Sleek, minimalist design
Sweet, expansive sound
Short on bass
No spare HDMI input
Missing some A/V extras
At a glance, you’ll have a hard time distinguishing the 900 from Bose’s other glass-topped rectangle, the Smart Soundbar 700, which shares similar dimensions and features (outside of Dolby Atmos support). But for anyone who’s shopped around, it’s clear that the 900’s biggest competition is a smart-enabled Atmos bar from outside Bose HQ, the Sonos Arc.
The two share many similarities—from their baked-in, multi-speaker ecosystems and Dolby-centric home theater trappings to their minimalist designs (and even monochromatic color schemes). But compared to Bose’s offering, the Sonos Arc is a hulking machine in both size and sound, offering much more sonic boom for your money. Still, if you value a demure profile over thumping bass, the 900 could be just your cup of Atmos tea.
About the Bose Smart Soundbar 900
Here’s a quick look at the Bose Smart Soundbar 900’s specs:
- Height x Width x Depth: 2.29 x 41.14 x 4.21 inches
- Weight: 12.68 pounds
- Colors: Black, White
- Speaker/drivers: 7 individual drivers, including two beam and two upfiring drivers
- Wireless connection: Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2
- Wired connection: Ethernet, HDMI ARC/eARC, digital optical input, proprietary subwoofer output, Adaptiq input, IR repeater, Data port
- Sound formats: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, multi-channel PCM, hi-res audio up to 24bit/192kHz
- Smart features: Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant built in
- Other features: Adaptiq audio calibration, Simplesync connectivity, Phaseguide technology
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 arrives in a classy box loaded with all you need for setup, including cables for HDMI and optical connection, Bose’s Adaptiq headset for calibrating the sound to your room, a rubberized remote and batteries, and even a cleaning cloth to keep the fingerprint-happy glass top looking respectable.
The bar sports 7 total drivers, including 5 beneath its front metal grill, and dual upfiring drivers set beneath tiny screens at the sides to unleash the height element that propels Dolby Atmos’ hemispheric soundstage. That’s four fewer than both the Sonos Arc and Sony’s pricier HT-A7000 Atmos bar. But Bose’s system aims to do more with less thanks to its beam drives and PhaseGuide technology, which use phase correction and frequency manipulation to create an expansive virtual soundstage. As we’ll get into further below, it’s surprisingly effective.
What we like
Surprisingly small (and stylish)
The first thing you notice about the Bar 900 is just how undersized it is compared to the majority of Dolby Atmos bars in its class. At 41-inches across and less than 3 inches high, it’s not exactly tiny, but Sonos’ Arc is 4 inches wider (and over an inch taller), while the brutish Sony A7000 measures over 51 inches across. There are physical limitations at play here no matter how you mess with the sound waves, but this bar is among the slimmest and least obtrusive singular Atmos systems I’ve tested.
While its all-black facade fades subtly into my black-topped TV console, the 900’s glass top sparkles gently in the light, letting you admire the design or forget it's there depending on your focal point. Like Sonos and Apple, Bose knows how to create a package that feels as premium as its price point suggests, and I’d go so far as to say this one may have an aesthetic edge on most, if not all bars I’ve auditioned.
Sound as sweet as it is expansive
When I first auditioned the Soundbar 900, its sound signature seemed a bit more shouty than expected. But Bose’s room calibration system seemed to sweeten things in multiple ways, so that my next test was a refreshing exploration that revealed clearer, less sibilant performance with impressive detail.
This is a bar that likes to dig up the little moments, from the textured flourish of a turning page to the rich and smooth vocals of Dr. Frasier Crane addressing his Seattle listeners (don’t judge my Covid guilty pleasures). This isn’t just “better than your TV speakers,” it’s a solid jump to premium sound, with a touch of the sculpted “crispness” Bose audio fans seem to clamor for.
