Alexa, Meet Bose: In-Depth Review of Bose’s New Smart Speaker System
The new Bose family of smart speakers and soundbars has built-in voice control from Amazon Alexa that puts millions of songs at the tip of your tongue.
More about Bose
Bose Company Info
For many consumers, Bose is the first name in audio. Living up to its motto, “Better sound through research,” the Framingham, Mass.-based company released its new Home Speaker 500, as well as its 500 and 700 Series soundbars, at CEDIA 2018. CE Pro editors put the system to the test with a start-to-finish installation and review.
The latest speakers from the decades-old audio manufacturer can be used as stand-alone, single room systems or as zones within a wireless multiroom audio system. From the time they are unpacked, through their brief setup time, the products exude thoughtful engineering that his highlighted by their ultimate purpose: to deliver fun through quality sound.
Validating the thoroughness of Bose’s engineering, the company shipped CE Pro the complete line: the Soundbar 700, Soundbar 500, a pair of Bose surround speakers, companion Base Module 500 and 700 subwoofers, and two Bose Home Speaker 500 smart speakers.
Features and Setup
Bose Smart Home Speaker MSRPs:
Bose Soundbar 700 ($799.95)
Bose Soundbar 500 ($549.95)
Bose Home Speaker 500 ($399.95)
Bose Bass Module 700 ($699.95)
Bose Bass Module 500 ($399.95)
Bose Surround Speakers ($299.95)
Bose Soundbar Wall Bracket ($39.95)
Designed for the playback of music and video soundtracks, the Bose 500 and 700 Series soundbars incorporate voice Amazon Alexa voice control capabilities, and the company says additional voice control technologies will be offered to provide more consumer choice.
An important part of Bose’s integration of voice control technologies is its implementation of microphone technologies. Using its years of experience providing communications to the National Football League (NFL), government and military headsets, the company employs advanced microphone arrays in its voice-enabled products to help the products recognize commands from anywhere within a home space.
The products also offer wireless streaming options via Apple’s new AirPlay 2 platform to provide a choice of wired and wireless connectivity options.
Other options built into the soundbars include wireless Bluetooth streaming, Wi-Fi wireless networking, proprietary microphone technologies to support the soundbars’ Alexa options, and Bose’s proprietary ADAPTiQ room equalization (EQ) software.
Moreover, the soundbars also offer HDMI with ARC (audio return channel) connectivity to support their use with the latest video displays.
The 8-inch high by 6-inch wide and 4-inch deep Bose Home Speaker 500 incorporates custom drivers that fire in opposite directions to help the unit create a wide soundstage for use as stand-alone speakers or in pairs to fill rooms with sound.
Bose incorporates Alexa into the Home Speaker 500, along with Wi-Fi connectivity, six presets, control options via a companion app, and an industrial design highlighted by anodized aluminum accents.
The Bose music app, available on both Apple and Android, is easy to use from setup to playback. Not resting on its laurels, Bose is planning on adding “additional outside the home mobile products to its app platform to provide users with a seamless music listening experience,” wherever they are, and its goal with the apps is to support these products better than any manufacturer in the market.
Handling low frequencies, the Bass Module 500 and 700 subwoofers integrate into Bose systems wirelessly. Both small footprint products feature home-friendly aesthetics to help the subs blend into a variety of home environments.
Moreover, the Bass Module 700 adds a glass top to provide another layer of elegance.
Rounding out the Bose products, the company’s Surround Speakers add immersiveness to Bose home theater systems.
Connecting to Bose home theater systems wirelessly, the Surround Speakers deliver a range of approximately 30 feet, and they work with both the Soundbar 500 and 700.
Unpacking and setting the Bose components up is as easy as any multiroom audio system/home theater system on the market.
Starting with the packaging, it’s apparent Bose put a lot of thought in how someone interacts with its products from the get-go. We started with the surround speakers and quickly moved onto the 700 soundbar.
The surround speakers are small and ship in a small box. Unpacking the speakers and their power supplies took a matter of minutes. Moving onto the sound soundbar, it easily lifts out of its box and I quickly placed it below a 4K TV.
