Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbar Review
Do ya wanna touch?
What is the Bose SoundTouch 300?The Bose SoundTouch 300 is a flagship soundbar that boasts a slim design and high quality construction, with support for multiroom functionality. It also includes Bose’s QuietPort and PhaseGuide technology for a bigger sound, and has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth with NFC, and HDMI connections.
The Bose supports Dolby Digital and DTS, and also includes Alexa voice control, along with the company’s ADAPTiQ room calibration feature. The SoundTouch 300 costs £549 as at the time of writing (October 2018), which isn’t cheap for a non-immersive audio soundbar, so it had better deliver – let's find out.
DesignThe Bose SoundTouch 300 is attractively designed, with a sleek appearance, a black finish, and a slim form-factor despite its width of 978mm. The front has a perforated wraparound aluminium grille, and the 108mm deep top is made of tempered glass that gives the soundbar a stylish look.
The design is very minimalist, so there are no controls on the unit itself and no display. What you do get is a number of small LEDs on the far left, indicating the status of the soundbar. The SoundTouch 300 might be pricey, but at least the main unit is extremely well constructed – weighing in at 4.7kg.
The soundbar is only 57mm high, so you shouldn't have any problems fitting the SoundTouch 300 in front of your TV without it blocking the screen or infra-red remote sensor. However, if that is an issue then there’s also the option of wall mounting using a £35 bracket (WB-300) that is sold separately.
It might be attractively designed, but there are few aspects that are annoying. Firstly the LED indicator lights are too small to see from where you're sat, and even if you could read them they aren't that informative. Secondly and more annoyingly, the glass top essentially acts like a mirror, reflecting the TV screen which is very distracting at night.
The Bose is attractively designed and very well made, but the top is too reflective
Connections & ControlThe connections are housed in two recessed areas on the underside of the soundbar, and there's a reasonable selection, although considering the price some more HDMI inputs would be nice. What you do get is a single HDMI input and an HDMI output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel).
Both HDMI ports support 4K/60p, Wide Colour Gamut, High Dynamic Range (HDR10), and HDCP 2.2. Since the SoundTouch 300 doesn’t support lossless audio formats, you might as well use the ARC connection, in fact, given the limited number of HDMI inputs, it's probably the best option.
There's an optical digital audio input and a 3.5mm jack for the ADAPTiQ setup microphone located in the same recess as the HDMI ports. In the second recessed area, you'll find an Ethernet port, a 3.5mm jack for physically connecting the optional Acoustimass 300 subwoofer, and a two-pin power connector. There are also wireless connections, with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with NFC (Near Field Communication).
There are no controls on the soundbar itself, so you setup and control the Bose using either the provided universal remote control or the SoundTouch app. The former is well-designed and solidly constructed, it has an ergonomic feel, with an intuitive layout for the buttons. The remote is universal, so you can use it to control other devices, such as your TV, PVR or Blu-ray player.
The SoundTouch app is also excellent, with a slick and responsive user interface that makes it very effective. You can use it to setup the soundbar and also control it as well, thanks to a selection of side tabs. You can also choose the connected sources, along with any speakers in a multiroom system. In addition, the app provides direct access to Spotify, Internet Radio and your home network.
There's a good set of connections, a nice remote, and an effective control app
Bose SoundTouch 300 FeaturesThe Bose SoundTouch 300 includes most of the features you'd expect to find on a soundbar at this price point, with Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, along with HDMI inputs and outputs. There’s no support for lossless audio, and thus no object-based formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
However the soundbar does include built-in Wi-Fi and support for SoundTouch, Bose’s multiroom system, which allows you to stream music to the soundbar and any other compatible speakers. There's also the ability to set the SoundTouch 300 up as an Amazon Alexa skill, allowing for voice control.
