What is the Bose Soundbar 700?
However, it doesn’t come with a separate subwoofer (that’s extra), it doesn’t have any HDMI inputs, and it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. That’s a lot of crosses on any consumer’s checklist, especially for a soundbar that costs £699 as at the time of writing (October 2019). So, does the Soundbar 700 do enough to justify its price tag and are there better alternatives?
The Soundbar 700 is sleek with a height of only 57mm, so it shouldn’t block the screen. However, if you want to wall mount you’ll need to buy the optional bracket which costs an extra £35. The cabinet is 108mm deep, weights 4.7kg, and uses a wraparound aluminium grille combined with a tempered glass top.
Unfortunately, just like the SoundTouch 300, the glass top collects smudges and fingerprints at the drop of a hat. Bose helpfully includes a microfibre cloth to keep it clean, but it’s still a nuisance. Far more annoying is the way the top reflects the TV screen, which is particularly bad at night. It might look nicer, but the top really should be matte black.
The minimalism of the design is quite extreme, with only two touch-sensitive controls on the top left for powering the soundbar and muting the smart assistants. There’s no real display either, just an LED bar of light that changes colour depending on what the soundbar is doing. There’s a bewildering array of permutations, and if you can remember all of them you deserve a medal.
Connections and Controls
In the same recess as the HDMI port, you’ll find an optical digital input, an Ethernet port and a micro USB port for service. However, it’s a fairly tight space, so bear that in mind if you use thicker cables. The other recess contains the socket for the two-pin power cable, and four 3.5mm jacks for a subwoofer, data, IR extender, and the ADAPTiQ headset.
Bose helpfully includes HDMI and optical digital cables, making physical connections easier. In terms of wireless connections, there’s a choice of Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz bands), Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth. However, the latter is limited to the SBC codec so, for the best quality audio, you should choose one of the other two options.
The main method of controlling the Soundbar 700 is the included universal remote, which boasts a well-made metal case and a motion-activated backlight. You can use it to control all your sources, including a TV, Blu-ray player, games console, video streamer, cable or satellite box.
However, I do have a few issues with this controller. For a start, it’s too big, and the soft rubber buttons not only attract dust and fluff but are also impossible to see when not illuminated. Even when they are illuminated there’s often no text, just icons which aren’t always easy to understand.
The new Bose Music App is a definite improvement, with a well-designed and responsive interface that takes you through set-up and operation. You can fine-tune the performance of the Soundbar 700 using the app (centre channel, bass, treble, universal remote, etc.), as well as access Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, TuneIn, AirPlay and Bluetooth.
Features and Specs
The soundbar itself uses four mid-range drivers in the middle – two either side of a central tweeter – but the exact specs of these drivers are unavailable. Bose also hasn’t revealed the power of the built-in amplification or the overall frequency response.
However, the 700 does include PhaseGuide technology, which is designed to send audio to the sides, thus creating a wider front soundstage. It also uses Bose’s QuietPort technology, which is designed to deliver deeper, cleaner and distortion-free bass.
While the Soundbar 700 can decode 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS, there’s no support for lossless codecs like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. This rather negates the inclusion of eARC, and also means it can’t handle Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, which is a major omission at this price.
Since this is a single-box solution there’s no separate subwoofer, but you can buy the optional Bass Module 700 for £615. You can also add rear channels with the Surround Speakers 700 – yours for £499 – which means a full 5.1 system it will set you back a hefty £1,800.
The big new feature on the Soundbar 700 is the inclusion of smart assistants and voice control, with a choice of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can set-up one or the other (or even both) using the Bose Music app, which links to your existing account(s).
It’s quick and easy, and once done you can use the Soundbar 700 as a smart speaker, allowing you find out the news or weather, play music, listen to the radio and enjoy limited voice control. There’s a choice of four music services – Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer and TuneIn Radio.
Set-up and Operation
Once you’ve connected the Soundbar 700 to your Wi-Fi network using the app, paired any Bluetooth/AirPlay devices, and connected your TV via the provided HDMI or optical digital cables, all you need to do is run the ADAPTiQ audio calibration.
