Great sound but missing some features

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5

Bose Soundbar 700 detailed review

Bose as a brand has received a lot of criticism from audiophiles, but there’s no denying that they make great audio products. The QC series is a noise canceling force to be reckoned with and the Soundlink is a great portable speaker. Today we have the premium soundbar from Bose, the Bose Soundbar 700. Overall, the quality of the sound output is what you would expect from a premium soundbar and it also brings some unique features. However, there are features that the soundbar lacks, which is a bummer at this price.

What’s in the box

In the box you get the soundbar itself along with a remote control that can be used as a universal remote. You also get four AAA batteries, a cleaning cloth, ADAPTiQ headset, optical cable, HDMI cable and of course the power cable. Since this is a premium product, it’s nice to see the optical and HDMI cable bundled in the box. The cleaning cloth is a blessing and we’ll explain why in the design section. The remote that comes with the system is extremely interesting and we’ll get to that in the review as well.

Connectivity Options

When it comes to connectivity options, the soundbar has an HDMI port for ARC connectivity, but unfortunately there’s no HDMI pass-through option, which is disappointing at this price point. There are many soundbars that offer this feature and some like the JBL SB450 (read our review) here) even offer 4K HDR pass-through, making it the HDMI hub under your TV. Moving on, the Bose Soundbar 700 also has an optical input, USB input CEC and of course a port for the ADAPTiQ headset. If desired, you can connect your smartphone to the system via Bluetooth. The soundbar also supports Alexa voice control, so you don’t have to search for your smartphone or remote to change tracks or increase/decrease the volume.

The Bose Sound Bar 700 . Set up

The more time you invest in setting up the soundbar, the better the experience will be. Why do you ask that? Well, to get the best output from the soundbar, you will spend some time calibrating it to your listening positions, which is a very good thing. After connecting it to your TV via ARC or an optical cable, you’ll be prompted to download the Bose Music app. Once the app is downloaded, you can follow the on-screen instructions that many press Next and sign in to or create a Bose account. During setup, you will be prompted to plug in the ADAPTiQ headset and sit in 5 places in your room where you are likely to be watching TV. This calibrates the soundbar to give you the best possible listening experience for the position you are sitting in. I highly recommend going through this setup carefully following the instructions. It does affect the listening experience.

After following the instructions on the app, you can proceed with calibrating the remote that comes with the soundbar as a universal remote. It allows you to turn your TV, set-top box, and even your game console on and off.

In general, setting up the soundbar takes some time, especially when it comes to your listening position, but it’s worth it.

Build and design

Speaking of the design of the soundbar, it comes in two colors: black and white. The top of the soundbar is made of tempered glass and despite looking extremely elegant, it is easy to collect dust. That’s why Bose included a microfiber cleaning cloth in the box. You will spend some time cleaning the soundbar. The soundbar is also very tall, measuring just under 40 inches. It’s ideal for a 50- or 55-inch TV and may seem overwhelming under a smaller TV. All connection options are hidden at the back, which is nice. The top houses two touch-sensitive buttons – one to mute the microphone and the other an action button. Below the buttons, on the front panel of the soundbar, rests a small thin white light that lights up when you give the Alexa command or communicate with the remote. Sometimes the pulsating light looks like something out of a science fiction movie.

The drivers themselves have an enveloping metal grille that gives the soundbar an elegant look and premium feel. The grill bends at the edges and wraps very neatly around the soundbar. You have the option of mounting the soundbar on the wall or placing it on a table stand.

Overall, the soundbar 700’s design is elegant and extremely well built.

Performance

Since the Bose Soundbar 700 is a premium product, you expect premium performance and that is what it delivers. One thing to note is that Bose doesn’t list the driver specs on its website, so we don’t know the tweeter and woofer specs. Even though the soundbar is one that sits under your TV, it’s one with pretty good surround effects and channel shifting, something we’ll highlight below. It’s also clear, even at full volume. The only downside to performance is the absence of Dolby Atmos and DTSX, features you’d expect in a premium product.

Movies

Watch movies and you realize that the soundbar is meant to give you a surround experience. From the bike chase in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation to firing guns all over the Matrix and even in movies like A Quiet Place where you can hear sounds from the creatures around you after a quiet moment, the channel shift and surround effects are incredible since this is a sound bar. If the sound has to come from the left or the right, it feels that way. You know it’s simulated by the sound bouncing off walls, but when you consider that the effect comes from one bar below your TV and not surround speakers, that’s impressive.

