(Pocket-lint) - Bose is joining the smart line-up of Alexa speakers with the launch of the Bose Home Speaker 500.
In many ways, the new Home Speakers 500 follows the lead of a number of SoundTouch models, reflecting recognisable Bose design. Integral to this is the display on the front, which is rather unique for smart speakers.
Bose's aim, of course, is to deliver the unrivalled sound you'd expect from Bose.
Classical Bose design
- Seamless aluminium body
- Front colour display
- 203mm x 169mm x 109mm
Look at the Amazon Echo or similar and you pretty much have a minimalist cylinder. The idea is that you interact with voice and use your smartphone when something more is required, but the Bose Home Speaker 500 wants to move beyond this position.
That sees the display playing a bigger role, and one of the nice touches is the ability to display album art. This is pulled from the source - Spotify or Amazon Music for example - and we've seen it working with both in our initial introduction to this new speaker. It certainly helps this speaker stand-out, with Bose telling us that it could be used for other elements in the future - like notifications.
The Bose Home Speaker 500 is larger than most smart speakers, the seamless aluminium body sitting some 203mm wide and 169mm tall; it will be available in black or silver. Rather than being round, its footprint is oval, the body rising to meet the plastic top and there's a quality to its construction.
Certainly, it's one of the better looking smart speakers out there, perhaps a little more conventionally designed which might help it appeal to those who've yet to venture into the realm of this type of device.
Wider connectivity than your average smart speaker
- 8 mics
- 6 presets
- Touch controls
- Enhanced connectivity
The top of the Home Speaker 500 integrates eight mic arrays. These are designed to be near and far field to ensure that Alexa can hear you no matter where you are. We've not had the chance to fully test it, but in our demo it seemed to work perfectly well.
But to top of the speaker reveals a lot more. There are the sorts of controls you expect - mute, the Alexa button and volume controls, but there are also controls that Bose users will find familiar. Again, Bose is leaning towards conventionality rather than taking the minimalist approach that some smart speakers offer.
These include a play/pause button and input controls, as well as six presets. These presets can be programmed via the Bose Music app (Android or iTunes) and will take you directly to whatever you want them to: that might be a song, album, playlist or radio station from the supported sources. For example, if you want a Taylor Swift button, you can have it. That means you can do a lot without your phone - you just poke the button and it will start streaming, which is not only useful, it's unique.
The Bose Music App actually unlocks are lot of the advanced functionality of the Home Speaker 500, because it's not just about Alexa voice control, it will do a whole lot more - but it's not compatible with SoundTouch speakers. So, unlike the Sonos One, it won't play nice with other speakers you already have from Bose.
However, one of the updates we have confirmed is AirPlay 2 in 2019. This will please those Apple users, especially those who want to use Apple Music, although that will then need you to use the phone to control music rather than voice through the speaker itself. What that should also mean is that you can then group the Home Speaker 500 with other AirPlay 2 speakers in the future - including supported SoundTouch models.
It will be a useful addition for some, but potentially suggests you're buying it for the wrong reasons if the primary music source is Apple Music. Apple Music isn't supported by Alexa, so the whole "smart" voice control then goes out of the window. However, who ever complained about having too many connections?
Alexa is the launch platform for the Home Speaker 500, but Bose says that "other" options will be coming in the future, so there's a chance that Google Assistant may be added via an over the air update.
Because it runs on Amazon's platform, you will be able to also create multiroom groups with other Alexa speakers via the Alexa app. There's also Bluetooth and a 3.5mm line in, so if you're trying to find a way to play your legacy music, you still have options.
Tech specs and sound quality
- Dual opposing transducers
Bose isn't saying much about the tech specs for the Bose Home Speaker 500, but it has detailed that it has two custom transducers arrayed back-to-back, so they fire outwards from the speaker.
This is designed to widen the soundstage and let the sound bounce off the walls. The message from Bose is that this is the widest smart speaker sound out there, but in our demo that was difficult to discern so we'll reserve judgement; certainly there's some tough competition from single-unit speakers like the Apple HomePod, while Amazon will sell you a pair of Echos with a subwoofer for a 2.1 arrangement that's £100 cheaper than the Bose.
There's also QuietPort technology which is designed to give you bass without distortion, to give the speakers the rounded and rich quality you'd expect.
We've only listened to a couple of tracks on the Bose Home Speaker 500, but they were impressive. Certainly it will give you surprising volume for the size, so if you're looking for a quality single smart speaker arrangement, then it's certainly one to consider.
Bose is a brand that resonates with buyers, bringing quality now updated with the smarts from the latest systems. While we haven't yet had the chance to fully review the speaker, we will update when we get the opportunity.
The Bose Home Speaker 500 might be a little more expensive than its rivals, but there is a little more on offer here: it looks great, sounds great and has a display on it to keep you a little more connected.