Bose has been in the soundbar market for a while, and their previous flagship, the Bose Soundbar 700, got us some really good scores. But if there’s anything missing from Bose’s Sound Blaster lineup, it’s a true Dolby Atmos device, as none of their products have dedicated upward-firing speakers. Bose may be a little late, as most other manufacturers have had Dolby Atmos-enabled models on the market for a while, but as they say, better late than never. So in our Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review today, we’ll be testing their latest offering, and how it compares to the competition.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is basically a replacement for the 2018 Bose Soundbar 700, as it borrows many of the elements that made the Soundbar 700 a flagship device. They have a similar design and many features, but this time we find the addition of upward-firing Dolby Atmos speakers, along with a slight increase in size, making it the more powerful version released in 2018. The Smart Soundbar 900 is Bose’s answer to the Sonos Arc because they both fall into the same category. But are Bose’s products capable enough to compete with Sonos’ Big Macs?
Bose was beaten by Sonos because the Arc was far more than the Sounbar 700 could do. But now Bose seems determined to fight back, as the Sound Blaster 900 is directly targeting the same market as the Sonos Arc. Is Bose’s product capable of being a valuable product, or is it too late for Bose to get back into the game? let us wait and see…
Design, Inputs and Features
This Soundbar does look very similar to the Soundbar 700. They have the same design lines, similar materials, and even the same top glass surface, giving it a little extra premium flavor. In terms of size, the Smart Soundbar 900 is a bit larger than its predecessors, measuring 2.29 inches by 41.14 inches by 4.21 inches (5.81 cm by 104.5 cm by 10.7 cm) and weighing in at 12.68 lbs (5.75 kg), which is likely to be the same as The addition of Atmos speakers leads to a larger design.
Even so, the unit is still a relatively low-profile unit that can fit under many TVs of different sizes and designs. As usual, make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your TV’s IR sensor, as some newer TV models sit low and don’t offer much space between the screen and furniture.
As for its build quality, when we’re talking about some Bose products, and this happens to be their flagship, then the results are sure to be interesting. The top is again covered in tempered glass and looks very premium, but on the other hand it can be a huge fingerprint magnet and it has a tendency to reflect most of the TV’s light which can be a little annoying.
The main difference here is that we have two holes on both sides to accommodate the upward-firing Atmos drivers. On the front and sides, Bose used a single perforated aluminum grille, while at the back we got all the ports grouped together. The overall look and feel of the speakers is very high quality, typical of a brand like Bose.
Bose doesn’t seem to like the built-in buttons much, and the Smart Soundbar 900 has the exact same layout as its predecessors, as there are only a few buttons at the top. One is an action button, while the other is used to turn the built-in microphone array on and off, which is a good button if you don’t want the device to hear your room all the time when you’re not using it. Action buttons can be used for voice control, whether it’s Alexa or Google Assistant.
On the left side of the front, between the perforated grille and the top button, we have an LED light bar that shows its current status based on its activity and color, including WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, voice control capabilities, and update and bug programs. It’s a very Bose design, as it’s the same design used by the Soundbar 700. It sure looks cool and certainly fits the premium design of the device, but we wouldn’t say it’s the best in terms of practicality, as it’s hard to remember all the light animations available.
If you want to mount it on a wall, Bose also sells a proper wall bracket, which you’ll unfortunately have to buy separately. The wall mount is in the same place as it would be placed on the furniture and due to the way the drivers point under the grill it may squeeze a bit more than we would like especially if you have a very thin TV this will make it more obvious. It’s a minor issue, but one we should mention, especially when there are Sound Blasters that offer different furniture and wall mounting positions.
The back is a fairly standard sight, as we found several recesses housing all the connection ports, which we’ll analyze in the appropriate section. The device comes in two colors, black or arctic white, both of which look good in our opinion.
Overall, the new Sound Blaster 900 is no different from previous Bose flagships. It keeps all the same design elements, the same premium materials, just a little extra size, which may be required due to the increased number of drives included in this product. If you’re someone who likes premium audio gear, then Bose is certainly a brand to watch.
When it comes to internal hardware, Bose has always been very secretive about their sound gear, and the Smart Soundbar 900 is no exception. The unit is rated as a 5.0.2 channel monocoque design, which stems from the fact that we get a single center tweeter dedicated to dialogue, four track transducers and two PhaseGuide-enabled tweeters speaker, it’s a very BOSE design. Finally, we also find two dipole (up-firing) transducers, added to the Dolby Atmos effect.
PhaseGuide technology is using small transducers to direct beams of multi-directional sound in order to create a more expansive soundstage.
