41 Bose SoundTouch 300 bIn 1999 I went shopping for a clock radio, one that sounded good. I soon discovered that there were two types, those that cost around $25 and sounded dreadful and those that cost around $50 and sounded dreadful. Then I went into a Bose shop and asked to listen to Classic FM on a Wave Radio. Charles Southwood’s dulcet tones were so clear he could have been in the room. Wave Radios were about $750 then (they’re $799 now with a built-in CD player) and I bought one on the spot.

After seventeen years it hasn’t missed a beat and still sounds sweet. In two separate moves I lost the remote and then the FM aerial. A guy at a Bose shop replaced the remote for $16, a guy at another gave me a new FM aerial for free. I’ve since been back to buy a SoundTouch 30, various incarnations of noise cancelling headphones and a pair of desk speakers ($90 on runout) that sound better than others costing four times that.

41 Bose SoundTouch 300 aSo I am kindly disposed towards Bose and when it announced the SoundTouch 300, a soundbar that, it claims, can double as a music system, I was eager to listen. At $999 it costs the same as the Sonos Playbar, a ripper unit.

The SoundTouch is long at 978 mm, about the same length as a smaller television. It’s 108 mm high and 57 mm deep, so it will fit near flush with many tellies when wall-mounted under them. It looks good with a wrap-around perforated metal grille and a glass top. You can have any colour as long as it’s black.

Bose says it’s the company’s best soundbar and it’s compatible with SoundTouch multi-room components. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with near field communication and getting Spotify and Pandora is as easy as pressing a button on the remote, or your phone or tablet. It lacks the six preset buttons of other SoundTouch gear, a disappointment to me although they can be called up with the remote.
The unit contains multiple drivers, some angled to the side walls (Bose calls this Phase Guide) so the sound bounces from there to you, giving the impression of surround sound. This works best when the unit is mid-way between the two side walls but the kit includes a head-mounted microphone you can use to tailor the sound to other room shapes with varying success. Real surround works better and the unit can be worked in with separate rear surround speakers. And there’s a matching subwoofer, more about that soon.

41 Bose SoundTouch 300 cSetting it up involves pugging in and connecting the supplied HDMI cable to the telly. It’s an HDMI with an audio return channel so only the single cable is needed to sync with a television, disc player or streamer. It also has 4K pass-through so will work with ultra-high definition formats.

It all looked promising until I went into the Bose shop for a listen and the sales guy told me that, really, if I wanted to do it properly I’d have to buy an Acoustimass 300 subwoofer as well, doubling the spend from $999 to $1998. I had my phone hooked in to stream my audition music by Bluetooth and as it played he turned the sub on and off, pointing out what he said was the weak bass and midrange without it,. When I said the sound was too bass-oriented for my taste he assured me the level was adjustable but didn’t offer to adjust it. I guess he knew what was best for me.

Much of the music sounded quite acceptable but to my ears the SoundTouch 300 on its own doesn’t have the low-end presence of, say, a Bose Solo 15 television speaker base. Or of my faithful old Wave Radio or desk speakers for that matter. All these are compact units that turn out robust bass.

If its own salespeople say it needs a sub I wonder why Bose doesn’t package the soundbar with the sub for $1998. But then in that territory I’d probably spend another $100 or so for a Focal Dimension soundbar and sub package.

Published November 2016


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