Bose has been a bit cagey when it comes to the specifications of the SoundTouch 300, so I don't know the power numbers for the built-in amplification, or even the driver configuration. All the manufacturer will confirm is that the soundbar uses ‘custom drivers', and includes Bose’s proprietary PhaseGuide and QuietPort technology. The former sends audio to the sides of the soundbar to create a wider front soundstage, and since there's no separate subwoofer, the latter is intended to create deeper and distortion-free bass.
There's a solid set of connections, including multiroom support and Alexa voice control
Setup, Operation & TestingThe Bose SoundTouch 300 is relatively easy to setup, you simply connect all the sources to the Bose before connecting it to the TV, and then follow the verbal instructions provided by the soundbar itself. These take the form of a female voice that guides you through the setup process.
I had no problems setting up the Wi-Fi thanks to the SoundTouch app, and pairing Bluetooth devices was easy. Setting up the ARC connection between the TV and the soundbar was also a doddle. I also had no issues with the ADAPTiQ audio calibration feature, which uses a special setup microphone that you plug into a dedicated jack on the soundbar and wear on your head.
It's actually a very clever idea, because not only does it mean you don't need a mic stand or tripod, but since the microphone is actually on your head the measurements are being taken from exactly the right location and height. This makes it easier for the ADAPTiQ auto calibration to make the correct calculations.
These calculations analyse the audio characteristics of the room and adjust for any negative effects, ensuring an optimal acoustical performance by the soundbar. You take five measurements in total, starting at the sweet spot and then moving to other seating positions in the room.
For testing I connected various devices via HDMI to my LG 65C8 TV, such as the LG UP970 UHD Blu-ray player, a PS4 Pro, and a YouView set-top box. I then connected the Bose to my C8, so that I could send the audio (including from the TV's built-in apps and tuner) back to the soundbar via ARC.
I also tried connecting my Blu-ray player directly to the soundbar using the HDMI input, but initially there was no sound. I switched both player and cable but that wasn't the problem, and I eventually discovered there is a ‘Direct Audio’ setting that has to be selected in the SoundTouch app’s setup menu.
Finally, I connected the Bose 300 to my wireless network using the SoundTouch app, and I paired the soundbar to both an iPhone X and a Samsung S9+ via Bluetooth, allowing me to test its capabilities with streamed music.
Setup is relatively straightforward, but there are a couple of annoying idiosyncrasies
PerformanceOnce I had setup the Bose SoundTouch 300, I started listening to some of my favourite movie soundtracks and the soundbar immediately impressed. Whatever the company has been doing on the inside of the 300 it clearly works, and this is a great-sounding unit.
Naturally, a soundbar should be able to handle your regular TV viewing without any issues, and so it proved with the SoundTouch 300. Whatever your preference, the sound was clear and well defined, with a pleasingly wide soundstage that spread across the front of the room thanks to the PhaseGuide technology.
Whether it was the news, a documentary, a sporting event or a cookery show, the Bose was able to fire sound around either side of the TV, creating more width and a greater sense of immersion. Music and effects were delivered in a precise fashion, while dialogue remained intelligible and focused on the screen.
Moving on to something that was more of a challenge, the new Amazon series Jack Ryan has a very cinematic soundtrack that even includes Dolby Atmos encoding. The Bose isn't able to take advantage of the latter, but still managed to impress with clear dialogue and expansive music. The effects were placed across the front of the room with a degree of precision, and the soundbar could go very loud without distorting or sounding strained.
The SoundTouch 300 handled the bass on Jack Ryan fairly well, but moving on to a soundtrack with a more extended low-end like Ready Player One revealed the Bose’s strengths, but also its weaknesses. Dialogue remained clear and focused, and there was still a lovely feeling of width and depth to music. This is a soundtrack with plenty of dynamic range, and the Bose had sufficient grunt to deliver that extra dynamism.