Unfortunately we have no more information here as Bose never gives output rating for their soundbars so we have no amplifier type or power output in order to be able to make some comparisons with other competing brands.
Next let’s see what connections this product offers. As we said above, all inputs are placed on two panels on the back of the device, which makes it a little hard to reach at all times. Its main purpose is to do all the connections at once and then leave it.
On the left inset we find the power connector on one side and four 3.5mm connectors on the other for data, bass, IR and AdaptIQ, while on the other inset there is a single digital optical input and Ethernet on one side Ethernet ports, a service-only USB-C port, and an HDMI port on the other side.
The port layout is exactly the same as the Soundbar 700, the only difference here is that Bose has added eARC functionality to the HDMI port, allowing Dolby Atmos to pass from the TV to the device. Having only one HDMI means that the Sound Blaster doesn’t support passthrough, so you can only use it as the last link after the TV.
Many Sound Blasters only seem to come with a single HDMI, and so does the Sonos Arc, which is a shame in this age of HDMI is already very common, and the primary means of connecting all audio gear.
Next, we’ll focus on the ways you can control your sound barrier. We’ve already mentioned a few built-in buttons, but these provide some very specific functions, and in any case, they don’t serve the function of the main sound barrier.
So you’ll have to rely on the remote included in the package to do this. To be honest, we were a little surprised by what we saw here. You see, we’d more or less expect to find the same remote as the Soundbar 700, which is Bluetooth-capable and backlit. Instead, we get the smaller, simpler remote we’ve seen in the Soundbar 500!
This remote is fairly simple, with very few buttons, and it’s by no means a remote that should be paired with such a flagship device, especially when we’re looking at remotes used by their previous flagships. Bose tried to take a few detours here, and we were completely disappointed.
The one we had on hand had three input buttons on the top, the volume controls below them, the play button below, and a set of 6 number buttons on the bottom. It has a nice matte rubber outline, and it’s a nice touch compared to other simple plastic remotes, but it doesn’t compare to the backlighting used in the Soundbar 700.
For those interested in a hands-free experience, both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are supported. The Smart Soundbar 900 is equipped with a built-in 8-microphone array to be able to pick up your voice in the room, even in less than ideal conditions. No changes here, as all previous Bose Soundbars have the exact same setup. However, if you’re an Alexa user, the unit has extended capabilities.
With the included Voice4video technology, once the Soundbar recognizes your TV, your cable box and your local cable provider, you can use your voice to control these things through the Soundbar itself without any extra work . All of this can be set up through the Bose Music app, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
When talking to Alexa or Google Assistant, the LED light bar shows its status, such as listening, thinking or talking, giving you some visual information about the sound barrier’s function at that moment. Plus, not only can you use voice control to control the device, but you can also choose streaming services, hear news and weather forecasts, and more.
However, if you want full control of your Sound Blaster 900, then you’ll definitely want to download the Bose Music app, which is available for Android and iOS devices. Because only then can you set up the Sound Blaster, connect it online, and use its various features like the AdaptiQ calibration system and online streaming services. Additionally, you have some basic sound settings like speaker volume controls, bass and treble.
Lastly is the Bose Music app, which, in our opinion, offers the best way to control the unit, as not only does it give you a full set of features available, but Bose made sure to create a beautiful user interface that makes everything Feel it in the palm of your hand. Overall, the app is a very enjoyable experience and you should really try it if you want to get the best out of your purchase.
Extra Features and Services
Next we’ll take a look at all the features included. Bose mentions that the new Sound Blaster 900 can play all Dolby formats, including Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Digital Enhanced. We’re very disappointed that there’s no DTS support, which is a big omission for such a high-profile Sound Blaster. When you feed this device a DTS track, it will down-convert it to PCM 2.0Ch.
Most materials support Dolby solutions these days, but we’re in 2021 and even the filthy cheap Sound Blasters offer Dolby Digital and DTS support, which should be a must for such a premium device result. When there is no Dolby Atmos content, such as stereo or 5.1, Bose TrueSpace technology takes over the vertical experience, remixing the signal to increase the “height” without adding a ceiling speaker, theoretically creating the same immersive sound experience .
Now, when it comes to sound modes, Bose doesn’t include any like other manufacturers we’ve seen. Instead, they use a real-time audio adjustment system, which is basically a custom software that analyzes what’s playing, whether it’s a movie, music, game, or show, and fine-tunes the sound to optimize your listening experience. This is the same as all Bose speakers, so there are no real surprises here.