It’s a shame more manufacturers don’t include audio calibration, because ADAPTiQ is surprisingly easy to use. Simply plug the headset mic into the soundbar, pop it on and follow the instructions in the Bose Music app. You take five measurements in total, starting at the sweet spot before moving to other seating positions in the room.
Since the measurements are based on the exact position of your head at these various locations, the resulting calibration should be more accurate. ADAPTiQ analyses the different frequencies and adjusts for any negative effects caused by the room itself, ensuring optimal performance.
For testing, I used an LG OLED65C8 with all the sources connected to the TV and the audio sent to the 700 via HDMI-ARC. I also connected the soundbar to my home network, using an iPhone X and the Bose Music app to test streaming over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AirPlay.
The remote was used for day-to-day operation of the soundbar, with the relevant controls illuminating depending on the configuration (soundbar or another device). The Bose was set-up as an Alexa speaker using my existing Amazon account, allowing me to test the smart assistant.
First the good stuff. The smart assistants work extremely well, turning the soundbar into a fully-fledged Alexa or Google Assistant speaker. You can easily play music and interact with the smart assistant, but I did find voice control frustrating – aside from simple instructions such as volume up or down.
The ADAPTiQ audio calibration works very well, and there’s no doubt that it improves the overall sonic performance. With ADAPTiQ engaged the audio feels livelier and bigger, with a more cohesive front soundstage. In addition, the drivers are effective, as is the PhaseGuide technology, which adds width.
This means music sounds very good, with the audio spreading out across the front of the room, while offering excellent stereo separation. Listening to the latest Waterboys album Where the Action Is, the Soundbar 700 delivers a strident performance that drives the rockier numbers while also ensuring the acoustic tracks and orchestration retain plenty of detail.
The audio remains equally as impressive when watching TV, especially programmes such as the news, documentaries and game shows – which are less demanding. When it comes to live sports broadcasts such as the Rugby World Cup, the soundstage has a pleasingly big presence, while the commentary remains clear.
However, with more complex soundtracks the limitations of this soundbar begin to show, especially in terms of surround and bass. For a start, there’s no dedicated centre speaker for dialogue, and while the PhaseGuide technology works, it does so at the expense of the overall precision. As a result, effects are harder to locate when compared to a soundbar with more directional drivers.
This is less of an issue when it comes to TV programmes or films with simpler 5.1 soundtracks such as Mindhunter or A Few Good Men, where the majority of the action takes place in prison cells or courtrooms. However, put on a film like Avengers: Endgame, which has a more involved sound design, and the sense of envelopment is lost. The same is true when it comes to a TV drama like Star Trek: Discovery, which has a very dynamic soundtrack.
The lack of any real surround presence is par for the course with soundbars that lack rear speakers, but the absence of a separate subwoofer seriously hampers the 700’s performance. The QuietPort technology really is no substitute for a sub and, as a result, a bass-heavy soundtrack like Aquaman loses much of its impact. The punches in this film are supposed to feel like being hit with a sledgehammer, instead, they often feel more like being slapped with a wet fish.
- Good front soundstage
- Well-designed app
- ADAPTiQ audio calibration
- eARC support
- Alexa/Google built-in
- Excellent build quality
- Lacks low-end impact
- No Atmos/DTS:X support
- Top is too reflective
- No HDMI inputs
Bose Soundbar 700 Review
The Bose Soundbar 700 is an attractively designed and well-made product that suffers from strange choices when it comes to features. The overall performance is very good, especially with music and TV shows. However, the absence of a separate subwoofer results in a lack of deep bass that robs today’s blockbusters of impact. There’s no surround presence either, and while you can add a sub and rear speakers that increases the cost significantly.
The biggest surprise is a lack of support for either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, both of which consumers expect at this price point. There’s eARC support, but this seems rather pointless given the soundbar’s inability to decode lossless audio, and there are no HDMI inputs. While the glossy top looks cool, it’s actually annoyingly reflective and the universal remote’s soft rubber keys are also a design misfire.
Bose will point to the inclusion of both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant as reasons to buy this soundbar, but in reality, there are easier and much cheaper ways of getting both smart assistants. Consumers buy a soundbar to improve the sound quality of TV shows and movies, not to order groceries or find out the weather. In this respect, the Bose Soundbar 700 is a disappointment, and ultimately there are better alternatives available.
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