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Summary

Quick verdict: Enough bass that Nicki Minaj would be proud

Pros

  • Sounds really good
  • A surprising amount of bass for a soundbar
  • Dolby Atmos
Cons

  • Doesn’t emphasize the Atmos as much as some other soundbars at this price point
  • No DTS support for older TVs

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Bose Smart Soundbar 900

Bose is famous for having very good headphones, decent multi-room speakers and extremely expensive surround sound speaker systems. The company has also made some pretty good soundbars, but the designers hadn't quite cracked the code on how to make a really great one for a decent price or one with Dolby Atmos. The Bose Soundbar 900 changes that by being a really great soundbar at a price that competes with the Sonos Arc.

It's been out for a couple of months, and in that time, I've really warmed to it, noticing that it competes quite handily with more expensive bars and systems, even if there are some things I would change were I put in charge of the design team. Having reviewed a lot of soundbars over the last few years, I feel comfortable saying this is among the best I've tried, but there are a few things holding me back from recommending it more wholeheartedly.

Buy Bose Smart Soundbar 900 products


Design

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review

Image: Alice Clarke/Finder

What I love about the design of the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is that the designers heard "bar" and were like "I've got it from here". Of all the things I can say about it, I think we can all agree that it is a bar. Aesthetically, it answers the question "what if a 2x4 plank of wood was a speaker, but in either glossy white or black?" It is neither attractive or unattractive, it just is.

Other soundbars will cleverly use sloping designs and shapes to better move the audio around the room. Bose doesn't go in for that, which isn't a choice I would not have made, but it's not too bad. There is a grille around the front for sound to escape, and 2 small grilles on top for the Atmos effect (this will become relevant later). The black finish looks shiny and nice, though perhaps a little dated, and it shows fingerprints quite easily (but you also don't need to touch it too often, so that's not much of a problem).

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review

Image: Alice Clarke/Finder

The remote is short and fat, with a flat front and a bulbous shape on the back. Presumably this unusual bulge is to make it harder for it to get lost down the couch and feel more comfortable in the hand. It still got stuck down the side of my couch, it felt a bit uncomfortable in my hand and it's ugly. There was an attempt, but I do not appreciate it. Luckily, if you've got a TV with HDMI ARC, you probably won't have to deal with the remote frequently. But if you're plugging the soundbar into your TV using an optical cable, then it's something you'll need to deal with more often. This is petty and down to personal preference, but I just don't like it.

In the box, you get the bar, a remote and a weird little headset that I love, along with the required cables. With Sonos systems, you walk around the room waving your phone to tune the bar using TruePlay. With Bose, you get a headset with a cable and microphone that allows the soundbar to tune itself to exactly the places you sit. It's perhaps less useful if you usually watch TV while walking around the room, but it's quite an elegant way to tune the bar for your usual sitting areas.


Performance

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review

Image: Alice Clarke/Finder

The most important thing is that it sounds good, and it does. I was a bit sceptical about using a soundbar without a subwoofer, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the bass is much fuller than it had any right to be. I've heard "cheap" multi-speaker systems with subwoofers at this price point that didn't have as much bass as the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 has.

The only times I'm acutely aware of the lack of a subwoofer is when listening to really bass heavy stuff. Engines revving in Forza Horizon 5 aren't quite as full as I'm used to, and when watching a Transformers movie, the explosions aren't as explosion-y as you'd get from a system that includes a sub. But it's not like you can only buy the 900 OR a sub, it's very easy to add a subwoofer to the mix if it fits your budget.

Of course, adding a subwoofer does basically double the price, but the quality will knock your socks off. I've been happy with the Bose Bass Module 700 for years on my Lifestyle 650 system, even if it does add $1,200 to the price. But this is one of the few soundbars where I don't think a subwoofer is 100% required, depending on the kind of content you're watching.

Outside movies with explosions, dialogue sounds clear and crisp on the ABC News (as you'd expect), Netflix shows like The Circle (a Christmas miracle) and the musical soundtrack of the Jennifer Lopez film, Marry Me, stands out so well (and sounds really full). With music, "I Can't Grow Up" by Tegan And Sara sounds exactly as you'd expect on a soundbar this expensive. Deep bass, crisp high notes and the mid-tones come through just right without getting lost.

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review

Image: Alice Clarke/Finder

Set up is nice and easy – just plug it into the wall and then plug the HMDI ARC into the TV, and select ARC as the audio output on the TV. You can also use the microphone headset to personalise the Dolby Atmos set-up, which makes the experience a little bit better (but not super noticeably).

If you're into using smart assistants for things, both Alexa and Google Assistant are built in and responsive.

The only thing that I don't love about the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is that the Dolby Atmos effect is a bit lacklustre. The engineers seem to have fumbled the angles or perhaps number of upward firing speakers. If Atmos is important to you, that could immediately kill this bar for you. For everyone else, prepare to be mildly irritated by it when you intermittently remember it was almost a feature.

If you have other Bose smart speakers, this soundbar can be used as part of a multi-room audio set-up. I don't have other Bose smart speakers, so I can't test that, but the app worked quite well. Not as seamlessly as Sonos (and I would still recommend Sonos for multi-room audio because of that), but if you already have the speakers, it's a nice add-on.


Should you buy the Bose Smart Soundbar 900?

  • Buy it if you want a good soundbar that can work without a subwoofer (and can have a subwoofer added later).
  • Don't buy it if you want a good Dolby Atmos experience.

I really like this soundbar. If you don't have enough room or budget for a subwoofer right now, then this is one of the best choices out there, if not the absolute best. The only thing holding me back from enthusiastically recommending it to everyone with a soundbar budget of $1,500 is that you can get a better Atmos experience from the Sonos Arc and from premium LG and Samsung soundbars.

But this is my go-to soundbar recommendation for family and friends who don't have a Sonos system or don't have room for a subwoofer and didn't buy a soundbar at the same time as their TV. It's great to see Bose really kicking goals in the soundbar space, and once the designers work out the Atmos conundrum, they'll be unstoppable.


Pricing and availability

Bose Smart Soundbar 900

Specifications

Dimensions
2.29

Battery
Remote control: 2 AAA batteries
Bluetooth range
up to 30 ft (9 m)
Bluetooth version
4.2
Controls
Remote: power, source buttons (music, tv, Bluetooth), volume, mute, media playback buttons (skip, play/pause), preset buttons
Supported audio format
Dolby Atmos®, Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus
Video source compatibility
HDMI

How we tested

I used the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 on and off for several months watching an unhealthy number of movies and TV shows as well as music videos and video games. I was sent the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 by Bose PR.

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Alice Finder

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