Dialogues are also very clear, even in the heat of battle in a movie like John Wick. A musical like La La Land will captivate you and make you emotional just by the audio alone.

Music

The music performance of the Bose soundbar is what you can expect from a Bose speaker. It also depends on the type of music you listen to. So with classic rock, where the base isn’t necessarily overwhelming, it sounds clean. The vocals are distinguishable from the instruments and the highs are clear. When it comes to Daft Punk electronic music, you can hear the different tunes of the synthesizer. However, if you’re into heavy metal, you’ll feel the lack of a sub for the bass. If it’s classical where the vocals are central, the speaker can produce them quite clearly. The speaker doesn’t distort at loud volumes and although we’ve played music at full volume for a while, in the average living room you don’t need to go beyond the 70 percent volume limit. Audiophiles may have their preferences when it comes to audio equipment for music, but given the soundbars we tested at Digit, the Bose Soundbar 700 is definitely a good all-rounder when it comes to movies and music performance.

Gaming

For gaming we played Witcher 3, Marvel Spider-Man, God of War and Doom. In all the games, the channel separation and surround effects made the games immersive. I expected the lack of a subwoofer in a game like Doom, and frankly, there are only a few moments where I’ve missed it. The loudspeakers did a great job of recreating the thump of the shotgun and the screeching of the monsters. Even in Spider-Man, the sound of wind and traffic as you swing from building to building and the sound of bullets whizzing past emphasize the soundbar’s channel separation

All in all, if you’re looking for a soundbar, this one is just as impressive as you’d expect from Bose. If you’re missing the extra umph, consider getting the optional subwoofer. Heck, for a more immersive surround experience you could even consider the optional surround satellite speakers, but if you just want the bar alone it will perform pretty well.

Alexa

As great as the speaker’s sound output is, Alexa’s performance is just as buggy. It recognizes the voice commands 70 percent of the time. If I use a second-gen Echo Plus on a daily basis, I know that Alexa’s recognition rate is much higher than 70 percent. The soundbar recognized some commands and for some it did what it liked best. For example, when I tell my Echo Plus it’s my birthday, it starts singing happy birthday. Say the same to the Bose Soundbar 700 and Alexa says she doesn’t understand the question. I thought this could be an internet problem, but the network worked fine throughout the house during the test.

A physical mute button is located in the top left corner of the soundbar

If you’ve used a speaker with Alexa, these shortcomings may annoy you. You can also ‘cast’ music to the speaker via your Amazon Music app or use Bluetooth if you use a competing service. The bar also supports Spotify but the service is not available in India at the time of writing this review. I wish it had more options to choose from like the Google Assistant, but I guess I’m just nitpicking. In general you will feel right at home if you are used to an Alexa speaker

Remote control

The included remote control with the soundbar is both traditional and futuristic. Traditional in the sense that it has all the buttons imaginable and runs on 4 AA batteries. Futuristic because the buttons don’t click like a traditional remote. And here’s the best part, only that part of the remote lights up based on the function you’re using. So when you listen to music, the numeric keypad and other TV-related controls are disabled. When you use it as a remote control for your TV, all associated functions are illuminated. This is a useful feature as it prevents you from accidentally pressing the wrong button.

The remote can give something like the Logitech Harmony a run for its money, if only it worked every time. There are times when I wanted to turn on my TV and the soundbar with it and only turn on the soundbar and vice versa. Also, several times I failed to sync my PS4 Pro with the universal remote. While syncing your gadgets is as easy as navigating the app, it can take some time and get a little frustrating.

What it comes down to:

So here’s answering the main question, should you buy this soundbar? In comparison, it’s hard for us to tell you alternatives to consider as we haven’t tested quite a few yet. Think about it this way, though. You can buy the soundbar today, add a sub later if you miss the ground-shaking thump and if you want to venture into your home theater area you can add the surround speakers later. It is this modular nature of the soundbar coupled with great audio performance that makes it attractive. Remember though that the base module for the Soundbar 700 costs a whopping Rs 64500 and the satellite speakers 28240 for a pair. This brings the cost of the entire setup, including the soundbar, to Rs 1,71,740. You could get a great home theater from scratch if that’s your budget. Coming back to the soundbar 700, the downside is that it lacks current generation technology like Dolby Atmos and DTSX and some of the smart and universal features are buggy. It also has no HDMI pass-through. If all of these features are important to you, consider your options. If you’re looking for a premium soundbar with good sound reproduction, you should consider the Boss soundbar 700. If you’re considering the Bose Soundbar 500, which is about Rs 20,000 cheaper, hold your horses. We will be reviewing it soon.

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