My first real cinematic audition came from a semi-ironic rewatch of Stallone’s Cliffhanger, and again, I was relatively impressed. The subtle details were all present and accounted for, from the clack of the machine guns to the tinkling steel of the carabiners as Sly literally hung from cliffs for what has to be half the film. As for action, effects like the screaming whistle of the helicopter propellers were enthralling, especially notable for such a small machine, though I never lost the feeling that I wanted a bit more body and volume from the lower registers.
What the system lacks in bass thump, though, it does a fair job making up for in sheer surround sound trickery—especially with Dolby Atmos content. While it struggled to reach fully behind me, the Bar 900 keenly bounced sound all around the room, from the far right and left sides and, of course, overhead. I never quite felt fully rained down upon from above or engulfed in the same swell of sound pushing forth from the Arc, but the 900 has a laser-like aptitude for articulating and placing “sound objects,” the individual effects Dolby Atmos mixers can move virtually anywhere in the soundstage.
Cueing up my trusty Dolby Atmos demo disc, I was almost startled by how well the tiny glass shards in the “Shattered” scene glinted with brilliantly defined sparkles, while the swelling landscape of cicadas in “Amaze” seemed to be simmering all around me as if I’d just been transported to a Georgia woods. It’s not as magical as the virtualization from Sony’s incredible HT-A7000, but the 900’s highly directional speakers are masters at firing sound around your ears.
When it comes to music, raw tracks like a hard Pearl Jam tune can sound a bit digitally processed, but the Bar 900’s tight and punchy attack makes listening to most of my catalog quite enjoyable. Again, it’s lacking in the lower register, but it does well from the midrange up, offering clean and tight attacks, decent dynamics, and sharp brilliance from the high notes in instruments like horns and bells.
Ample convenience features
Though the Bar 900 has some empty slots in its A/V toolkit (which we’ll discuss below), like Sonos, Bose provides a versatile combination of smart speaker, soundbar, and multi-room streaming hub here.
The Bar 900 offers basic control and smart functionality from your choice of Alexa or Google Assistant built in (and mutable), as well as its own ecosystem of linkable smart speakers. You can create a multi-room sound system, or build out a 5.1.2 surround setup with a Bose bass module and surrounds. Bose goes even further than Sonos, here, allowing you to sync select headphones like its QC35 II noise cancelers to the bar over its Simplesync system. In other words, it pays to invest in Bose’s ecosystem to get the most from the 900, even more so than Sonos products in some respects.
Another extra here that you won’t find in Sonos’ bars is Bluetooth streaming, which opens up the system to any and all sound from your preferred device—and something we generally expect in all soundbars. But the Bar 900 also supports plenty of streaming services within the Bose Music app, including Spotify, Deezer, Tune-In, and Amazon Music. If you’d rather bypass the app, you can stream straight from Apple Music via AirPlay 2 or use Spotify Connect.
Simple setup and control
Bose is all about convenience, and the company makes both setup and controlling the 900’s many features a relatively painless process. A quick guide helps you connect the Bar 900 to your TV via HDMI ARC/eARC (the only way to get Dolby Atmos). From there, the Bose Music app walks you through the rest, including connecting to Wi-Fi and engaging room calibration. Unlike Sonos’ iOS-only TruePlay, Bose’s Adaptiq headset lets anyone tailor the sound to the room, though you’ll have to deal with a long wire.
The app also offers simplified controls, including changing the source (from Bluetooth, TV, or Wi-Fi), making minor EQ adjustments (bass and treble), dialing up your preferred voice assistant and streaming services, grouping Bose speakers, and more. Though there are some differences in features and layout the parallels to Sonos are, once again, striking. But unlike Sonos, Bose also throws in a real remote for basic functionality. That said, between the app and CEC control for power and volume from your TV remote, you may find the remote unnecessary in short order.
What we don’t like
Lacking in horsepower
It may seem like a low blow (literally) due to its size, but maybe the biggest knock against the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is its lack of authority in the lower register. No singular soundbar can provide the full-throttle slam of a dedicated subwoofer, but Sonos’ Arc does much better thanks to its hefty size and additional drivers. Sony’s HT-A7000 goes even further in simulating a sub, though it still can’t linger convincingly in the deepest frequencies.
