Sound bars are more popular than ever, but high-end versions have an issue: their small size means they struggle to compete with traditional, larger loudspeakers. Companies such as Yamaha, Sony, Sonos and Bose, however, have learned how to use your room's boundaries as their own personal playgrounds.
With its "larger than life" sound, the Bose SoundTouch 300 isn't a traditional hi-fi component, but given the right room conditions the sound it's capable of is gorgeously enveloping. It has one of the widest sound stages we've ever heard and yet is still capable of reproducing the finest of details. Compared to its closest competition, the, the Bose pulls ahead in terms of both sound stage and "you are there" detail.
If you have no intention of buying a subwoofer, though, don't buy this sound bar. Like the Playbar, the SoundTouch is essentially is a full system that comes in "two easy payments of $699." It may sound fine on its own, but you'll miss the deep hurty notes that the optional Acoustimass 300 sub can bring -- for an extra $699.
At this price level there are plenty of options, including the excellent Sony HT-NT5, which comes with a sub. But if you really want a speaker that performs well without a subwoofer then you could save yourself a few hundred bucks and get the Zvox SB500 instead.
The Bose SoundTouch 300 costs $699 in the US, £599 in the UK or AU$999 in Australia.
The SoundTouch 300 is the prettiest sound bar we've seen in the CNET labs since the Definitive Technology W Studio. It boasts a tempered glass top and an understated mesh front with input LEDs in the top left corner. The bar is designed to be used on a tabletop or mounted on a wall and measures 38.5 inches wide by 2.25 inches high and 4.25 inches deep (97.8 by 5.7 by 10.8 cm). One potential source of frustration is that the SoundTouch lacks any controls on the unit -- neither power nor volume controls. The Sonos Playbar puts these buttons on the side.
The remote that ships with the SoundTouch 300 is large and comprehensive, and somehow avoids "scientific calculator" syndrome. Just be aware that some functions require the remote to work -- including adding a subwoofer. If you lose your remote with this Bose you're just going to have buy a new one. For a connected device this inability to use the app instead of the remote puts it behind almost every competitive product.
The SoundTouch 300 is a 3.0-channel sound bar that promises "larger than life" sound thanks to its widening PhaseGuide technology. It comes with an onboard "QuietPort" that's designed to give better-than-normal bass despite the lack of a separate subwoofer.
The sound bar includes Bose's SoundTouch Wi-Fi music system, which lets you stream Spotify, Pandora and other services without a loss in quality. SoundTouch is Bose's take on multiroom sound and is compatible with its standalone SoundTouch 10-and-up speakers. If you want to go the Bluetooth route, the sound bar has that too.
The SoundTouch 300 comes with HDMI in and an ARC-enabled output that offer 4K pass-through, in addition to both Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. Other ports include optical digital and a 3.5mm subwoofer out. Sadly there's no room for either a 3.5mm input or a headphone connection.
Should you want an external sub, Bose also manufactures the matching Acoustimass 300 ($699/£599/AU$999), which includes wireless pairing and a compact 12-inch square footprint.
Like its competition, Bose also lets you add wireless surrounds for $299, £299 or AU$429 per pair. Bose calls them Virtually Invisible 300 speakers and they are quite small -- about 2 inches square. They come with a power brick/amp that connects without wires to the soundbar. You'll need to run wires (included) between the brick and the speakers at the back of the room.