Bose acknowledges few rivals in the audio space but this soundbar and woofer combination might come in a little too high for most tastes. It'll perform, given the right environment, but it's not suitable for everyone. Still, if you're a fan, you'll know what you (and your bank account) are getting into.
Bose is taking on the Sonos Arc with its brand-new Dolby Atmos-enabled Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar. Pair it with the Bose Bass Module 700, and it’s supposed to be the ‘ultimate solution’ for your home audio needs. At this price point, we surely hope so.
The soundbar is undeniably a contender when considering specs and build quality. It’s compact and offers balanced audio right off the bat. You can expect detailed sound and a fairly seamless experience when it comes to setup and maintenance.
That said, it falls just short of being the no-brainer Bose envisioned.
We get it. Bose slapped an ‘Ultra’ badge on this soundbar to justify the sound quality and the price tag. It’s also justified but that’s not the point.
Compatible with various sound formats, including Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Digital Plus, it features Bose’s ‘TrueSpace’ virtualisation tech. This technology is always-on, enhancing non-spatial audio content, and leveraging its nine-driver array for optimal performance.
Connectivity options include HDMI eARC, digital optical, Ethernet, and a USB-C slot for servicing. Wireless capabilities encompass Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 (SBC and AAC codec compatible), Apple Airplay 2 and built-in Chromecast.
There’s also something called ‘’Adaptiq’ — an automated room calibration function that involves wearing a headband during setup. We didn’t opt for this one in a bid to not look silly.
You’d expect a R30,000 soundbar and R35,000 bass module to be as user-friendly as possible especially when it comes to set-up.
You’d be right.
Setup is a breeze. Like Sonos, you’d have to download a companion app to complete the setup properly and link the bass module to the soundbar.
We find it slightly cumbersome that every piece of tech in the house now needs its own companion app. It would be nice to time travel back a bit and set up home entertainment without needing an app and WiFi connectivity. But that’s just the reality we live in now.
After a light hiccup of linking the bass module to the soundbar, the setup was complete. Our setup included an HDMI cable connecting the soundbar with a Samsung TV and a PlayStation 5 on the side.
The Smart Ultra Soundbar impressed us with its clear, balanced sound when faced with Dolby Atmos soundtracks or films.
It delivers exceptional detail, featuring a smooth transition through the frequency range. The midrange is really where it shines, with clarity and high detail levels for voices. However, some drawbacks include less impactful bass and a slightly edgy top-end at higher volumes. That’s if you don’t have the Bass Module 700 attached, to be entirely fair.
Despite the presence of up-firing drivers, the soundbar falls short of delivering a truly expansive spatial audio experience. The ‘TrueSpace’ technology attempts to compensate for this, but it’s less impactful in an open space than we’d have liked.
The bass module makes all the difference to amp up the cinematic vibes. Booting up Dune (2021) will give you chills during the opening scene (and the rest of the film). It truly offers bass ‘you can feel’. Your neighbours may become slightly concerned by the odd sounds emanating from your house.
The thing is, it doesn’t compensate for the less-impressive highs and lack of true spatial audio. It sounds like a soundbar with added bass.
The Smart Ultra Soundbar follows the design cues of its predecessor, the Smart Soundbar 900, with a discreet and sleek profile. It features a premium build from high-quality materials, including tempered glass and perforated metal.
We must note that the glass surface’s reflectivity and fingerprint retention may be off-putting to some.
User control options include a remote control handset, voice control with Amazon Alexa compatibility, and a previously mentioned Bose Music control app. The app covers every function, from basic playback control to EQ adjustments and multi-room system setup.
We did run into some technical issues with our older Samsung smart TV, in which the Bose soundbar wouldn’t automatically turn on when the TV is turned on. At one point, the accompanying remote control turned our PS5 on and off. But after some playing in the app settings, we found that it was an HDMI CEC issue and easily solved by tweaking a few settings.
Bose Smart Ultra soundbar + Bass Module Verdict
At R65,000 for the bundle, you’d have to be either a massive Bose fan or an audiophile keen to try anything to opt for this. You are getting a good-looking flagship soundbar with premium specs for the cash, though. It offers a compelling mix of balanced sound, with great mids and punchy bass from the additional module – all of which will make most audiophiles salivate.