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Bose Smart Soundbar 900
Original: $899 USD
58 x 1045 x 107 mm
It’s not easy being the best. You have to tick every box on the checklist successfully. So, the stakes are high for the Bose Smart Soundbar 900, and considering it sits at the top of the Bose soundbars we have a lot of expectations to meet. Is it the best Bose speaker? That might depend on whether you need your speaker to accompany you for a picnic, or if you want a deluxe home theatre experience. Let’s see if it’s the right soundbar to upgrade your TV speakers.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on August 12, 2023, to add the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar as an alternative, the Bose Home Speaker 500 (for when you don’t need a soundbar) as an alternative, and to answer FAQ.
What you need to know about the Bose Smart Soundbar 900
- Bose Smart Soundbar 900: $899 USD / $1149 CAD / £899.95
The top of the line Bose Smart Soundbar 900 incrementally ups the feature set of the Smart Soundbar series. It touts Dolby Atmos, which isn’t available on the older Smart Soundbar 700, though the newer Bose Smart Soundbar 600 supports it for object based surround sound. The Adaptiq room calibration, its nine transducers, and the larger overall size sets the Smart Soundbar 900 apart from cheaper Bose offerings.
Bose ensures you get a bevy of connection options including HDMI eARC, optical, Apple Airplay 2, Chromecast, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. You can even use SimpleSync if you have Bose headphones for the times you want to watch TV without disturbing others in the room. This is the kind of soundbar for the person who likes a minimalist home without compromising the tech and sound quality of a good home theatre.
What’s good about the Bose Smart Soundbar 900?
Like most Bose products, the Smart Soundbar 900 has a short manual, instead instructing you to power up the speaker and download the Bose Music app. The app guides you through the setup process, which is handy — it can take longer, but you won’t end up pulling out your hair trying to figure out how to make it work. You’ll also have to hand over your data to the app, which you probably already know if you are interested in smart assistant features.
Towards the end of setting up, the app will prompt you to plug in the Adaptiq headset. You’ll move about the room to five of the most common seating spots, while the Smart Soundbar 900 tunes the main and upfiring “height” speakers by sending out blippy sounds for the headset to hear in order to calibrate for the particulars of the room. For the most part the sound the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 produces is pretty good. Particularly impressive is how it adjusts for weirdly shaped rooms.
You can also make subtle modifications in the Bose Music app to alter the height of the upfiring speaker sound, the balance of the center speaker, and the basic treble and bass EQ balance. For a small apartment’s living room the amount of bass produced is totally adequate if you want to watch Black Panther (2018) and still have your neighbors like you by the end. If you live in a more sound-isolated building (or want to test the patience of your neighbors), Bose also sells the Bass Module 700 to match ($699 at Amazon). A sub will extend the range for extra-discerning listeners. You can connect other speakers via the app as well, which is nice if you already have some Bose Bluetooth speakers.
Otherwise, the sound stage is wide, thanks to the soundbar’s nine transducers. The pair of upfiring drivers do a good job of bouncing the sound off the ceiling to yield that desired 3D effect. In the room I used it, the width of the sound was most impressive, as was the clear dialogue toggle. The toggle can improve less intelligible speech, but sounds artificial when the audio is already mixed well. It’s nice to have as an option. Switching between a phone and the TV involves either using the dedicated source buttons on the remote, or the app. It usually goes without a hitch.
What’s not so good about the Bose Smart Soundbar 900?
For music, the Smart Soundbar 900 doesn’t sound bad per se, but compared to my personal speakers (which cost about a third of the price), standard stereo music mixes on Spotify sound less impressive. It’s far more impressive for movies, but don’t expect it to become your all-in-one audio setup — dedicated music speakers sound better with music.
While updates are dandy and keep a product compatible with the various peripherals, a quick setup can turn into a waiting game. Immediately, the unit required a 20 minute update out of the box. Additionally, some controls are only available via the Bose Music app, like Adaptiq to tune the speakers for your seating positions. You need a smartphone on hand for a lot of functions. The same goes for any adjustments you want to make to the upfiring speakers’ “height,” or bass and treble EQ adjustments. Basically, this requires a good amount of tinkering before it’s ready to go.