The only real sound mode is Dialogue Mode, which boosts high frequencies and is handy for talk shows and newscasts, as it tends to cut down all other sounds.
The unit also has extended Bluetooth capabilities. Not only can you pair any mobile device and stream music to the Sound Blaster itself, but you can also choose to stream audio to other Bluetooth-enabled speakers via the included SimpleSync technology. This can be done with Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speakers or Bose headphones, and it’s useful for two reasons. First, it’s a way to stream audio to speakers in other rooms, or to stream music to some Bose headphones that support the technology, making it a great feature for silent nighttime viewing.
The soundbar also has plenty of streaming capabilities. First up is Airplay 2, with which most music apps can stream 16-bit/48kHz lossless audio. This will definitely give Apple users an advantage as there are more options to choose from.
On the other hand, if you’re an Android user, you still have a degree of choice, but not as many as Airplay 2. You see, if you want high-res audio, you can get it through the Bose Music app, as it supports many of the best-known players in the field. So we got Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, TuneIn, Deezer, iHeart Radio, and SiriusXM. However, if the streaming service you want isn’t in the Bose Music app, then you’ll have to rely on a simple Bluetooth connection to stream your content, which will definitely affect the quality of the audio.
The expansion and multi-room capabilities of the Smart Sound Blaster 900 are basically the same as we’ve seen in some other Bose Sound Blasters. We already mentioned above that you can use SimpleSync technology to connect this unit with other speakers in other rooms. But you can also expand on the Sound Blaster system itself, as you can choose to add a subwoofer or surround speakers and create a full 7.1.2-channel surround system.
The available subwoofers you can connect are the Bose Bass Module 500 or the Bass Module 700. As for the surround speakers, the Sound Blaster supports the Bose Surround Speakers 700. We absolutely love how expandable this unit is, of course you can start with just the main unit and add more as you need it. This way you can reduce initial costs and scale your system based on your own perception of its performance.
Setting up the sound barrier works exactly like any of the Bose devices we’ve reviewed before. Keep in mind that our tests were using just the main unit without a bass module or surround speakers, as we wanted to determine what quality we would get without the need for additional speakers, which many may not be able to buy rise. Adding a subwoofer or surround speakers will improve the final result, of course, and if you can pay their premium price, we definitely recommend getting them.
After making the necessary connections to our test TV, we downloaded the Bose Music app on our smartphone and powered the device for the first time. The initial setup involves connecting the Sound Blaster to WiFi, and a few other steps before you’re ready. After completing these initial steps, you can choose to calibrate via AdaptiQ, a unique way of calibrating sound barriers, at least compared to other traditional calibration methods.
AdaptiQ is Bose’s proprietary auto-calibration system that includes a special headset that you wear to measure sound at various points in the room. You have to be still and quiet for the system to get the most accurate measurements possible, but in our opinion the results are excellent. We’ve also experienced this system with the Soundbar 700, so we more or less know what to expect from it.
Completing the calibration means our device is ready to use. Of course, through the Boss Music app, you can further tweak the sound by changing the treble, bass and individual channels.
Now into our cinematic test, starting with Bumblebee and its explosive Dolby Atmos mix. Judging by the opening Battle for Cybertron, there’s no better sequence to try. The Bose soundbar does the best job of providing an expansive front, and we’d say the sound is well pushed beyond the physical limits of the device itself. The effect isn’t quite as strong or broad as some other sound barriers that utilize side-firing drivers, but even so, the Smart Soundbar 900 does a good job of it.
The front channels have good separation, the main channel concentrates most of the action, and the center tweeter provides very clear and defined dialogue even in all of this action. Atmos work well, but obviously their height is not the same as if you had real height or ceiling speakers. In fact, we found the Atmos channel to be a bit weak and had to crank up the volume a bit to get to a satisfactory level.
At the low end, this sound barrier can perform well as any single-unit setup. It tries very hard to push the sound deeper, but without a dedicated subwoofer, the end result is far from ideal. If you’re an action-oriented movie junkie, buying a Bose product is a must. As for surround sound activity, there really isn’t. You’ll get some sounds closer to your position from time to time, but overall there’s no shoulder movement at all. Everything is firmly attached to the front. As with the subwoofer, if you absolutely need surround sound, you won’t have much choice but to opt for the optional surround sound kit offered by Bose.
Next we tried Greyhound, which, by the way, has become one of our favorite test materials, with its atmospheric Dolby Atmos mix, which is really something to try out with some cool panning effects. We love the clarity of the Sound Blaster, and in fact, it’s been characteristic of many of the Bose Sound Blasters we’ve tried before. They all have their weaknesses, but they’re all on the high end of the ladder when it comes to sound clarity and quality. The same applies to the Smart Soundbar 900.