Finishing with the unpacking of the main home theater system, I opened the Bass Module 700 box, read the unboxing instructions on top of the sub’s packaging and followed Bose’s directions to safely and easily pull the sub from the box.
Physical setup and configuration, including ARC via the app couldn’t be any easier.
To connect the soundbar to the TV, all it took was a single optical cable from the TV’s optical output to the soundbar’s optical input. The final step was to plug in power.
The Bass Module was even easier to physically set up. After placing the sub in a room-friendly location, the only thing it required was power. Finishing the Soundbar 700 system setup we placed the surround speakers on a shelf behind a couch. The surround speakers’ accessories include cables, phoenix-like connectors, power modules and a screwdriver to affix the cables to the speakers.
One end of the cables is terminated with a fitting that only fits the speakers’ power units. The other end of the cables are bare, color-coded wire that inserts into color-coded fittings. After securing the bare wire into the connectors I inserted the connectors into the rear panel of the surround speakers. After plugging the other end of the cable to the power units, the Surround speakers were plugged into power.
Transitioning to the configuration of the Bose products, we downloaded the Bose Music app to facilitate the final stage of the system’s installation.
Using the app requires the user to be on the same network as the system so it can “discover” the Bose devices. From there it prompts the user through a series of steps that include naming the system; choosing music services, performing system updates and specific options like cabling connection choices before getting into the Alexa and remote setup.
Once the Soundbar 700 system with the Bass Module 700 subwoofer and Surround Speakers was configured the final setup step was to optimize its sound using the ADAPTiQ EQ program.
ADAPTiQ measures five listening positions using a headband that incorporates Bose sound measuring microphones that are connected to the soundbar using a single cable that is long enough to support its use throughout most rooms. Similar to the configuration process, the app prompts the user through the EQ of the system by asking the person with the headband to sit in five positions.
Emitting a series of test tones it takes roughly 45 seconds to a minute to measure each position and after measuring the five positions it quickly calculates the proper amount of equalization based on the data it collected during the measurement process.
Summarizing the value of ADAPTiQ, it is a technology that is designed to make the system perform to its highest possible levels no matter what challenges the room itself presents.
Similar processes via the app were applied to the setup of the Bose remote control and Alexa setups. The setup and configuration steps were identical for the Bose 500 Home speaker too.
Overall, from the unboxing to the physical installation and final configuration steps, Bose has made it as painless as possible to install multiple zones of audio that include home theater within a home in just a couple of hours.
Performance & Conclusions
Setting up new electronics can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience, but that is not the case with these Bose components.
With my expectations now pretty high based on the unboxing, setup and configuration processes, Bose did not disappoint.
Listening to music and video content before the installation vs. after was a night-and-day experience. Audio produced directly from the TV’s built-in speakers was shrill and thin. The Bose 700 Soundbar with the 700 Bass Module and Surround speakers added layers of fullness and dynamics that made TV shows, movies and music more engaging.
Approaching the evaluation of the Bose products from a family perspective, the home theater system and wireless multiroom zones facilitate family fun anywhere within the home.
Using Alexa, kids can call up their favorite songs without having to navigate an app or operate the user interface controls that are built into the speakers. Conversely, Mom and Dad have the flexibility of using the app, the built-in user interface controls, or Alexa.
The end result of this control flexibility is that music becomes more of a focal point within the home because it’s accessible to anyone, and it becomes a communal listening experience compared to the personal experience of listening to music with headphones.
It’s also worth noting that Bose didn’t half-heartedly invest in Alexa voice control.
The products function as complete Alexa solutions, which means not only do users get the benefits of Bose’s decades of audio design experience, they get the benefit of being able to control Alexa-enabled products such as lighting systems, programmable thermostats, doorway entry systems and more to fully complement today’s era of smart homes without sacrificing sound quality and industrial design.
So what do all of these attributes really mean? Putting it simply, it means forget the audiophile curmudgeon hoopla — there’s no better way to assess an audio system than to say a product sets up easily, looks great and delivers quality sound.
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Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
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