The effects were also reproduced with plenty of impact, but the overall soundstage lacked the sense of immersion you would get from a genuine 5.1 system. The Bose also struggled with the bass effects on this film, of which there are many. Despite the inclusion of QuietPort bass extension, the SoundTouch 300 definitely lacked the low-end extension required for today's Hollywood blockbusters. It can deliver sufficient bass for normal TV viewing and even TV dramas, but struggles when it comes to movies.
Moving away from TV and movies, the SoundTouch 300 proved very adept when it came to two-channel audio. In fact, given the soundbar's strengths, it sounded particularly good with music, making it a great all-rounder. The higher registers were handled well, while the mid-range was solid and the bass better suited to songs. That's a good thing considering the multiroom nature of this soundbar, and means that you can use it to enjoy music as well as TV shows and movies.
The width of the Bose allowed for excellent stereo separation, which in turn resulted in better stereo imaging. The new Suede album The Blue Hour was delivered extremely well, with Brett Anderson's vocals rendered in a clear and precise fashion, and the instruments placed effectively across the soundstage. The bass performance was also more effective, and the deep choral singing during the album's opening track was handled nicely, as were the drums and bass.
The SoundTouch 300 can deliver a surprisingly wide and open soundstage, but there’s a big difference between adding some width and actually replicating the effect of rear speakers. The SoundTouch 300 never really created the impression there were sounds emanating from the rear, the audio was always focused at the front. The same was true of the bass presence, with the Bose really missing the support of a dedicated subwoofer.
The company does provide the opportunity to expand the SoundTouch 300 into a full 5.1 configuration. To do this you’ll need to pick up the Acoustimass 300 wireless subwoofer and the Virtually Invisible 300 wireless surround speakers. The combination of these accessories will allow you to create a genuine 5.1-channel system, but they add considerably to the cost and the entire package would come to around £1,400. At that price, I would definitely get the Samsung HW-N950 instead, with its 7.1.4 configuration and support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
The Bose delivers a big and open soundstage, but the bass is somewhat limited
- Wide and open soundstage
- Excellent remote app
- Great build quality
- Good-looking design
- Bass is limited
- Some issues with setup
- Top is too reflective
Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbar Review
Bose SoundTouch 300 VerdictThe Bose SoundTouch 300 is getting on a bit, but remains an excellent soundbar that manages to deliver a big and open soundstage. There is plenty of detail in the performance, and the driver array retains a pleasing clarity. The built-in amplification allows the soundbar to go loud without distorting, but despite Bose's proprietary technology, the bass performance was somewhat lacking. There is the option to add a subwoofer, but of course that will increase the cost of what is already a fairly pricey soundbar.
The SoundTouch 300 has a reasonable set of features including Bose's SoundTouch multiroom system and Alexa voice control. However, there are soundbars that can decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for only £100 more, which puts the Bose at a disadvantage to some of the competition. That being said, the Bose SoundTouch 300 certainly delivers a good enough performance to make it worthy of recommendation, and some minor issues don't detract from what is a very good and nicely specified soundbar.
What are my alternatives?There are a number of similar-specified soundbars available at lower prices than the Bose SoundTouch 300, such as the Samsung HW-MS650. This single-box soundbar has also been around for a while and delivers an equally big soundstage, with a surprising amount of bass considering it doesn't have a separate subwoofer either. In addition, Samsung's distortion cancelling technology really pays dividends, with a clean and detailed sound. You can currently pick the MS650 up for just £339.
At £399 the brand-new Sonos Beam is another great performer at a lower price to the SoundTouch 300. This new single-box soundbar is an excellent performer, that sounds much bigger than it looks. It not only performs well, but the Beam can also make your living room smarter thanks to an open approach to app choices and voice-assistant integration. In addition, if you have a smaller-sized TV, the compact Beam is ideal.
While both these alternatives are currently cheaper, the higher cost of the SoundTouch 300 is going to be less of an issue going forward. Bose has recently launched a new line-up of soundbars, so you can expect to see some major price reductions as we go into the Black Friday sales and Christmas.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £549.00
Ease of use9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.