Bose SoundTouch 300 and Acoustimass 300 review

Looking for a home theater upgrade? The Bose SoundTouch 300 is worth an audition

Bose proves yet again that big home theater sound really can come in small packages.
Bose proves yet again that big home theater sound really can come in small packages.
Bose proves yet again that big home theater sound really can come in small packages.

Highs

  • Huge immersive soundfield
  • High output capabilities
  • Excellent dialog intelligibility
  • Great bass output for a compact sub
  • Refined build quality

Lows

  • Vocals sound thin, harsh and sibilant
  • Midrange/low treble instruments can sound tinny and bright
  • Only two wired inputs

DT Editors' Rating

If there’s one thing Bose has been doing longer than anyone else in the loudspeaker game, it’s finding ways to get huge sound out of small packages. In fact, the company’s been designing speakers with this goal in mind ever since its first model, the 2201. That speaker spawned the model 901, which utilizes psychoacoustic principles to develop direct and reflecting sound waves that Bose called, er, “Direct/Reflecting” technology. The 901 remains in production to this day, and numerous other Bose products have incorporated psychoacoustic enhancements, including the original Acoustimass systems, which added a guided wave, compression-loaded bass module. For our Bose SoundTouch 300 review we looked forward to seeing how Bose’s engineering history would play out in a slim and sleek soundbar.

With all of Bose’s little-speaker-equals-big-sound experience on tap, it’s no wonder Bose turned its attention toward a category that would benefit the most from such expertise: The soundbar. The company’s efforts have resulted in the SoundTouch 300 soundbar and Acoustimass 300 bass module, the pair of which promises “Best in class sound for your entertainment,” according to its website. Read on to find out if Bose has succeeded.

Out of the box

Pulling the SoundTouch from its box resulted in a tactile pleasure rarely experienced with a soundbar. Its slimline yet hefty 10.4-lb. form surprised us with its refined and inert design. The smooth, perforated metal grille and polished glass top sheet invited us to run our hands over its aesthetically pleasing contours.

Once we freed the Acoustimass 300 from its solid, triple-layer box, we saw that it is finished to a similarly high standard. It features the same polished glass top and rounded edges as the SoundTouch, though not its metal casework. Still, its compact yet ultra-dense form shows that Bose has packed some serious muscle into this sub. If high build quality is your jam, you’ll love the SoundTouch and Acoustimass combo.

Other items inside the SoundTouch 300’s box include a universal remote control, ADAPTiQ calibration headset, an HDMI cable, one optical cable, a pair of AAA batteries, user manuals, and a power cord. The only items inside the Acoustimass 300’s box, other than the sub, are the power cord and manuals.

Features and design

Standing 38.5 inches wide, 2.25 inches high, and 4.25 inches deep, the SoundTouch 300 should fit unobtrusively beneath any TV its likely to be paired with. Inside that inconspicuous form factor lurks some of Bose’s latest sound enhancement wizardry, including its QuietPort and PhaseGuide technologies. These are said to increase bass output and perceived soundstage width, respectively. Another clue as to one of this soundbar’s key features lies in its moniker: All SoundTouch labeled devices are enabled with Bose’s wireless multi-room connectivity platform. Wireless surround speakers, called Virtually Invisible 300, can also be added if you’re looking to go that route.

Since the SoundTouch 300 is outfitted with a single HDMI input, Bose recommends routing all HDMI signals through your TV first and then to the soundbar for audio processing. The HDMI input includes 4K pass-through and an ARC-enabled output for convenience. An optical digital input provides the only other hard-wired connection for audio signals; both optical and HDMI port can accept Dolby Digital and DTS audio signals. The SoundTouch will also accept Bluetooth and Wi-Fi audio signals.

If high build quality is your jam, you’ll love the SoundTouch and Acoustimass combo.

