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Bose has a knack for pushing the audio envelope with innovation and delivering quality without breaking the bank. And that’s been a good part of the brand’s success over the years.
The audio giant’s latest home theater release, the Smart Soundbar 600, is no exception. Promising to deliver high-end sound including Dolby Atmos spatial audio packed into a compact yet elegant design and at a more wallet-friendly price, there’s much to be excited about here. The question is, does it hit the mark? And how does it stand up against fierce contenders like the second-generation Sonos Beam?
Design & Build
Only available in black
Minimal and premium design
If you’re looking for a soundbar that’s minimal yet stylish, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 should definitely be on your radar. It boasts a sleek design that will complement any TV. The build quality is top-notch, too, thanks to some sturdy plastics and elegant perforated metals that give it a premium look and feel throughout.
Unfortunately, this soundbar is only available in one color: matte black, so if you were hoping to match it up with any existing silver or white Bose smart speakers in your home, then forget it.
Lee Bell / Foundry
On the plus side, the Smart Soundbar 600 is a great size. Measuring just 2.2 x 27.3 x 4.1 inches (HxWxD) and weighing just 6.8 pounds, it’s pretty compact, especially when compared to the brand’s bulkier and pricier brother, the Smart Soundbar 900. Its relatively light weight and compact size means it can be easily hung on a wall if you don’t have a TV stand. But be aware that this will require an additional wall bracket that Bose sells for an extra $39. (You can find much cheaper alternatives on Amazon, if you’re willing to try a third-party bracket).
In terms of controls, the Smart Soundbar 600 sports a couple of haptic buttons on top of the device itself in the form of a mute and voice-control action button. It also ships with a small remote with a slightly extended but still very basic set of functions including volume control, input mode, pause, and play. However, if you consider lifting a remote too much effort, you do have the option to boss the soundbar around via voice thanks to its baked-in Alexa and Google Assistant support. But more on that later…
Lee Bell / Foundry
1 x HDMI eARC, 1 x optical port
Support for Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Spotify Connect
On the connectivity front, the Smart Soundbar 600 is equipped with a HDMI eARC port and an optical digital audio input for those older televisions lacking HDMI support.
While the addition of a second HDMI input for passthrough would have been a welcome feature, it’s worth noting that this isn’t something you’ll find in all soundbars these days, especially more budget-friendly offerings. The similarly priced Sonos Beam Gen 2, for example, also lacks this capability.
Nevertheless, wireless streaming choices are aplenty in the Smart Soundbar 600, with support for Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth protocols.
Lee Bell / Foundry
Integrated voice control from Alexa and Google Assistant
Dolby Atmos support
Great companion app offering easy setup
Multiroom feature is hit and miss
While the main selling point of the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is that it’s a compact and versatile all-in-one soundbar, there are other great features to shout about. The main one is that it offers support for Dolby Atmos soundtracks but in a very different way to its chief rival, the Sonos’ Beam Gen 2.
That’s because, of the five drivers that it has behind this grille, two full-range drivers fire upwards to physically increase the sense of height of the sound, something Sonos’ soundbar does virtually. Meanwhile, there’s a single driver handling the center channel in the middle of the bar, while a racetrack driver at either end of the soundbar offers a wider feeling of sound.
Lee Bell / Foundry
Other features that help put the “smart” in the Smart Soundbar 600 include its focus on hands-free action, and–as you’d expect from a modern soundbar–it supports either Alexa or Google Assistant for all your hands-free needs. This means you can bark orders at it, like telling it to crank up the volume or skip tracks, all with the power of voice. It works well most of the time, but–as with any voice-enabled device–it’s far from perfect and can often miss commands, especially if you’ve got the volume turned up.
You’ll also find a host of Wi-Fi streaming services, including prominent platforms such as Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and Sirius XM.
Seamlessly integrating with the Bose Music app, the Smart Soundbar 600 can be easily installed, tweaked and adjusted as required, with options to rename it, tinker with its equalizer settings, or create “groups” with other smart-enabled Bose speakers, if you have them.