Even in the lower midrange for music and film content, the Bose 900 simply lacks a powerful punch. It’s something you’ve just got to weigh against its smaller profile, and for some that may just depend on the size of your room or even your TV console.
The Bose 900’s bass woes can easily be fixed by adding one of Bose’s “bass modules” but it’ll cost you ($449 and up). Sonos' subwoofer is actually hundreds more, but the Arc doesn't need one as much as its rival. And while the Arc can incorporate cheap Symfonisk speakers as surrounds for as low as $100 each, Bose’s add-on surround speakers start at $349 a pair and go up from there. That makes expanding to a 5.1.2 surround setup a pricey affair for either setup, but Bose's bar is more in need of some boom.
No spare HDMI port or DTS
There are a couple areas in which the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 follows too closely in Sonos’ footsteps, perfectly replicating its biggest flaws. One is the lack of an HDMI input, which puts real limits on connection options and what kind of sound you can get—depending on your setup.
For example, if you have an older TV that can’t pass through Dolby Atmos (basically if it doesn't support Dolby Digital Plus) you can't get Atmos at all, as there's no way to simply bypass the TV by connecting a streaming box or Blu-ray player directly to the bar. Thanks to HDMI eARC support, the 900 can source even fully uncompressed Dolby Atmos audio from any device connected to your TV—but only if your TV also supports HDMI eARC.
In addition, just like the Sonos Arc, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 doesn’t support DTS surround sound formats at all, downmixing them to stereo. That means that if you have a big Blu-ray collection loaded with films mixed in DTS, you’ll need to rely on your Blu-ray player to downmix to multi-channel PCM, and you'll get no DTS:X, Dolby Atmos’ biggest rival. (Sonos announced it’s adding DTS 5.1 support at some point, but not DTS:X.)
If you're mostly a streamer and have a relatively modern TV, neither of these limitations may matter much as streaming services only offer Dolby sound and you can get Atmos directly from your TV. That said, if you think either of these issues may limit your setup, you may want to look elsewhere.
Minimalist to a fault at times
The minimalism we love about the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 can also be a hindrance in some instances. There are no volume controls on top of the bar, which may not be a big deal to most folks. But there’s also no real visual feedback on the bar outside of a somewhat mysterious white LED that tries to be a full display, but really just ends up flashing a lot.
Even the app lacks some basic controls, such as changing between stereo or virtual surround playback for different sources. That said, I do appreciate the ability to control the center and height channels individually, even if I never felt much need to do so.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you value a compact profile over home theater gravitas
Bose’s Smart Soundbar 900 offers a slim and superbly stylish design, convenience features like built-in smarts and multi-room audio, and sweet, expansive sound that fills the room way better than its size would suggest. While it can’t get as big or bold as many competing Dolby Atmos bars, it also takes up less space and provides a modern aesthetic for your mantle. Though relatively expensive, it’s easy to upgrade, and it offers a lot of reasons to buy into Bose’s ecosystem.
If you want bigger sound in a larger but similarly minimalist setup, the Sonos Arc is the obvious solution. It brings pretty much everything from the Bar 900 (except Bluetooth) in its own versatile ecosystem, and it’s overall a more capable sound system. If you’re more interested in high-octane A/V adventures than versatility, Sony’s HT-A7000 is much pricier, but also much better equipped for them. And while I haven’t yet tested it, the HT-A5000 is similarly appointed, but in a smaller (and cheaper) package.
Finally, if you’re interested in a fully decked out surround setup, you can expand to bar’s like Vizio’s Elevate for a similar price to the 900, which brings impressive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound, though you’ll have to wire in your surround speakers.
There’s definitely a solid niche for the Bose Smart Soundbar 900, though. While not a cinema monster, it packs plenty of premium sound, versatile features, and a trim profile in a package that looks a step (or three) above your average bar.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Managing Editor - Electronics@ryanwaniata
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
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