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Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Decent sound but pricey

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is an undeniably stylish package that delivers decent sound and also has Atmos support

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Bose motif on speaker grille
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 supports Atmos, has lots of features and produces good sound — though not as good as you’d expect for the price.

Pros

  • +

    Slim and sleek design

  • +

    Automatic room correction

  • +

    Alexa and Google Assistant built in

  • +

    Dolby Atmos support

  • +

    Good overall levels of sound for movies

Cons

  • -

    Price

  • -

    Bass output is so-so

  • -

    Not so great for music listening

Bose Smart Soundbar 900: Specs

Price: $899

Colors: Black and arctic white

Ports: HDMI eARC; Optical input; Ethernet port; ADAPTiQ; Wired bass module (optional)

Speakers: Not specified

Smart Assistant: Alexa; Google Assistant

Wireless: Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; AirPlay 2

Size: 41.14 x 4.21 x  2.29 inches 

Weight: 12.68 pounds

With the Bose Smart Soundbar 900, Bose joins the Atmos party. It’s Bose’s first soundbar to support the immersive surround sound technology, putting it in direct competition with the Sonos Arc. Both offer multiroom audio, have integrated voice assistants and can be expanded with wireless surrounds and a subwoofer. And both cost a lot: $899. 

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 separates itself with its design — it’s smaller and more sleek than the Arc. But, while it sounds very good overall, it can’t match the Arc when it comes to bass and virtual surround sound. 

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 alongside Sono Arc Soundbar on wooden tabletop

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 sits in the foreground alongside Sonos Arc Soundbar (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Soundbar 900: Price and availability 

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 was released in September 2021. It sells for $899 and you can buy it from Bose, Amazon, B&H and other retailers.

Image showing small speaker grille on top of Bose Smart Soundbar 900

(Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Design 

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is an elegant looking soundbar that takes minimalism to the extreme. At 41.14 x 4.21 x  2.29 inches, it’s smaller than the Sonos Arc, and its slim profile will work well if your TV stand has a low clearance. 

Available in black or white, the soundbar has a glass top and metal grill that wraps around the front and sides. There’s very little adornment on the unit. Besides the Bose logo on front, it has two touch-sensitive buttons, one to activate the voice assistant and the other to mute the mic. The buttons are so subtle you won’t notice them unless you look pretty hard (they’re on the top left). There’s also a slim LED indicator just below the buttons. It glows different colors and in different patterns depending on the function you’re using.

On the back, the Smart Soundbar 900 has one HDMI input and one optical digital audio input. It also supports Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 for wireless sources. It comes with Wi-Fi for a wireless connection to your network, or you can use the Ethernet port for a wired connection. There is also a connection for the Adaptiq microphone (used for automatic room correction), as well as 3.5mm inputs labeled Bass and IR, for wired connections to those devices.

The Smart Soundbar 900 comes with a small remote — something the Arc doesn’t. It can change the input, adjust the volume and access presets. If you use HDMI ARC, you can control the volume with your TV remote. For all other functions, you’ll need to launch the Bose Music app.

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 and accessories placed on wooden table top

(Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Audio performance

The Smart Soundbar 900 sounds very good, with wide and full audio, but it doesn’t sound as good as you’d expect at this price. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and it does a good job at virtual surround sound and Atmos height effects — just not as good as the Sonos Arc. And the bass is weak while watching movies and TV — something I never thought I’d say about typically bass-heavy Bose speakers. 

While watching “Foundation,” debates between Brother Day and Brother Dusk sounded clear and resonant, though explosions lacked tactile feel because of the limited bass the unit put out. When Thor arrives in Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War, the virtual surround sound helped it feel like his axe was moving through the room; but the effect was more pronounced when using the Arc to watch the scene. And when Thor brings the lightning down on the Outriders, the soundbar didn’t produce a satisfying rumble. 

The Smart Soundbar 900’s Atmos performance was good, but not great. When watching an Atmos demo video, rain sounded as if it was coming down from the ceiling, but the effect was easier to detect when using the Arc. 

While the soundbar lacked enough bass when watching movies, it didn’t have that problem with music — it had too much bass and the low-end frequencies it produced were a little muddy and lacking definition. On Billie Eilish’s “Therefore I Am,” the bass rumbled the floor and her voice sounded full — though the bass was so dominant it was sometimes hard to hear her voice. Similarly, the bass on The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” boomed, but also overwhelmed the other instruments and vocals. 

The Smart Soundbar 900 gets plenty loud to fill a large room. It measured over 95 decibels at full volume, though at that level the sound was too sharp and a little distorted. 

A hand holding the remote control to Bose Smart Soundbar 900

(Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Smart features

You can choose either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant as your voice assistant on the Smart Soundbar 900 (you can switch your choice in the app). With either, you can adjust the volume, play music from linked services and control your other smart devices. 

The Smart Soundbar 900 was responsive to my requests, whether they involved the functions of the soundbar itself, playing content or switching on smart plugs. 

Tuning headband for Bose Smart Soundbar 900 resting on wooden tabletop

Wearing the ADAPTiQ headset may feel silly, but it really is worth the effort  (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Soundbar 900: Setup 

The Smart Soundbar 900 is easy to set up. First, connect it to your TV by HDMI or optical digital. Then launch the Bose Music app and follow the prompts. You’ll need a Bose Music account to use the app.

The soundbar comes with an Adaptiq headset for automated room correction. Don’t worry about how silly you feel wearing the headset — it’s worth the effort. You sit at five different locations in the room as the speaker sends sounds out. That allows it to optimize the speaker levels for your room.

Beyond automatic room correction, you have a lot of manual control over levels in the app. You can boost dialog, or increase the center speaker volume if you need even louder voices. You can also adjust the height speaker level. 

The Smart Soundbar 900 doesn’t have any other sound modes, but you can increase or lower bass and treble levels. 

You can expand the Smart Soundbar 900 by connecting wireless surrounds ($349) and a wireless subwoofer ($449 or $799). You can also link other Bose speakers in your house for multiroom audio. One handy thing the Bose Music app lets you do that Sonos doesn’t: you can link any Bluetooth speaker to your Bose network and take advantage of its multiroom audio without buying Bose products.

Image showing connectivity at rear of Bose Smart Soundbar 900

(Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Verdict

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is a very good soundbar overall. With support for Atmos, multiroom capabilities and plenty of other features, it has every feature you want in a high-end soundbar. But the sound quality can’t match that of another $899 soundbar: the Sonos Arc. 

It does have some advantages of the Arc. It’s smaller than the Arc and it has a more elegant look. 

If you aren’t wedded to the Bose ecosystem and sound quality matters most to you, the Arc is the better choice. If you’ve got other Bose speakers, it would make sense to stick with a Bose soundbar. 

Michael Gowan covers soundbars, TVs, portable speakers and other audio- and video-related topics for Tom’s Guide. He’s written about music and technology for more than 20 years for a raft of publications including Wired, Men’s Journal, PC World and Macworld. When he’s not reviewing speakers, he’s probably listening to one anyway.