However, in my experience, the multiroom or “grouping” feature doesn’t always work as seamlessly as expected. Sometimes, only one of the speakers in the group will play the music, despite both being listed in the room you’ve created in the app. There’s also a delay if you want to play the audio from your TV through a speaker group, which seems crazy to me. If you want to experience surround sound while watching a movie, for instance, you can’t do it with a bunch of Bose smart speakers. Instead, you’d have to invest in the company’s Surround Speakers, which connect directly to the soundbar. This could prove very frustrating to those with existing Bose-based home speaker systems who purchase the Smart Soundbar 600 for this very reason.
Lee Bell / Foundry
Another frustration here is that, once you disconnect from a speaker group you’ve created on the app–for example, the Bose soundbar and the company’s Portable Home Speaker–the group will disappear once you’ve disconnected from it and you’ll have to create it all over again the next time you want to listen to music across multiple speakers/rooms.
Big sound from a small soundbar
Handles complex sound effects well
Lacking in the lower bass range
So, let’s dive into what makes the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 a real ear-turner. For one, it’s geared up to handle Dolby Atmos soundtracks thanks to its secret sauce: proprietary TrueSpace processing. This tech takes regular stereo and 5.1 channel stuff and turns it into a full-blown immersive experience, like you’re right in the heart of the action. This ensures big Hollywood action flicks pop like never before. Even the complex sound effects are untangled effortlessly, which is pretty remarkable considering its compact size and sub-$500 price point.
The midrange is solid and packed with plenty of detail, and dialogue is delivered with focus and clarity. It carries a dynamic sound too, being able to express any shift in volume effortlessly.
Lee Bell / Foundry
While its audio game is on point for the most part, it does struggle a little in the lower bass range so you might feel like those deeper notes are missing. And with no subwoofer included, that’s hardly surprising. Bose has crammed a ton of audio tech into this sleek package, so something had to give. On the other hand, the soundbar does work alongside Bose’s Bass modules if you’re really missing those deeper notes and don’t mind forking out extra for one (and when I say extra, I mean they start at $499, gulp).
All in all, the Smart Soundbar 600’s audio quality is well-rounded and impressive. Sure, it’s not exactly audiophile-level, but it’s certainly capable of offering premium sound to those who don’t want to part with more than £500 for a soundbar.
Price & Availability
At $499, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 certainly isn’t a budget speaker. It still costs almost double the Sonos Ray, for example, making it more of a mid-range soundbar. It can probably be better compared to the $449 Sonos Beam Gen 2.
So how does the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 compare to rivals?
If you’re at all familiar with the world of audio, it should go without saying that Bose’s biggest competitor is Sonos, a brand that flogs a very similarly specced and priced soundbar, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2). Since the two are very similar spec-wise (both offer Dolby Atmos, for example), picking one over the other will likely come down to which ecosystem you’d prefer to be a part of in the future (if you expand your home speaker system across multiple rooms, for instance).
The Smart Soundbar 600 is also significantly cheaper than the next Bose option, the $899 Smart Soundbar 900, so offers a very similar home theatre experience to more people than before.
When it comes to Dolby Atmos sound, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is a big win. Dialogue clarity is exceptional and its TrueSpace processing tech means it can take regular stereo and 5.1 channel stuff and turn it into a full-blown immersive experience.
However, its compact design does put a cap on its sound potential. A limited bass range means you won’t get that full-bodied thunderous bass you might expect from high-end rivals that ship with subwoofers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for cranking up the entertainment value during movie nights, but if you’re an audiophile chasing that deep and super-immersive sound, you might be a tad disappointed.
On the bright side, this soundbar brings a bunch of cool features that others miss, such as AirPlay 2, Chromecast and support for Alexa and Google Assistant. And at just under $500, there’s a lot on offer here, especially for those who want a great all-in-one package over mind-blowing sound depth.