(Pocket-lint) - The Bose SoundTouch 300 is the company's flagship soundbar. Not only does it boast a superior level of build quality, but it also supports multiroom functionality. This slim soundbar includes Bose's QuietPort and PhaseGuide technology (more on these later), along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (with NFC for tap-to-connect), and HDMI connections.
There's also Dolby Digital and DTS support for the utmost audio outage, Alexa voice control, and Bose's ADAPTiQ room calibration feature. The SoundTouch 300 isn't cheap in this category of soundbars, but it's well tooled. Is it worth the investment? We put this soundbar through its paces and find out.
Attractive but flawed design
- Available in black
- 978 x 108 x 57mm; 4.7kg
The Bose SoundTouch 300 is definitely a winner in the looks department. The soundbar itself is sleek and black, with relatively slim dimensions despite its overall width. There's a perforated wrap-around aluminium grille, and a tempered glass top, which is all well made, helping to justify that price tag.
You should be able to fit the SoundTouch 300 in front of a TV without blocking its screen or infra-red remote sensor. However, there's also the option of wall-mounting using a bracket (the WB-300, which is sold separately for around £35).
The SoundTouch 300 may be attractive, but it does feel like a case of form over function at times. It's extremely minimalist in its design, with no controls on the unit itself and no display. Instead there's a number of small LEDs on the far left which indicate the soundbar's status, but these are too small to actually see from a normal seated position, and even aren't that informative when you can read them.
Secondly, the glass top acts like a mirror, reflecting what's on the screen. How annoying this is will depend on the position of the soundbar relative to the bottom of the screen, but we found it particularly distracting at night.
Bose SoundTouch 300 features
- QuietPort and PhaseGuide technology
- SoundTouch multiroom support
- Amazon Alexa voice control
The Bose SoundTouch 300 includes most of the features you would expect to see from a soundbar in this price range, such as Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, and HDMI inputs and outputs. There's no support for object-based audio like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, but the soundbar does include SoundTouch, Bose's multiroom system, allowing you to stream music to other speakers within your network.
Bose hasn't made public the power output of the soundbar, nor has it confirmed the exact driver configuration, other than to say it uses 'custom drivers'. However, the soundbar does include Bose's proprietary PhaseGuide and QuietPort technology: the former sends audio to the sides of the soundbar to create a wider front soundstage; the latter ensures deep, clean and distortion-free bass.
The SoundTouch 300 includes built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communication), and can be controlled using the SoundTouch app. It also provides access to Spotify (which is actually integrated into the app), and you can stream from Amazon Music, Deezer, Internet Radio, and your own home network. There are also six presets, which allow users to store their favourite songs, albums or radio stations.
Finally, like pretty much every other manufacturer these days, Bose has added voice control using Amazon Alexa. This allows for hands-free voice access to your music using any Alexa-enabled device, such as the Amazon Echo Dot. All you need to do is open the Alexa app, search for 'Bose' under the Skills menu, then follow the simple one-time setup.
Connections and controls
- HDMI input; HDMI output with ARC
- Ethernet (wired); Wi-Fi (wireless); Bluetooth (wireless)
- Optical digital audio input; Micro-USB port
The Bose SoundTouch 300 houses all its connections in two recessed areas on its underside, although space is still limited, making it difficult to actually push the cables in at times. There's a reasonable range of options, but considering the cost we would like to have seen more HDMI inputs.
As it is you get a single HDMI input and an HDMI output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), while all the HDMI ports support 4K/60p, HDR (High Dynamic Range), and HDCP 2.2 (to ensure compliance with source regulations; ultimately you can stream and source from any hardware with no issues thanks to this handshake). Given that the Bose doesn't support object-based audio formats, the ARC connection is probably the best option, particularly given the limited number of HDMI inputs.
In the same recess as the HDMI ports, you'll find an optical digital audio input and a 3.5mm jack for the ADAPTiQ setup microphone. Over in the second recessed area is the Ethernet port, a 3.5mm back for physically connecting the optional Acoustimass 300 subwoofer, and a two-pin power connector.
Since there are no actual controls on the soundbar itself, you'll have to use either the provided universal remote control or the SoundTouch app to setup and control the Bose.
Thankfully the remote is designed well, with an intuitive button layout, solid construction and ergonomic feel. There are more buttons than you actually need to control the soundbar itself, but that's because you can also use the remote to control devices, such as your TV, PVR or Blu-ray player.