The volume controls also have some quirks. The volume often turns down when I press the volume up button. Initially, it will increase for a split second and then turn back down by itself. This happens with the included remote and with my phone (because you can change volume with either). It’s incredibly annoying, and the reason for the glitch remains unclear, although it occurs intermittently. Turning the TV and speaker off and on usually fixes it.
The Bose Music app will also occasionally try to switch my phone’s audio output from the Bluetooth earbuds I’m using to the Smart Soundbar 900 — even when I’m across town — because someone else at home turned on the speaker to watch TV. It’s not like the speaker will start playing my music, but this is the downside of integrated devices: weird events you don’t expect.
Ordinarily, Bose products have very well-designed features, but the power cable occasionally pops out from the Smart Soundbar 900. This means starting over set up each time it unplugs. Smaller TVs on stands (as opposed to wall-mounted ones) also might not easily accommodate the Smart Soundbar 900 between their legs. The 104.5cm length requires a big TV or at least a big TV stand.
Bose Smart Soundbar 900 specs
Take a look to see if the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 will work with your home theatre.
|BOSE SMART SOUNDBAR 900|
58.1 x 1045 x 107 mm
9x full-range transducers
Enclosure: Bass reflex
Subwoofer output (3.5mm)
Wireless audio connection
Apple AirPlay 2
Bose Music app (iOS/Android)
Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Should you buy it?
There’s no playing around it, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is high ticket item. In many respects, it earns that premium status — it’s pretty easy to use, nice looking, and sounds good. The Dolby Atmos and Adaptiq room tuning are two of the key reasons to pick it up, though some might miss DTS:X support. The Adaptiq feature can help to salvage your probably not perfectly arranged (from a frequencies perspective) living room. However, you’re stuck and subject to what Bose decides is the ideal sound, though admittedly, that’s probably pretty palatable for most listeners.
For its size, the bass frequencies on the Smart Soundbar 900 outperform plenty of similarly proportioned speakers. While not floor rumbling, it’s plenty capable at reasonable levels. Furthermore, the clear dialogue function in the app helps with action movies that have loud explosions one minute and soft spoken speech the next.
For the price, some features are clearly missing, like separate saveable user presets and a more nuanced equalizer. Particularly, if you plan to use the soundbar for both movies and music, having different customizable settings for each would make sense.
Because the Smart Soundbar 900 relies so heavily on your smartphone, its long term functionality also depends on continued support for the Bose Music app. Fortunately, Bose has a good track record for keeping up app support.
If you want a one-and-done, minimalist, and sleek solution, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 might be for you. Otherwise, try its cheaper sibling the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 (at $499 at Amazon) without Adaptiq. Conversely, look at the Sonos Arc (for $859 at Amazon), which promises some similar capabilities at about the same price and additionally has DTS (but not DTS:X). For the best (and probably priciest, $1999.99 at Amazon) soundbar you’ll need to consider the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar and its epic speaker count. If you want a hub for your music, but don’t need a soundbar, the Bose Home Speaker 500 ($379 at Amazon) provides a pleasant listening experience with a good user interface. The smaller footprint fits more room configurations than the soundbar too.
Frequently asked questions about the Bose Smart Soundbar 900
Adaptiq room calibration pushes the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 a step above the Bose Smart Soundbar 600, the latter tends to make you fit your room around it, rather than the other way around. The Smart Soundbar 900 is longer with nine transducers compared to the Smart Soundbar 600’s five. Size may also factor in, given that the Smart Soundbar 600 is about 35cm shorter in length than the flagship.
You most likely do not need a subwoofer with the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. However, if you plan on listening at loud volumes, or if you listen to a lot of bass-heavy music, you may want one.
Yes, you can connect to the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 via Bluetooth.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 has a few upgrades that supplant the older Bose Smart Soundbar 700, including the Dolby Atmos feature missing from the 700, which means you lose out on object-based surround sound available on the Smart Soundbar 900.