Clean sound quality
Futuristic voice features
Light on bass presence
Locked into Bose ecosystem
Bose’s Smart Soundbar 300 is one of the better-sounding 3-channel bars I’ve heard, but it’s more than a pretty face with a sonorous voice. This bar also nets you access to a unique voice-control feature, Bose’s “Voice4Video,” which allows for basic controls via voice commands. This function, combined with the bar’s clean design, solid audio, smart features, and integration with other Bose products help justify its price tag—especially if you’re already a member of the Bose ecosystem club. But you can find cheaper soundbars that give you as much or more aural oomph, too.
If this is your price range, you may also want to consider this bar's closest competitor: the formidable Sonos Beam. Also starting at $399, the Beam is similarly compact, delivers solid 3-channel audio, and a similar array of smart features and voice functionality. If you're already embroiled in the Sonos ecosystem, the Beam is likely the better choice.
About the Bose Smart Soundbar 300
The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is a standalone bar, though you can optionally buy Bose surround speakers and a bass subwoofer module to pair with it. Here are the specs at a glance:
- Height x Width x Depth: 2.25 inches x 27.5 inches x 4 inches
- Weight: 7 pounds
- Speakers/drivers: 3.0 system, four full-range drivers
- Wireless connection: Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2
- Wired connection: HDMI ARC, optical, bass module connection, IR port
- Smart features: Bose Music app, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
- Sound formats: Dolby Digital
- Video support: No 4K/HDR pass-thru
The 3-channel Smart Soundbar 300 delivers a stereo-plus-center channel speaker configuration with a holistic focus on features and flexibility. In the box, you’re getting the soundbar, a user manual, an optical cable, the remote and batteries, and a power cable. Note that there’s no HDMI cable included, so you’ll need to provide your own.
What we like
A stylish, minimalist TV accessory
The Smart Soundbar 300 looks great. High-quality black plastic and a metal speaker grill lend an air of class to this compact soundbar, and the inconspicuous rear port selection hammers home a feeling of minimalism. To that end, you’ll only find two buttons on the top of the bar: a mute button for the built-in microphone and a function button for smart assistants.
On the back of the soundbar, you’ll find a single HDMI (ARC) input, an optical input, a micro-USB port for service upgrades, and connections for a subwoofer and an IR controller. While some soundbars give you an extra HDMI input to allow pass-thru for a source device, this one doesn’t, so it’ll hog your TV’s ARC or eARC port—something interested buyers should keep in mind.
The included remote is also on the small side. You’ll find buttons for power, source, volume control, muting, and Bluetooth, but one reason the layout is so simple is that Bose expects most users will be using the bar’s companion app, Bose Music—more on that later. Thanks to HDMI CEC through the ARC connection, you can also use your TV remote for basic functions like power and volume.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can wall-mount this soundbar if you so choose, but you’ll need to buy a Bose wall-mounting kit.
Good sound (with one caveat)
For being a standalone soundbar—one without a subwoofer or surround speakers—the Smart Soundbar 300 sounds quite good.
I watched a variety of content, from old episodes of Firefly to James Gunn’s excellent take on The Suicide Squad, and found that the Smart Soundbar 300 delivers clean, distortion-free audio that prioritizes dialogue—assets that make it a big improvement over TV speakers.
Likewise, music over Spotify Connect sounded generally robust and detailed. In short, there hasn’t been a moment with the Smart Soundbar 300 where I haven’t enjoyed what I was hearing. There’s a deep, clean quality to the music that reflects Bose’s penchant for step-up audio.
On the other hand, having switched from a soundbar/subwoofer combo to the standalone Smart Soundbar 300, I also couldn’t help but notice the lack of deeper sub-bass frequencies. The 3-channel speaker array sounds about as good as any I’ve heard in its class, but if you’re used to a subwoofer, you’re definitely going to notice the lack of low-end punch.
Much like the Sonos Beam, the Smart Soundbar 300 sounds way better than the average standalone soundbar, but may leave bass fans pining for a subwoofer. And like the Beat, the Smart Soundbar 300 is designed right out of the gate to be paired with a Bose subwoofer and surround speakers, which may pave a simpler path to expanding into cinematic sound at a later date.
Terrific features and customization
If you’re at all familiar with Bose, you’re aware that with a product like this you’re not just buying a soundbar: You’re buying into the whole Bose product and software ecosystem.
That means to get the full Smart Soundbar experience, you’re going to want to download and use the Bose Music app. This is how you connect the soundbar to your Wi-Fi network and access functions like Spotify Connect and Amazon Alexa.
The standout tech here is the Alexa-based feature Voice4Video, which makes it possible to not only use your voice to control the soundbar, but also to control some TV and cable/satellite box functions (note: this feature only works over HDMI CEC via the HDMI ARC connection, so it won’t work if you’re using the optical hookup).
