Premium audio company Bose really is no stranger to getting big sound out of compact speakers. The Bose SoundLink Mini II perhaps started the trend, but we have had many examples since, including the Bose Home Speaker 500. Not to delve too much into the past, since we have the latest testament to Bose’s prowess. The Soundbar 500. In the overall scheme of things, the Soundbar 500 which is priced at Rs 59,000 is a significant upgrade over the Bose Solo 5 TV (Rs 22,050) and sits just below the slightly larger Bose Soundbar 700 (Rs 79,000).
There is no doubt that the Soundbar 500 is compact. It is 80 cm wide, 10.16 cm deep and 4.44 cm high. Simply put this can slide under most televisions kept on a table and hide in plain sight. The fact that it blends in so easily is also because of the very subtle LEDs that are placed near the top left corner which will not distract you at all. All the connectivity options are on the recessed back panel—this includes HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC)
Optical audio and the ability to add more surround speakers, for instance.
Behind the solid front grille are three front-firing audio drivers, and two on either side. To set up the Soundbar 500, you need to download the Bose Music app (free for Android and iOS) that is now the company’s single app for all its current generation Alexa enabled smart speakers and soundbars, including this one. The setup process is fairly intuitive and straight-forward, and you should have this up and running in close to no time at all. You can configure the smart assistant Alexa, hook this up to your home Wi-Fi network and pair the optional wireless bass module. More on that in a bit.
Once the setup is done, you can take charge of the wireless remote that the Soundbar 500 ships which. This feels very premium to hold and use. There are minimal buttons on this, which makes switching between sources (TV, Bluetooth and music) quite simple. Apart from that, there is the volume control, media playback control keys and the numbered keys (1 to 6) just like they are present on the Home Speaker 500 for pre-configuring shortcuts. The setup worked flawlessly when everything was in place for operation—the audio for TV and video streaming passed through by a Sony Bravia LED TV via optical audio, as well as paired with an iPhone XS Max and a Huawei Mate 20 Pro via Bluetooth and registered with the Amazon account for Alexa capabilities.
In total, there are five audio drivers reproducing the sound for you. Bose has followed a similar multi-directional deployment as it did in the Home Speaker 500, with two of these drivers placed on the sides of the soundbar to fire sound in the left and right directions. Open the Netflix app and select any action movie or TV show—you will be impressed with the fine detailing of each element of an action sequence, including the clatter of the bullet shells as they fall on the floor. Switch to something that is more about a Broadway-esque feel, and you will hear the mix of the instruments, the ambient sounds and acoustics in fine detail. It will be hard to come across another soundbar which does sound so well—details, vocals and clarity. You will also be able to tweak the bass and treble levels on the soundbar in the Bose Music app—to better match your sound preferences and also tailor it better for the content you may be viewing on your TV at the time. That said, you will miss out on the sub-bass rumble and there is the sense of a general lack of bass depth that would be noticeable with a lot of movies and TV shows that you may watch.
For that, Bose has the optional bass module. It is called the Bass Module 500 and is an optional accessory that you can add to your Soundbar 500 for an additional Rs 30000. This pairs with your soundbar wirelessly, and we noticed that reconnection when you switch these on is instant. The Bass Module 500 is quite compact in size for a subwoofer, but don’t be deceived by its footprint because this packs some serious bass. Window shaking, neighbour annoying and the ingredient of a wholesome movie watching experience.
Now comes the smartness aspect. Amazon’s artificially intelligent smart assistant, Alexa. We don’t often see soundbars include Alexa capabilities, but the Bose Soundbar 500 does have that. It is easy to switch to Alexa, in the sense that whatever source may be active at that time, simply say “Hey Alexa” and the LEDs light up to indicate an instant switch to the smart speaker mode. From then onwards, you can ask Alexa to do pretty much anything you may ask of it on another smart speaker—music, news, weather, buy something on Amazon and more. With this sort of sound to go with the music you may want to listen to, the experience is delightful. However, we did notice that the sound level is very different when you switch to using Alexa, leaving you scrambling for the remote or screaming “Alexa, reduce the volume”. This is easily fixable with a software update, we would imagine.
As one would probably expect, the Bose Soundbar 500 is all about finesse and sophistication. Be it the design, be it the sound and be it the way you experience the Bose Soundbar 500 regularly. Things have been thought out in detail, such as the reduced height to make it slide under TVs that don’t have the tallest table stand and the minimalist remote that is intuitive to use even for someone who isn’t the most proficient with technology. Yet, quite uncharacteristic of Bose, there are a few niggles. The volume difference when switching from TV to Alexa to Bluetooth for instance—not a big deal, but you just expect someone at Bose to have given this a thorough once over before signing off. All said and done, this does cost a lot of money. And if you have that money to spend, there is really no debate on the sound that the Bose Soundbar 500 is capable of. And that seals the deal, if you are serious about a home theatre setup at home.