The film has a very atmospheric soundtrack, and the Bose Soundbar does a great job of conveying this tense moment to the audience during the moment the Fletcher-class destroyer faces off against the German U-boat. There’s good detail when the waves hit the metal body of the boat, the guns have a nice thump, though it doesn’t go to the depths that make them sound really menacing, and the smaller caliper guns have a nice thud energy, although we again lack some low-end sound.
It’s the same place, as the soundstage is really good up front, with a satisfying spread on the sides, and a good elevation angle thanks to the Atmos speakers. Even in fight scenes, dialogue is clear, and the panning effect is fairly noticeable in the front, but completely absent in the back, which is to be expected.
Next, we tried something different with Alien Covenant, whose Dolby Atmos track is very immersive. The speakers do an excellent job of rendering all the tiniest sounds on an alien planet, with good frontal directivity and good transparency. Bose fills the space in front of us nicely, adds some extension to the sides, and pushes the upper level nicely, though it’s not quite as face-to-face as some of the other films we’ve tried.
Alien Covenant was good for our stand-alone setup as it wasn’t very demanding on bass or surround sound most of the time, although we felt there were times when they both greatly increased immersion. The Echo has good reverberation, the clarity is high overall, and it feels broad in the Necropolis scene.
Overall, this Sound Blaster is as good as many other Dolby Atmos devices we’ve tested before. It feels a little weaker on the low end, and the Atmos effects need a little boost to give them the necessary impact, but in terms of sound quality, the clarity and definition of the smaller details is very high, making the Smart Soundbar 900 a great choice when it comes to movies of all kinds Be a very capable performer. On the other hand, if you also plan to add a surround sound kit and subwoofer, the whole system will definitely rise to a completely different level.
For our music testing, we decided to use a wireless connection for streaming since there was no USB playback support.
Since there’s no real need for surround expansion, it feels like it could play better with the music. The front soundstage comes alive, and the performance has a good energy, especially clarity and precision. Stereo panning sounds good, and they’re impressive even without the panning distance of some other devices. Thanks to the unit’s high-resolution output, it easily pinpointed the various positions of sound sources, even more accurately than other similar units we’ve tried before.
Bass feels satisfying most of the time, but if you like your system’s punch to low frequencies, you’ll find the Sound Blaster’s output a little weak and peaceful. This is especially noticeable on songs with higher bass intensity, as performances can feel soulless and uninspired at times, making us wish for a subwoofer to add to the mix.
After trying a few different types of songs, we can say that the device does a good job in the whole area. The vocals had good energy, bringing new life to our test room, the mids were well-controlled, and the bass was okay, with some exceptions in some bass-heavy performances.
Overall, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is a more flattering sound barrier than some of the other devices we’ve tried, largely due to the amount of detail the device is able to render, which benefits its musical performance. Yes, it’s a little weak on the low end, and it’s not as broad as some competing brands, but when it comes to rendering all the tiniest details, this one certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Bose’s Soundbar 700 was already a good flagship, but they missed the Atmos wave, so it’s been a while since the competition overtook them. As they say “better late than never,” Bose finally has a flagship that can rival the competition.
On the one hand, the Smart Soundbar 900 is as good as the Soundbar 700, if not more. The most obvious is the addition of Atmos functionality, which adds height and expansion to the soundbar while retaining its characteristic clarity and attention to detail. The device itself feels good, and like most products with the Bose name, it has a lot of extra features and streaming capabilities, and the Bose music app does a great job with a really nice UI. We also love the ability to expand the unit by adding subwoofers or surround speakers, creating an amazing surround sound performance system.
On the other hand, a couple of things left us very disappointed, especially considering we’re talking about such a flagship device. No DTS at all, so no DTS:X either. If you’re not going to add a subwoofer, then don’t expect too much from the low end. Plus, in today’s world where an HDMI simply won’t suffice, sound barrier manufacturers really have to rethink their design principles in this regard. Finally, a simpler remote than what we found in the Soundbar 700, it feels like Bose is trying to cut some corners here and there.
To wrap up our review, we can say that the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is a nice upgrade over its predecessor, even though it’s fundamentally not that different. The addition of Atmos is what was missing from the Bose lineup, and they finally have a product that can compete with just about everyone on the market. Is this unit worth it? It’s certainly worth it, and it’s equally capable of being used for movies or music, making it a very worthwhile recommendation. Finally, the Sonos Arc has an equal player in this category.