Roughly a cubic foot, the Acoustimass 300 hides plenty of room-rattling technology inside its inert, 30-pound enclosure. Examining the bass module and a cutaway drawing available online shows an approximately 10-inch woofer is mounted to the enclosure’s top surface. Its front-firing sound wave meets a conical-shaped waveguide designed to increase laminar airflow and decrease driver turbulence. That waveguide mates to the underside of the tempered glass top plate for a clean, streamlined appearance. An internal, folded, labyrinthine transmission line also utilizing Bose’s QuietPort technology guides the rearward sound wave towards the port’s exit at the bottom front of the cabinet. Even though input signals are delivered wirelessly from the soundbar, the sub also includes a service port, an Acoustimass input, and sub input jacks.

Note that both the soundbar and subwoofer chassis lack any sort of user controls or adjustments, which means you’ll have to control it with the supplied universal remote or download the SoundTouch app for your Android, Windows, Fire OS or iOS device. Thankfully, the app offers comprehensive functionality that includes playback control for internet radio stations, a networked music library, and streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM. The app also allows multi-room control for multiple SoundTouch systems.

Setup

After following the quick start guide’s instructions to make the requisite connections, powering on the soundbar, and pairing the bass module, we decided that, for this Bose SoundTouch 300 review, we’d run Bose’s ADAPTiQ audio calibration program with the supplied headband style mic. Though we got the pair pair up and running fairly quickly —total time from out of the box until playback was less than 20 minutes, including reading the quick start guides — the system sounded pretty mediocre. The setup program did an excellent job of optimizing virtual surround effects and channel levels, but it did little to smooth out various room-related bass lumps and bumps. Moreover, it seemed to heavily accentuate the low to mid treble octave from about 2.5kHz to 5kHz, regardless of where we placed the soundbar or the mic; a quick test tone and spectrum analyzer sweep confirmed this to be true.

Luckily, we had a lot of placement flexibility in our demo room and, after some experimentation, we found an optimal position for the bass module that significantly smoothed out the perceived spectral balance and alleviated some of the treble hotness. Bottom line: Be prepared for some placement experimentation with the sub if you’re not getting as smooth a sound as you’d like from your SoundTouch/Acoustimass combo.

We also downloaded the iOS SoundTouch app for our smartphone before taking the SoundTouch for a spin. Via Wi-Fi connection, the app downloaded in less than a minute but instantly set our soundbar into update mode, which took more than 12 minutes. Be prepared for a long update session if you plan on doing the same.

Performance

We expect Bose products to deliver a big sound, and this soundbar and sub combo did not disappoint. Even as we were still settling in and getting used to its sound and features, the SoundTouch 300 and Acoustimass 300 threw an expansive, wall-to-wall soundfield during a live airing of the Formula 1 Azerbaijan race. Visitors on more than one occasion had to confirm that the sound was indeed coming from the SoundTouch and not our widely spaced, floorstanding speaker setup.

Better still, the 300’s soundfield did more than just expand across the front wall. It wrapped completely around us, on both movies and TV, in highly convincing fashion and with plenty of height and depth. Thanks to audio captured during first person camera shots from within the cockpit, we felt fully immersed in the racing around us and dangerously close to the screeching tires and the ultra-loud roar of the high-octane engines.

Watching the F1 race along with some choice action movies afterwards gave us a chance to test the SoundTouch 300’s overall output capabilities. Even in an open floor plan space, the SoundTouch could crank out distortion-free sound when called for. Sure, we could get the SoundTouch to cry “Uncle!” when pushed too hard, but our ears gave out long before the soundbar did. If other soundbars leave you wanting for more volume, you just might find it in the SoundTouch 300.

When it came to the low end of the frequency spectrum, the Acoustimass easily kept up with the SoundTouch’s output capabilities and our constant craving to pump up the volume. Watching the final battle scene from The Dark Knight Rises, the Acoustimass 300 handily reproduced its wide gamut of bass effects, including the bombastic explosions, roaring engines, and that omnipresent, subterranean drone. Overall, those sounds were less articulate and distinct than as heard through more premium subwoofers, but they were still potent and highly satisfying through the Bose module.

We’d wager you’ll be pleased as punch with the bass on offer.

