I’m a belter now, but I was born an Earther. Syfy’s The Expanse has idled on my Amazon Prime watchlist for a couple years now, but in the last few months, I finally took the time to binge it proper and catch up on the brewing war between Earth, Mars, and the many space colonies of The Belt. I can’t get enough.
I’m hoping that Amazon will come through and #SaveTheExpanse from cancellation, but no matter the outcome, it’s been a thrill to listen to this show’s beautiful audio and music on the Bose SoundTouch 300. I’ve tested a few different soundbars during my time binging the series, but the clink of magnetic boots clamping to the hull in deep space have never sounded so crisp, and I’ve never felt the rumbling burn of the Rocinante’s Epstein Drive hit me like I have thanks to the add-on Acoustimass 300 wireless subwoofer.
The Bose SoundTouch 300 has been available for some time, but it’s still a competitive soundbar package in 2018—rivaled by the equally premium Sonos Playbar and Sub, but honestly equal or better in a lot of ways that count.
Thin and Glassy
Bose’s high quality sound is especially impressive when you consider the soundbar’s slim profile. The SoundTouch 300 stands just over 2 inches tall, making it an ideal fit under most modern TV screens. It’s completely black, with a fine mesh metal speaker grill running along the front and sides and a slick plate of glass blanketing the top. Bose claims this glass is as “strong as aluminum of the same thickness” and despite my initial reservations, I’m beginning to believe them.
The wireless sub (sold separately) isn’t nearly as petite. It’s basically a big 1-foot black plastic cube with rounded corners, though it does have a similar elegant, apparently sturdy, black glass top on it. It’s tall enough that I’m tempted to set my drinks on it as I sit on the couch, but have yet to build up the courage. It seems sturdy, but there’s no telling what a cup of spilled hot coffee might do to the poor thing. I’ve also been eyeing it nervously because my first Acoustimass 300 subwoofer would not sync to the soundbar properly. Bose had to ship me a replacement, which works fine (though, it’s worth noting that a few other buyers have complained about this).
On the back of the SoundTouch are the ports you’ll need: an HDMI input and output for ARC connections, an optical cable for more traditional setups, an ethernet port (it has Wi-Fi too), a 3.5mm jack to hardwire a sub if you desire, a Micro USB slot, and an extra 3.5mm port so you can customize your room’s audio with using Bose’s Adaptiq audio tuning.
Also in the box is a rather bulky, complex universal remote control, which Bose says can control your TV and other devices, though it’s about as intuitive as one of those hideous Comcast cable box remotes. Keep the instruction manual handy if you want to do anything special with this one. I’m sure it has a lot of functions, but the control codes Bose provided didn’t work with my Panasonic HDTV and it doesn’t seem useful for a whole lot more. Still, you can’t fully avoid it. There are no controls on the front of the SoundTouch, just five status indicator lights. The lack of on-device control is frustrating, though the optional Bose app does help.
The app looks a lot like the Sonos app, though it’s not nearly as robust. It lets you directly connect to Spotify and a few other music services. Spotify even works from the music service’s app. Firmware updates are easily downloaded using the app, and it’s nice that Bose continues to issue security and feature updates well into 2018.
If you own an Amazon Alexa speaker, you can add the Bose Skill to the SoundTouch and play audio through your soundbar, sort of. Alexa can play “presets” that you create by hand in the music section of the Bose app. It’s a step in the right direction, but far more cumbersome than it’s worth. I tended to just play music directly from the Spotify or Bose app because it was easier. Smart speaker compatibility is quickly becoming a feature most soundbars will have. The SoundTouch takes a baby step toward it.
Touched By Sound
Hidden behind the grill of the SoundTouch 300 are four full-range drivers, a tweeter in the center, and PhaseGuide arrays that help aim sound out the sides to fill your room more, though you can buy Bose satellite surround speakers for a full home theater setup if you wish. I found the soundbar to sound good on its own, but even better after calibrating it with the wired Adaptiq headband.
The process makes you sit in five different seating positions in your room and then picks up tones from the soundbar, tuning it in the process. The instructions were somewhat confusing, like a lot of the setup of this speaker (partially due to that clumsy big remote), but after tuning, I did notice sound spreading a few feet out from either side of the soundbar, depending on my seat.
The SoundTouch doesn’t have the musical warmth of the Sonos Playbar, but does look sleeker and sounds just as clear. Both of them need the added sub to really feel any deep bass. Some reviewers have complained that the SoundTouch is a little heavy on high treble sounds, but in my experience it’s pretty balanced. Speaking (dialogue) comes out especially clear and its overall performance is some of the best I’ve heard, comparing favorably against the less expensive Q Acoustics Media 4 I tested recently, though that bar clocks in at about half the price Bose is asking.
It is a shame that there is no Dolby Atmos support, but Dolby Digital and DTS are present. Audiophiles may also dislike the lack of EQ settings. Regardless, the SoundTouch 300 provides a fantastic audio experience that’s leagues ahead of what most folks have a home, which is a pair of crappy built-in TV speakers.
Worth Its Price
At $700 for the SoundTouch 300 soundbar and another $700 for the optional Acoustimass 300 subwoofer, this Bose home theater system is as expensive as the Sonos Playbar and Sub. We’re big fans of Sonos, but the SoundTouch holds its own, side-by-side. The app functionality with firmware updates and Alexa compatibility are nice bonuses, though the complex universal remote and its many button combinations feel very dated.
For this price, you shouldn’t have to remember to hold two buttons down until a third button blinks, and then press volume up or down to make changes; setup and control should be more intuitive. Still, if you own any home theater equipment, you’re likely used to playing codebreaker with your remote. But for the average jane trying to make their new speakers work, it might be frustrating.
Ultimately, audio quality is what matters most, and the Bose SoundTouch delivers it in spades.