Immersive sound with adjustable bass and good clarity in the highs. AdaptIQ adjusts audio to suit your room's contour and reflections. Expandable with wireless Bose speakers. Versatile connectivity, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and HDMI ARC.
No treble EQ. DSP can be intense at high volume levels.
- Bottom Line
The Bose SoundTouch 300 soundbar delivers strong audio performance with multiple ways to stream music and connect to your TV.
Bose has built its brand on delivering big sound from small packages. That trend continues with the SoundTouch 300 ($699.95), a slim soundbar that produces plenty of bass depth and solid clarity in the highs. Even without surround speakers, the SoundTouch seems to throw audio around the room and create a wider stereo image than you'd expect from a soundbar. And it can stream audio via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, features HDMI ARC and optical outputs, and comes with a universal remote. So while it isn't cheap, it offers plenty to make Bose fans happy.
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Like many soundbars on the market, the Bose SoundTouch 300 is a baseline option that can be expanded in several configurations. You can add a wireless subwoofer (for $1,329.90 total) or surround speakers (for $969.90 total), or both a sub and surround speakers (for $1,629.85). We're reviewing the standalone bar itself.
As far as soundbars go, the SoundTouch 300 looks graceful and stylish. Its 2.3-by-38.5-by-4.3-inch dimensions (HWD) aren't terribly unique, nor is its 10.4-pound weight, but it has an attractive top panel made from durable tempered glass that Bose claims is as strong as aluminum (a cloth for polishing is included). The front-facing grille's perforations are so tiny they almost disappear from a few feet away. The end result is a speaker that, whether you get it in white or black, looks like a slight upgrade over the typical soundbar.
Under the hood, the SoundTouch 300 uses four full-range drivers and a single centered tweeter, all front-facing, and bass ports on the rear panel, aided by a pair of "phase guides," one on each end of the bar. The phase guides deliver higher frequency audio in a manner that seemingly originates from areas in the room where there are no speakers.
Across the front face of the speaker there are icons for Wireless (this stays lit as long as you are connected to your home network), Television (when you have audio playing from a connected TV), SoundTouch (when you play audio from the SoundTouch app), Bluetooth (when you stream Bluetooth audio to the speaker), and Link (which lights when other Bose wireless speakers are linked to the SoundTouch).
AdaptIQ is a system Bose employs to adjust the soundbar's output to your room's dead areas, as well as reflective surfaces. A measurement headset ships with the speaker—connecting it to the speaker's back panel and pressing the AdaptIQ button will start the measurement process. You place it on your head (its's like a headband with a really long cable) and essentially sit in five different spots in the room and go through 10 seconds of frequency sweeps in each spot while the headset measures the reflections from the sweeps.
Since each room sounds different, there's no way to accurately describe what the AdaptIQ feature will do for yours. Ostensibly, it's there to minimize the aspects of the room that have a strong impact on the overall sound signature. There's nothing wrong with it if you like what it does for your listening space. But if you go through the tests and don't like the results, there's no disabling it without resetting the entire speaker to factory default settings. It's completely optional, however, so you don't have to do it in the first place.
The connections along the back panel are for the included power cable, optical in (a cable is included), the aforementioned AdaptIQ connection, HDMI in, and HDMI ARC (handy if you have an HDMI ARC-compatible TV, as you can control all devices with one remote, powering everything down at once, for instance). The two bass ports are located at either end of the soundbar on the rear panel. The SoundTouch 300 uses rubberized feet to keep from moving around due to bass vibrations.
Connecting via Bluetooth is a simple process—there's also an NFC field on the top panel for compatible devices. The SoundTouch controller app (for Android and iOS) is free, and it helps you connect the SoundTouch 300 to your home Wi-Fi network. Within the app, you can access your music library (as well as internet radio stations, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, and several other services), and control various music zones in your home (if you have multiple compatible Bose speakers).
The app essentially acts as a remote control on your phone. It's also where you can switch between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sound sources, as well as make some audio adjustments, though there is no basic EQ parameter to play with, which is a little annoying (though the included remote has a bass setting that can be adjusted, but nothing for treble).