While the Acoustimass offers impressive performance for its size, we could hear it coming up short in the bottom octave. Sticking with The Dark Knight Rises shows the Acoustimass 300 couldn’t deliver the same visceral, gut-punching experience between 20-40Hz as our traditionally designed and much larger subwoofer. Still, the Acoustimass sub turned in an impressive performance, especially given its size. Unless your movie effects diet consists strictly of earthquakes, explosions, and the like, we’d wager you’ll be pleased as punch with the bass on offer.

Another area where the Bose soundbar excelled is with dialog reproduction. The SoundTouch 300 soundbar was a champ at maintaining dialog clarity and intelligibility, even at low volumes. During commercial breaks, for example, we brought the volume down to near whisper-quiet levels and still understood dialog and other midrange sounds and effects.

Unfortunately, this clarity comes courtesy of the aforementioned upper midrange and lower treble boost. Turning those same commercials up to volumes slightly louder than normal made male vocals sound thin, etched and spitty, while female vocals sounded harsh, peaky, and consistently sibilant. Various instruments and sonic details, such as drum and finger cymbals, bells, and sirens, even beeping watches and sizzling grills, sounded consistently bright and tinny. We’re guessing these drawbacks aren’t enough to put most people off, but if you have an aversion to excessive treble brightness and sibilance, be sure to give the SoundTouch/Acoustimass combo a thorough audition before deciding to buy.

Trying something other than TV and movies showed the Bose combo sound pretty good on music, too. We listened to the Fred Hersch Trio’s recording of that old jazz standard, Mood Indigo, from the album The Fred Hersch Trio Plays, to see how well this soundbar and sub fared with acoustic sounds. The SoundTouch/Acoustimass did a good job pulling Drew Gress’ upright bass and Tom Rainey’s cymbals out of the mix, accentuating them against Hersch’s more delicate piano work. Extended listening sessions revealed the Bose was less adept at reproducing sonic nuance and details, such as on the Tord Gustavsen Trio’s recording of Melted Matter, from the album Changing Places. Here, the SoundTouch 300 diminished some transient information and harmonic decay from Gustavsen’s piano, and on Flamenco Sketches, from Eric Reed’s album, From My Heart, upper register piano notes sounded a shade too crisp and glassy. Still, the SoundTouch 300 and Acoustimass 300 worked well for music, proving quite listenable pair even on more challenging material.

Our Take

While it doesn’t quite offer best in class sound, the Bose SoundTouch 300 and Acoustimass 300 combo stands as one of the better options in the circa $1,500 soundbar category thanks to its huge, wrap-around soundfield, generous output capabilities, and beautifully-finished casework.

Warranty

Both the SoundTouch 300 and Acoustimass 300 come with a limited one year warranty for defects in materials and workmanship.

How long will it last

Bose literally has been around for decades, and both the SoundTouch/Acoustimass 300 feature robust builds and some of the highest build quality we’ve seen in the category, so we’re guessing these soundbar components will last at least as long as you do.

What are the alternatives

At the exact same price as separate components or a combo, the Sonos PLAYBAR and SUB are great alternatives to the Bose and are enthusiastic recommendations at the price. Sound quality is noticeably smoother, warmer and more refined, and the SUB’s bass quality in particular is nearly beyond reproach. However, the Bose includes a universal remote, has greater input flexibility, and includes DTS decoding.

The Samsung HW-K950 is sonically on par with the Bose combo, includes rear speakers, and features Dolby Atmos processing to boot. What’s more, it’s often street priced up to $200 lower than the Bose. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have nearly the same dialog and midrange clarity as the SoundTouch and looks rather pedestrian by comparison. The premium soundbar category is surprisingly stacked, so if neither of these fits your needs, other options exist.

Should you buy it

Yes. If you’re shopping for a huge-sounding, easy-to-use soundbar and subwoofer combo with high output capabilities and excellent aesthetics, the Bose SoundTouch 300 and Acoustimass 300 are worth a serious audition.

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