Bose Smart Soundbar 600: One-minute review
The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 ($499 / £499 / AU$799) is the company’s new more compact and more affordable Dolby Atmos model, slotting in beneath the Smart Soundbar 900 ($899 / £1399 / AU$799).
While it’s priced around half as much as its larger sibling, the 600 offers up a mostly similar feature set, but from a more limited speaker array. A total of five drivers, including two up-firing ones, are used to deliver Dolby Atmos soundtracks, allowing the 600 to provide stiff competition to the best soundbars that use virtual Atmos processing in the same price range.
It may be small, and not that expensive, but the 600 sounds both bigger and better than one would expect. Overhead Atmos effects extend above the TV screen, and the audio presentation extends well out to the sides, in the way you expect from the best Dolby Atmos soundbars. Bass depth and power are not things you’d expect from a compact soundbar, meaning there’s not much of either, but the sound balance here is both natural and pleasing, while the imaging it manages with stereo music is surprisingly wide and precise.
As for features, the Soundbar 600 is fairly packed, with its Atmos support helped along by TrueSpace processing for music and regular stereo and 5.1 soundtracks. Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Bluetooth are all onboard for streaming, and there’s also built-in Alexa and Works with Google Assistant voice control support.
The Bose’s connection options go a bit further than some budget bars in providing both HDMI eARC and optical digital inputs. Everything can be controlled using the full-featured Bose Music app, and a basic hardware remote adds to the bar’s voice control capabilities.
Given the price, this is a solid, high-quality hunk of soundbar, with the sleek industrial design the company is known for. You have the option to extend it with a wireless subwoofer (or two) from Bose, along with wireless surround speakers, though at a fairly substantial cost.
Setup is easy and app-guided, and there are plenty of adjustments to tune the sound to your liking. Overall, this is a fine entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbar option offering great value, and one you should be looking at if you want to add real Atmos sound to your TV without spending an arm and a leg.
Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Price & release date
- Released in October 2022
- $499 / £499 / AU$799
The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 was released in October 2022 and sells for $499 / £499 / AU$799.
Pricing for the Soundbar 600 is slightly higher than for the Sonos Beam Gen 2, a model that Bose appears to be directly competing with. Similar to the Beam, the Soundbar 600 doesn’t come with a subwoofer for extended bass, but it does offer Wi-Fi for wireless streaming, as well as the ability to be paired with an optional wireless subwoofer and surround speakers.
Where the Bose beats the Sonos in terms of features is its inclusion of up-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos – the Bose, in contrast, uses virtual processing to simulate height effects in Atmos soundtracks.
Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: features
- Dolby Atmos with up-firing speakers
- HDMI eARC and optical digital connections
- Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and Bluetooth wireless streaming
The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is a compact, all-in-one soundbar that supports playback of Dolby Atmos soundtracks and uses proprietary TrueSpace processing for upconverting both stereo and regular 5.1 channel sources for Atmos presentation. DTS:X is not supported. A remote control is provided, and both setup and control can be carried out using the Bose Music app. The Soundbar 600 can also be expanded via the company’s optional wireless surround speakers and subwoofers (up to two).
A total of five transducers are used in the Soundbar 600: two side-mounted ones that combine with a center-mounted tweeter to deliver an expanded stereo image, and two top-mounted ones for Dolby Atmos overhead effects. Both driver size and amplifier power aren’t specified by Bose.
Connections on the Soundbar 600 include an HDMI eARC port plus an optical digital audio input for connecting an older TV that doesn’t support HDMI ARC/eARC. A second HDMI input to provide a passthrough would be a nice addition, though that’s something that isn’t always found on budget soundbars – the Sonos beam doesn’t include one.
Wireless streaming options on the Bose include Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth. The Bose Music app also integrates a range of services including Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and Sirius XM for streaming over Wi-Fi.
Support for Alexa is onboard for hands-free operation over basic controls like volume and track skipping, as well as access to music apps supported by Alexa. The Soundbar 600 also works with Google Assistant, giving you similar functionality when a Google speaker is connected to the network. With the Soundbar 600 set up for Alexa support, you can also use its Voice4Video feature to control functions of a connected Smart TV – everything from turning it on and off to playing and pausing video playback and changing channels.
Along with Dolby Atmos, the Soundbar 600 features proprietary TrueSpace processing. This takes incoming stereo, mono, and 5.1-channel sound sources and upconverts them for an Atmos-like immersive presentation using the soundbar’s full speaker array.
- Features score: 4/5
Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: sound quality
- Great dialogue clarity
- Spacious presentation of Dolby Atmos soundtracks
- Somewhat light on bass
Before I dove deep into evaluating the Bose’s performance, I simply used it as the soundbar for my TV setup in a relatively spacious room.
Basically, I had no serious complaints: movie and TV dialogue was routinely clear and full-sounding, music and sound effects were rendered in a spacious manner that extended the presentation well beyond the confines of the bar itself, and even music sounded well-balanced and with decent stereo separation – something many soundbars fail to deliver.