The included universal remote is not really necessary if you already have a universal remote for your home system. But the remote, which runs on two AAA batteries (included), is certainly handy otherwise. It not only has a power button for the SoundTouch 300, but can power up or down a connected source, and has dedicated buttons for all of the aforementioned icons, as well as volume, channel, menu navigation, playback controls, DVR, and a number pad, among other options. The Bass button adjusts low frequency boosting and cutting, and there's also a button to make dialogue more clear.
Pacific Rim features some serious robot battle sounds, including massive ocean splashes and explosions. Through the SoundTouch 300, the audio is crisp and full of low-end, though the bass response sounds slightly thin when the massive robots stomp their feet. Increasing the bass response to a high level adds some serious rumble, but it also triggers the digital signal processing (DSP), and the dynamics of the mix suffer a bit. The ideal setting for crisp dialogue and strong bass rumble seems to be with the bass turned up about halfway. Those seeking real, powerful subwoofer rumble will likely want to opt for the subwoofer add-on.
Casino Royale features a chase scene with plenty of gunfire and engines rumbling along. With the bass setting at the neutral position, you get a crisp mix that brings out the dialogue (there is some later in the scene), while the gunshots and various stomps sound full, but not thick like they would with a subwoofer. Boosting the bass response to max, the mix loses its treble edge and clarity. We found the best position to be around the middle yet again—this gives the sound effects some added depth without taking the crisp detail out of the mix. Purely dialogue-driven scenes, in this setting, sound clear and don't lose anything by having the bass intensified a bit.
The overall stereo image through the SoundTouch 300 feels wide—not like there's a surround sound effect on, but like there's a nice added spatial sense to the left and right channels. In the app, you can increase the center channel volume, which tends to take some of the spatial wideness away, but gives a little more clarity to dialogue and the more central sounds in the mix.
On music tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," with the bass setting boosted to top levels, you get some real thump, but at top volumes, the speaker's DSP kicks in to such an intense level that, while there's no distortion, the song starts to sound like it's going through a radically different EQ filter. We suggest keeping the bass set to neutral on tracks that have powerful low-end, as it will trigger the DSP less—particularly at higher volume levels—and the lows actually sound fuller at when listening at more moderate volumes.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the SoundTouch 300's sound signature. Bass-forward speakers often make the drums on this track sound too thunderous, but the SoundTouch 300 doesn't do much sub-bass boosting when the bass is set to neutral. In this role, the drums sound almost flat, while Callahan's baritone vocals have a solid richness to them with plenty of low-mid boosting. Increasing the bass level does indeed bring out some thunder in the drums, but then Callahan's vocals become a little too bass-heavy and muddy. It would be nice, for this reason, if there were a treble setting to adjust, but there isn't. With the bass setting in the middle, the high-mids and highs take center stage through the SoundTouch 300—the focus is on Callahan's vocals and the attack of the guitar strums.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the drum loop gets enough high-mid presence to retain its sharp attack and slice through the layers of the beat, but it also gets some added heft in the lows and low-mids, beefing up the sustain. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are powerful without overwhelming the mix—we get a sense of their power, particularly at more moderate volumes, but this is where adding in that subwoofer would make a huge difference. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid clarity and perhaps a little added sibilance, but generally speaking, this is a clean and balanced sound signature with plenty of bass response.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get some added bass depth, but the spotlight still belongs to the higher register brass, strings, and vocals.
We have little to complain about with the Bose SoundTouch 300. For every limitation, like the lack of onboard EQ controls, there are useful features that might entice you, like the AdaptIQ settings that adjust to your room's contour and reflections. We also like the Sony HT-NT5 and the Sonos Playbase, and if you're looking to spend less, the LG SJ7 and the Polk Signa S1 (our Editors' Choice for affordable soundbars) are solid options. For $700, the Bose SoundTouch 300 offers solid audio performance and versatile connectivity in an attractive design, and is a strong competitor in its price range.
By Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear. More »
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