For Its Price, Bose's First Smart Speaker Better Sound Amazing

Photo: Bose

While smart speakers aren’t exactly new, the battle for AI-powered audio supremacy is just heating up. In the past year we’ve seen a number of high-end AI-speaker systems hit the market, including the Sonos One and the Apple HomePod. However, even with these new entries, there was still a noticeable absence left by one of the biggest names in home audio: Bose.

Today, Bose is introducing a new line of speakers consisting of the Home Speaker 500, the Sound Bar 500 and the Sound Bar 700, which are the company’s first speakers to have built-in smart speaker functionality.

Previously, in order to get voice commands on a Bose, you had to do things like connect a Bose SoundlinL to an Echo Dot, which was not only kind of clunky, but also didn’t really stick to Bose’s design philosophy of making sophisticated self-contained audio systems.

So in addition to adding support for Amazon Alexa to its new speaker, Bose also engineered the Home Speaker 500 to deliver what the company says is true stereo audio separation without the need for multiple units. Now of course, if you have a really big room to fill, you can still pair the Home Speaker 500 with a second device to pump out extra sound.

And as you’d expect from a device that costs $US400 ($546), the Home Speaker 500 comes with eight mics sporting near and far-field mic technology to help the speaker hear you even when your music is blaring. There’s even a little LCD screen in front so you can see album art and other things from across the room.

However, the one thing I’m not quite sold on is the Home Speaker 500's looks. Yes, I know that Bose audio systems have never been particularly sleek or elegant, but this thing looks like a weird mix between a Sonos One and a HomePod that was somehow crafted in the late 2000s.

The appearance of the Soundbar 500 (pictured) and the larger Soundbar 700 are much less conspicuous than the Home Speaker 500. (Photo: Bose)

As for Bose’s new soundbars, you can choose between the smaller and less expensive Soundbar 500 which is 79cm long and starts at $US550 ($751), or go for the more premium Soundbar 700, which measures 97cm, cost $US800 ($1092), and comes with its own universal remote.

Both soundbars feature Bose’s custom low-profile transducers, an HDMI audio return channel, automatic Adaptiq sound tuning for easy setup, and support for full 5.1 surround sound through the addition of a wireless subwoofer.

With these three new speakers, it nice to see Bose catch on to one of the hottest trends in audio, but I still wish the Home Speaker 500 looked a little less chintzy. All three speakers should be available in the US in October. Australian pricing and availability has not yet been confirmed.

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