On action movies with Dolby Atmos soundtracks like John Wick 3, Bose’s bar created a believable sense of atmosphere in scenes with rain, the water appearing to fall from above the TV’s screen. Other demo-worthy Atmos scenes, like those from District 9 and Godzilla (2016), sci-fi films where there are plenty of helicopters flying overhead throughout, were well-served by the Soundbar 600, with the sound easily scaling up to match the onscreen action, and also extending above and beyond it.
While the Bose’s sound was mostly dynamic, even in my relatively large room, sound effects like the stomping of Godzilla through the streets of Honolulu lacked the bass oomph I know to be there – compact, all-in-one designs like the 600 can only do so much in the deep bass department. Even with that limitation, the bass the Soundbar 600 managed was clean and well-controlled, and it helped to add excitement to scenes from John Wick 3 where the protagonist fights would-be assassins in tightly enclosed spaces.
Music also sounded good on the Bose, and that’s not something you can say for every soundbar. Listening to the new stereo mixes on the just-released The Beatles’ Revolver box set (streamed from Tidal to the soundbar from my iPhone using Chromecast), Tomorrow Never Knows had a dense, psychedelic, swirling presentation, and Good Day Sunshine had a full quality, with the Motown-esque horn section accompaniment sounding brassy and crisp. Overall, music had a too-crisp balance on the Bose bar, but I’d attribute that to the missing bass octaves, and I can’t say I found the sound to be fatiguing overall.
- Sound quality score: 4/5
Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Design
- Basic, compact form-factor
- Excellent build quality
- Small, throwaway remote control
The Soundbar 600 has the basic bar-like form factor as many other soundbars, and comes only in a black finish. At 27 inches wide by 2 inches high and 4 inches deep, it’s a fairly sleek and compact design for an all-in-one unit.
Given the Soundbar 600’s approachable price, build quality is excellent: a metal mesh grille surrounds the bar’s front and sides, and the back panel has left and right ports (to enhance bass output) and a metal sink to prevent the built-in amplifier from overheating. Lifting the Soundbar 600 up in your hands, its impressive heft tells you it’s been designed to last.
Bose’s included remote control is a compact type with basic buttons to operate power, volume, mute, and input selection. Those same functions can be carried out via the Bose Music app, and there are also touch controls on the soundbar’s top that let you power it on/off and activate or deactivate the built-in microphone for voice control.
- Design score: 5/5
Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Usability and setup
- HDMI eARC connection
- App-based setup and control
- No alphanumeric front panel display
With only HDMI eARC and optical digital ports available for connecting to a TV, setup is simple enough and will be based on which of those your TV provides. Using the HDMI eARC connection, of course, gives you access to advanced features like Dolby Atmos sound – something optical digital connections don’t support – and HDMI CEC control, which lets you adjust the soundbar’s volume level using the TV’s remote control, among other things.
Bose’s remote control is basic and tiny enough that it’s easy to forget about (there’s a high likelihood it will disappear into your sofa’s cushions at some point). For the most part, I used the Bose Music app for setup and control, which works well and is easy to navigate.
This guides you through initial setup, where you – annoyingly – first need to create a Bose account. Once that’s done, the app discovers your Wi-Fi network and links the Soundbar 600 to it. The next step is to add info to the app for any supported music services, a list that includes: Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and Sirius XM. Other services not supported by the app can be streamed wirelessly to the Soundbar 600 using AirPlay, Chromecast, or Bluetooth.
App-based controls include center channel (dialogue) and height channel level, plus bass and treble adjustments. There’s also a wall EQ setting meant to adjust the sound for on-wall installations and a Dialogue Mode to enhance voice clarity on TV shows and movies if that’s ever an issue.
Like other budget soundbars, the Sonos Beam included, the Bose 600 lacks a front panel LED alphanumeric display, instead using color-coded lighting sequences to provide feedback to remote control commands. As usual, I couldn’t be bothered to memorize these, instead relying solely on the app for all of my adjustments and tweaks save for volume using the TV’s remote.
- Usability and setup score: 4.5/5
Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Value
- Great overall value
- Offers features the competition lacks
At $499, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is bumping up against some strong budget bar competition. The main one is the Sonos Beam Gen 2 ($450), but there are many others in the under $500 range from companies like Denon, Polk Audio, Samsung, Sony, LG, and Vizio.
Where the Bose distinguishes itself and provides value is its use of actual up-firing speakers to convey Dolby Atmos overhead effects, as well as its effective TrueSpace processing of sources with a lesser channel count. Its control app, while not at the same level as Sonos’ app, is also sophisticated, and there’s ample streaming support, with Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Bluetooth all onboard.
What’s lacking here is bass, which is something you can get with even modest soundbar systems that include an external subwoofer. Adding one of the company’s wireless Bass Modules ($499) should address that shortcoming, but then it bumps the system price up to $1,000 – a range where you can find other compelling options, including the all-in-one Sonos Arc.
- Value score: 4.5/5
Should I buy the Bose Smart Soundbar 600?
|Features||HDMI eARC plus up-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos||4/5|
|Sound quality||Great dialogue clarity and expansive sound||4/5|
|Design||Compact design with good looks||5/5|
|Usability and setup||Easy set-up and app-based control||4.5/5|
|Value||Overall great for the money||5/5|
Buy it if…
Don’t buy it if…
- First reviewed: November 2022
- How we test: read TechRadar’s reviews guarantee