You can even make calls to/from other Bose and Amazon Echo devices for free (assuming the feature has been enabled on both devices first). Being able to ask Alexa to raise/lower volume, change channels, or give you a weather report (while listening to Weather Report) is the kind of futuristic functionality that helps justify this product’s price tag.
From the Bose Music app you can easily adjust volume, toggle useful settings like Wall EQ (a setting where the soundbar listens for the acoustics of your room to adjust its output) and Dialogue Mode. You can also manually adjust the emphasis on the center channel, bass, and treble frequencies, as well as control connected services like Spotify or Amazon Music.
Finally, if you already own Bose headphones, you’ll find an extra feature here that’s pretty cool: Bose SimpleSync, which allows you to sync the bar’s audio with supported Bose headphones for a private listening experience, or to sync with other Bose speakers for multi-room audio.
This litany of features that reward integration into a proprietary product ecosystem again calls to mind Sonos' Beam bar. Like with the Beam and Sonos products, you'll get more out of the Smart Soundbar 300 if you already own or hope to own Bose products like headphones or additional speakers like the Bose Home 300 smart speaker.
What we don’t like
Want more immersion? Spend more money
As stated above, the Smart Soundbar 300 sounds quite good, and its center channel and available EQ adjustments (such as for bass and treble) do give music-lovers and audiophiles a bit of wiggle room in terms of sculpting the general shape of the bar’s frequency response.
However, by itself, the bar only fills out the middle and upper frequencies with aplomb: If you want rumbling bass presence and better cinematic immersion, you’ll have to pony up for the Bose Bass Module 500 and Bose Surround Speakers, which—at time of writing—cost $399 and $299 respectively.
While plenty of user reviews have heavily praised the full impact of the Smart Soundbar 300 when paired with these additional Bose speakers, the whole kit would run you over $1,000—and that’s an awful lot of cheddar, especially for a 5.1-system that won’t get you height channels for Dolby Atmos.
As stated above, the Smart Soundbar 300 sounds fine by itself, but a major reason you’re paying $400 is for all of its smart features and everything that comes with the Bose product and software ecosystem (not to mention the Bose brand). There are plenty of soundbars that cost less than $200 that come bundled with a subwoofer, for example, and while they can’t touch the Smart Soundbar 300 for its design and features, they may just deliver as much or more raw aural power for a lot less money.
A bit inflexible
Many modern midrange and high-end TVs come equipped with four HDMI inputs, but if your TV is older or a more basic model, you may only have two or three inputs. This is why a lot of soundbars include an HDMI pass-thru as well as the HDMI ARC port, so that a supplanted source device can still be plugged into the TV—just with the soundbar acting as a pass-thru.
The Smart Soundbar 300’s lack of a spare HDMI input could be problematic for folks whose TVs only have two or three HDMI inputs and just as many outboard devices like gaming consoles and a streaming box. Not to mention, the Voice4Video feature is one of the Smart Soundbar 300’s major selling points, and it only works over HDMI, so it would be great if Bose included an HDMI cable in the box. (For comparison, you'll find the same lack of an HDMI input in the Sonos Beam, and even the much pricier Sonos Arc).
This inflexibility extends to the bar's compatibility, as well. Without an eARC port nor any sound format compatibilities outside of Dolby Digital, you won't be able to utilize uncompressed and/or virtual surround formats, and forget about Dolby Atmos. If you're more interested in surround sound, you might want to check out something more flexible.
Should you buy it?
Yes—if you’re part of the Bose family, or hope to be
The Smart Soundbar 300 looks great, sounds great, and is kitted out to the degree that it could almost become the centerpiece of your living room. The ability to ask Alexa to adjust volume or change channels feels futuristic. As a starting point for upgrading your living room audio, the Smart Soundbar 300 is a great first step into a curated solution—especially if you plan to eventually purchase the matching bass and surround modules.
That said, you’re paying a lot for just this handsome standalone bar. If you don’t find yourself incensed by the idea of controlling your TV and soundbar with voice commands and would rather have a plug-and-play solution that delivers rumbling bass by way of an included subwoofer, there are other options to consider. The Klipsch Cinema 400, for instance, costs $100 less than the Bose and nets you a frills-free 2.1-channel system that’s all about sound quality. If you're a Sonos user and looking for a compact, smart, and voice-driven bar, you'd be better off spending the same money for the Sonos Beam rather than this Bose option.
It’s also worth mentioning again that even if you bought the full soundbar, bass, and stereo package for the Smart Soundbar 300, a $1,000 5.1-channel system, you won’t get Dolby Atmos surround sound, something users may prioritize over Bose’s signature tech. If you’re more interested in Atmos, check out the Vizio M512a-H6 instead. This $500 5.1.2-channel system proves that affordable Atmos sound is possible—though you'll give up a lot of features to get it.
If you’re already a member of the Bose ecosystem or want to get started, the Smart Soundbar 300 could be the perfect way to dive into a smart, voice-activated future.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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