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Bose Solo review: Great-looking sound bar with decent sound

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Bose includes an optical and analog cable for connecting to your TV's audio output. Sarah Tew/CNET

The only other step you may want to take is disabling your TV's internal speakers, so you're assured you're only getting sound from the Solo. Not all TVs offer this option, but it's generally easy to access in the setup menu; check your TV's manual for more information.

Sound quality: Good enough for most users
The Solo is smaller than most pedestal-type sound bar speakers, but the sound is neutrally balanced. The bass, midrange, and treble are clear, and dialogue sounds good, so the Solo certainly produces better sound than the Sony KDL-40EX640's internal speakers we used for this review.

The Bose Solo (top) is considerably smaller than the Zvox Z-Base 420 (middle) and SpeakerCraft CS3 (bottom), but it sounds smaller, too. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Bose Solo has no sound adjustment features, so you're stuck with the out-of-the-box sound quality. There are no bass or treble controls, nor is there a dialogue enhancement feature. That may irk tweakers, but it's clear that Bose thinks the simple approach is better for the majority of its buyers.

The Solo sounds fine playing dramas and comedies at soft to medium volume level, but does it have the right stuff for action movies? To find out we played "The Flight of the Phoenix" and watched the scene where the transport plane crashes in the desert. The Solo lacked the bass gravitas and dynamic punch we got from the larger, but less expensive Zvox Z-Base 420. The plane's impact wasn't as exciting over the Solo, and the Solo's sound strained as the doomed plane hurtled toward the crash site.

That's not to say the Solo's bass was overly lightweight, or we wished it had a subwoofer; the Solo sounds reasonably full range without the assistance of a sub. But larger sound bars definitely have the advantage when it comes to making more bass and producing wider dynamic range. Judged on its own, however, the Solo's bass is at least clear, and the stereo soundstage is fairly wide and spacious, so the speaker sounds bigger than its physical dimensions.

Music wasn't as enjoyable over the Solo. Diana Krall's "Live in Rio" concert DVD sounded a tad sibilant and tonally thin, while Dave Matthew's "Live at Radio City" Blu-ray confirmed the Solo's inadequacies with music. Again, the Zvox Z-Base 420's fuller sound was preferable to the Solo's.

The Solo also sounded a lot smaller than the Haier SBEV40-Slim sound bar. The Haier sound bar is just 1.1 inches thick, but it has a separate subwoofer, which really helps smaller systems like these. The SBEV40-Slim not only sounded bigger and made more bass, it sounded clearer and more detailed than the Solo.

To be fair, the Haier SBEV40-Slim also bested the Zvox Z-Base 420. The main takeaway is that unless you're willing to spend $700 for the SpeakerCraft CS3, pedestal sound bars generally don't sound as good as traditional sound bars that include a separate, wireless subwoofer. You're sacrificing some sound quality for the improved aesthetics.

Conclusion: The most lifestyle-friendly sound bar yet
If your goal is to get better sound quality than your TV's speakers with the least amount of aesthetic impact on your living room, the Bose Solo is an excellent home audio system. Better-sounding pedestal sound bars are available for both less (Zvox Z-Base 420) and more (SpeakerCraft CS3), but neither has the handsome looks of the Bose. As long as you're not expecting dramatically better sound, the Bose Solo is a winner.

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