it's still nice to have a speaker that isn't obtrusive. On the downside, this compact size may limit the 300's overall range of sound (more on that below).

Features

One aspect that makes the Smart Soundbar 300 so compelling is its feature set. Even if you never connect the device to a TV, it can still provide plenty of value as a standalone wireless smart speaker. 

Like Sonos products, the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 can directly connect to select audio services, such as TuneIn, Spotify, Pandora, and more. It doesn't have direct Apple Music support, but it does have AirPlay 2 connectivity for easy music sharing from Apple devices, like iPhones and iPads. It also doesn't have Chromecast support, but between AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, and Spotify Connect, I never find getting audio to the speaker to be a problem.

Like some other speakers, you can also use this soundbar as a voice assistant, with options for either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. All the smart home capabilities you'd find on an Echo device can be handled here in the same way. The benefit to setting up Alexa on a soundbar connected to a compatible TV with HDMI is that you can ask it to change channels and perform other basic tasks without reaching for the remote.

This Bose soundbar goes way beyond simply providing better dialogue while watching a movie. And yet, the nice thing is that it isn't overly complicated in any way. Even though there's a remote included, you can perform all the functions within the Bose Music app if you prefer. Setup only takes a few minutes, with the longest part being a software update during the initial configuration process.

Performance

While you might not have to connect the Bose 300 soundbar to a TV to get plenty of value from it, its use as a low-profile soundbar is the area where it excels most.

Overall, without caveats, the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 sounds really good. Though its small form factor could situate it nicely in a bedroom, it can easily handle being a living room soundbar as well. It packs enough bass into its compact size to be impressive, but more bass can be added to ratchet the low end up even further.

For buyers who want to expand audio performance even more, the Soundbar 300 can be used as the first building block to a complete Bose home theater experience. A bass module can be added, as well as two rear surround speakers. 

When these additional pieces are paired, it frees up the soundbar to be more of a center channel speaker and devote more of its focus to that sound range. As more pieces are added, the scope of the sound will evolve and become much more dynamic. The additional units aren't cheap, however, and altogether a full surround sound package will set you back over $1,000.

Thankfully, for people who don't want to spend that much, this relatively small soundbar is definitely enough to get started, and it contains enough volume at just over 50% to be cinematic. For testing purposes, I connected the soundbar to a 50-inch LG TV using HDMI ARC. Also connected to the display is an Apple TV which automatically controls the soundbar's volume with its Siri remote without any configuration needed.

Watching the opening of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" with default settings yields impressive sound from spaceships, along with full orchestral accompaniment and adequate depth to Kylo Ren's speech. "Interstellar," "Baby Driver," and "La La Land" also sound great through the Bose 300. Whether taking on a piano-laden jazzy musical or an atmospheric time travel story, the soundbar reproduces each unique mix faithfully.

While the sound profile of the 300 includes rich bass and clear highs, it is a bit lacking when it comes to the midrange. This isn't noticeable or even a problem with movies and shows, but it's much more obvious while listening to music. Still, the solid bass and crisp highs help mask the underwhelming mids. Additionally, the thin midrange actually seems like a bit of a benefit at times, as it emphasizes speech and voices without changing any of the available settings.

Of course, bass performance from any soundbar without a separate subwoofer isn't going to rumble windows or shake your body. But the 300's bass performance should generally be sufficient. By that, I mean the soundbar continually produces deep sounds accurately and well enough to draw you into the on-screen action. The soundbar's sound is limited by its physical size, but less than you might expect.

Judged on its own, the Bose 300 doesn't raise many performance issues. However, some concerns arise when you factor in the soundbar's cost. Is it worth $400 for a speaker that isn't as full and dynamic when listening to music? Interestingly, the answer may still be yes. If you have other Bose speakers in your home, having a soundbar as part of your ecosystem is nice. Also, there's a chance you won't miss the mids, especially if you're mostly watching movies and shows.

I tried a range of songs, from Haim's jazzy rock track "Los Angeles" to Dinner Party's bass-heavy "Freeze Tag," to get a sense of the musical sound quality. Songs generally sound fine until directly played against the Sonos Beam. The Beam's midrange is more full and provides a much more pleasant quality. Again, only in direct comparison is this really obvious, and unless you listen to both speakers back to back, the 300's thinner mids aren't likely to make too much of a difference to most people.

To listen to music, you'll need to use the Bose Music app. For TV sound, the app allows the center channel, bass, and treble to be raised if needed. You can use the app to turn on or off "Dialogue Mode" for more speech clarity. There are enough settings to reel in control over your sound, but not too many to be confused or overwhelmed. 

In addition to handling all your settings for TV sound, the app is also the central spot for music listening. It's hard not to directly compare the Bose Music app and Sonos app. Both provide similar functionality for services like Spotify and Pandora, as well as support for grouping speakers together for multi-room listening. Bose Music comes across as a little more simplistic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, the app actually feels more responsive and nimble than Sonos.

The bottom line

For the money, the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 gets you a robust TV soundbar with a wireless smart speaker built right in. The easy-to-use device provides plenty of features and reasons to plunk down the cash, but it should probably be used as a compact soundbar solution first and an audio speaker for music second. Its size makes it perfect for a bedroom, but its cost and features might make it a better match for the living room.

If you want a high-end yet compact soundbar with plenty of built-in niceties and the option to buy upgrades later on, then the Smart Soundbar 300 has you covered.

What are your alternatives?

If $400 for a soundbar without a subwoofer is just a little too much for your budget when picking up a cheap TV set, consider the Vizio SB362An-F6. It incorporates 2.1 sound into a single unit, but most importantly, shouldn't cost you more than $100. It's a bit larger than the Bose 300, however, and it doesn't include integrated support for any digital assistants.

On the other side of the coin, if $400 is in your budget but you want something that offers better performance when listening to music, then the Sonos Beam is a perfect alternative. Like the Bose 300, the Sonos Beam features a compact design with built-in access to nearly every audio service imaginable. It also includes speech enhancement, AirPlay 2, Alexa, and Google Assistant. On the downside, the Beam doesn't offer Bluetooth streaming.

For more soundbar recommendations, be sure to read our full guide to the best soundbars.

Pros: Impressive movie performance, built-in Alexa and Google Assistant, sleek and minimalist design, connectivity through Bluetooth and AirPlay 2, integrated services

Cons: Midrange is a bit lacking, expensive price for a soundbar that doesn't include a subwoofer

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