Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar Review: Big Soundbar, Big Sound

Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review

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Here’s a Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review with information on the manufacturer’s newest flagship product. 

The Bose Smart Ultra soundbar is the successor to the equally large Bose 900, and the two devices have plenty in common. This review seeks to find out how the newer model sets itself apart from the old.

Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review: Pricing and market 

The Bose Smart Ultra makes its market debut at a retail price of $900, meaning it costs the same as its predecessor.  Both soundbars have the same premium build, similar features and they both make a sizable dent in your wallet. For its price, the Bose Smart Ultra soundbar promises to deliver:

  • A.I-powered dialog enhancement that balances voice and background audio on the fly
  • An immersive soundstage with rich, detailed audio
  • Effective calibration that tailors the soundbar’s output to the acoustics of your space
  • Compatibility with a variety of sound equipment from Bose and other brands
  • Smart features that make the soundbar versatile and easier to use
  • An HDMI cable, an optical cable, and a proprietary headset

Bose has a reputation for durable, high-end products with reliable performance. Now we see if a standalone soundbar like the Bose Smart Ultra soundbar can mount a reliable performance that will also blow you away.

First looks and build quality

Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review

The Bose Smart Ultra soundbar grabs your attention with its sleek exterior and imposing size. At almost four feet long, the soundbar fits nicely with TVs that are 50 inches and bigger.

Bose’s reputation for quality hardware is evident in the materials that go into the soundbar’s exterior. The body of the Bose Smart soundbar is sturdy plastic with a metallic wraparound grille that covers the front and sides. Lines and sharp angles form the back panel, where a zigzag surface creates multiple insets for different ports.

Top panel: Controls, user interface, and ease of use

Lastly, we look at the top panel, which is painted in two similar colors that give the illusion of light and shadow. The top panel is a glass-covered surface that will reflect bright light to cause glare. This surface is bare, except for an LED light strip and two capacitive touch buttons. You’ll also notice a lozenge-like depression on either end of the top surface. These depressions house the up-firing drivers that simulate height channels.

One of the controls is a multi-purpose button that cycles through a range of functions. You can use it to operate the soundbar in unavoidable circumstances. The second button activates and disables the soundbar’s internal microphone.

There’s also the LED light strip, which uses a secret language to reveal what’s going on with the soundbar. You’ll need to rely on the user guide to decipher the blinking, pauses, and colors of the light strip. Luckily, Bose has a companion app that allows you to avoid the hassle.

Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review: Connectivity

For starters, you get one HDMI eARC port that works with a variety of devices. You also get the following ports in addition to the HDMI input:

  • Digital optical input
  • Ethernet jack
  • USB port

WiFi and Bluetooth provide wireless connections that offer more spatial flexibility. With these, you can stream content from your devices via Spotify Connect, Apple Airplay, or Chromecast. You can also connect additional audio equipment to the soundbar.

[Read what others are saying about this soundbar]

Connectivity, voice assistants, and smart features

The Bose Smart Ultra carries support for Alexa and Google Assistant, which introduces a few convenient features. 

For one, you can use voice commands to control the soundbar and other compatible devices in your home network. Second, voice assistants provide solid support for a multi-room audio setup.

Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review: Setup and ease of use

It only takes connecting the soundbar to the TV and a power source to start using the Bose Smart Ultra. At this point, the soundbar will appear in your TV’s list of external speakers. Select the Bose audio device to redirect sound from the internal TV speakers.

You’ll still need to install the Bose Music app to make full use of the soundbar. First, the app will register the soundbar and then it will match its sound output to your room’s acoustics. This user-friendly companion app also makes it possible to do tasks like:

  • Calibrate the soundbar to match the acoustics of your space via Bose’s ADAPTiQ software
  • Adjust the two-band equalizer
  • Change the volume level of the height and center channels
  • Toggle between standard mode and dialog mode
  • Adjust the volume and bass levels of the soundbar

The Bose Music app provides a user interface that is vastly superior to the light strip at the top of the soundbar. Use it to perform basic operations and to tweak the soundbar’s output to your liking. 

Find the app in the Apple or Google app stores, depending on the platform on your mobile device.

Audio presets and format support

Bose’s Smart Ultrasound bar supports most DTS audio formats, in addition to Dolby audio. The soundbar also comes with two presets, namely standard mode and dialog mode. If you want to adjust the sound you’ll need to tweak the two-band equalizer or adjust the soundbar’s bass and treble levels.

Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review: Hardware and performance

Two up-firing drivers sit at the top of the soundbar, where they simulate height channels for Dolby Atmos content.

Another pair of drivers sit at the far ends of the front surface, where they mimic side-firing speakers. Their job is to enlarge the soundstage under the control and direction of Bose’s PhaseGuide technology. When successful, the two drivers turn the Bose Smart Ultra soundbar into some kind of digital ventriloquist. They project different audio elements to distinct, pin-point areas in your space.

The front of the soundbar also houses the remaining full-range drivers, which are all front-firing. Together they execute bass, mid-range, and treble frequencies. Here’s how the soundbar’s software harnesses its hardware.

Soundstage

It helps that the Bose Smart Ultra is a giant soundbar that succeeds at projecting sound in multiple directions. The result is an immersive soundstage that does a decent job of simulating overhead audio and surround sound.

Soundstage: Simulating motion and dynamism

Bose uses its proprietary AI software to match specific audio elements to their visual source. 

A speeding car racing to your left will have the soundbar moving the roar of the engine across the soundstage. The soundbar will project you into the point of view of the main character as he crosses a busy street. You’ll hear the blaring horn of the taxi to his/your left and angry yelling to his right/yours. On this count, the Bose Smart Ultra soundbar is pretty successful.

Accuracy in sound reproduction

A soundbar with an even frequency response will render a full range of bass, mid, and treble audio elements. From a listener’s perspective, the device will showcase the progressive riff of a bass guitar while highlighting mid-range chords. A premium soundbar worth its salt will then complete the blend with vocals and treble elements that stand out without dominating the overall sound.

As accuracy goes, the Bose Smart Ultra is fairly successful. The soundbar’s wide soundstage provides enough room for each audio element to define itself. However, music with numerous and similar mid-range elements may not have as much definition and detail as we’d like. With such audio, similar mid-range elements will ‘merge’ and battle each other for dominance. The good news is that treble frequencies are consistently clear and distinct.

Dialog enhancement

Bose advertises that the Smart Ultra soundbar will balance voice, music, and sound effects on the fly. The soundbar does a decent job of enhancing dialog during action-packed scenes.

Pros

  • Easy to install and use
  • Wide, immersive soundstage that simulates overhead sound
  • Accurate sound reproduction
  • Decent level of clarity and detail
  • Effective dialog enhancement, even with overpowering background noise and sound effects
  • The soundbar will up-mix different audio formats to Dolby Atmos
  • Useful and convenient smart features

Cons

  • The Bose could improve on focusing sound elements to make them seem to come from pin-point locations on the soundstage
  • HDMI ports are limited in number and capability, which prevents the soundbar from serving as a hub for multiple devices
  • Lack of passthrough capability means the soundbar cannot channel audio from one device to another

Verdict: Reliable performance at a price

This Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review uncovers a device that delivers rich, immersive sound. It’s worth mentioning that the latest flagship soundbar from Bose has stiff competition. Similar soundbars from brands like Sonos and JBL have comparable sound quality and pricing. Click here to learn more about this soundbar.

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