It isn't just the remote that is well designed: the SoundTouch app is also excellent. The user interface is slick and responsive, with an intuitive set of graphics that make using it a pleasure. It enables you to setup the soundbar (more on that later) and effectively control it, allowing you to select from a series of side tabs. You can select any of the connected sources, as well as other speakers in a multiroom system. The app also provides direct access to Spotify, which is seamlessly integrated into it, as well as Internet Radio and any NAS drives connected to your home network. The multiroom functionality is also excellent, allowing you to play music from any speaker connected to the SoundTouch system.
Setup and operation
- ADAPTiQ audio calibration
First of all the good news: for the most part setup is very straightforward. You simply connect all the sources to the Bose before connecting it to the TV, and then follow the instructions provided by the soundbar itself.
These verbal instructions take the form of a female voice that guides you through the setup process. We had no problems at all setting up the SoundTouch app or the ARC connection between the TV and the soundbar; nor did we have any issues with the ADAPTiQ audio calibration feature, which uses a microphone that you plug into a dedicated jack on the soundbar.
Unusually, this dedicated setup microphone is actually worn on your head, rather than attached to a mic stand or tripod. It's a brilliant idea, because auto calibration is based on where the listener's head is located. So what better way to take the measurements than from that very location? And no, you don't have to wear it forever.
ADAPTiQ is designed to analyse and adjust for any negative effects caused by the room itself, ensuring optimal performance. You take five measurements in total, starting at the sweet spot and then moving to other seating positions in the room. It's straightforward, and the results arevery good, resulting in a more balanced sound overall.
So far so good, but now for the really annoying part of the setup: when we tried to use a Blu-ray player as an audio source, which was connected directly to the Bose via the HDMI input, there was no sound. Thinking at first that there might be an issue with the player or HDMI cable, we switched both but still nothing.
An internet search later and it turns out there's a 'Direct Audio' setting that has to be selected deep in the SoundTouch app's setup menu. Setting up an HDMI source shouldn't be this difficult.
A big bold sound but lacking in bass
- Support to add subwoofer and rear speakers for 5.1 surround sound system
Minor quibbles about setup and design aside, once you get the chance to hear the Bose SoundTouch 300 it's genuinely impressive. The company may be tight-lipped about the exact nature of the technology inside the soundbar, but it certainly works well.
Watching TV shows and movies
We would expect any soundbar worth its salt to be able to handle the average TV programme, whether it's the news, a documentary, a sporting event or a cookery show. The Bose proved highly adept at delivering the audio from this kind of programming in a clear and concise fashion, keeping dialogue intelligible while spreading the music across the front.
With something a bit more challenging, like the Netflix series Luke Cage, the Bose remains impressive. The dialogue is still clear and the music expansive, but now with effects added into the mix the soundbar creates a wall of sound at the front of the room. Bass levels are reasonable avoiding sounding distorted or brittle.
While no one is expecting miracles, if you're a movie fan then you want your soundbar to handle a big modern soundtrack with a degree of skill. With Pacific Rim: Uprising playing, the Bose's strengths continued, but its weakness showed: the overall soundstage lacks the immersive feeling you would get from a 5.1 system, and the footfalls of the giant robots lacked real bass presence.
Adding additional subwoofer and speakers for surround
Perhaps realising this limitation, Bose provides the option to expand the SoundTouch 300 into a full 5.1 configuration. To do this you'll need to pick up the Acoustimass 300 wireless subwoofer and Virtually Invisible 300 wireless surround speakers (although adding them to the soundbar does increase the cost to about £1,450). We've not had them in for this review, but would anticipate the difference to be fairly mighty.
The Bose SoundTouch 300 is a great soundbar which manages to deliver an open soundstage while also retaining plenty of detail and clarity. The bass performance is slightly lacking, however, and although you do have the option of adding a subwoofer, this will increase the cost considerably.
There's a decent set of features, including SoundTouch multiroom and Alexa voice control, but at this price point the absence of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support might put the Bose at a disadvantage to much of the competition.
This single-box soundbar delivers a suitably big delivery, and a surprising amount of bass considering there's no separate subwoofer. Its distortion cancelling technology also pays dividends, with a clean and detailed sound.
This single-box soundbar is a compact performer at a lower price. It sounds much bigger than it looks, and can make your living room smarter thanks to an open approach to app choices and voice-assistant integration.