Bose’s latest soundbar, the $499 Smart Soundbar 600 is the company’s latest volley in the cat-and-mouse game it plays with Sonos. In 2021, Sonos updated its compact Beam soundbar with Dolby Atmos capability, giving it a feature that Bose’s similarly priced and featured Smart Soundbar 300 didn’t possess. The Smart Soundbar 600 addresses that gap and even moves the needle just a bit further by integrating up-firing drivers, something the Beam lacks. It will be available October 20, but you can pre-order it starting October 10.
For those who may not be steeped in Dolby Atmos minutiae, the 3D immersive sound format takes advantage of height as well as left/right/center and rear surround speakers. But not all Dolby Atmos soundbars possess dedicated, up-firing drivers to bounce those height sounds off your ceiling to your viewing position. The second-gen Sonos Beam is one of these soundbars, and it uses virtualization to create that sense of height instead.
Virtualization can be very effective, but it’s rarely as good as dedicated drivers, so we expect the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 to have an edge in this area. It’s also got a set of side-firing, racetrack-shaped drivers which can spread the sound out to the sides, and a dedicated center driver for dialog.
I was treated to a demo of the Soundbar 600 at the September 2022 launch event for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, and if that was any indication of its audio prowess, it’s looking like Bose has another excellent speaker for buyers to choose.
When you’re not listening to Dolby Atmos content, Bose says that its TrueSpace tech will intelligently upscale stereo or 5.1-channel content into an immersive mix, giving you an Atmos-like experience for all of your movies and shows.
Like its previous smart soundbars (300, 500, 700, and 900) the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 can be expanded with Bose’s collection of subwoofers and surround speakers, and you can make it an element in a multiroom speaker system, with the Bose Music app acting as your mission control.
The soundbar is equipped with Bluetooth, and Apple AirPlay 2. It has Chromecast built-in, and you can use it as an Amazon Alexa smart speaker thanks to the built-in mics. If you opt for Alexa smarts, you’ll also be able to use Bose’s Voice4Video feature which lets you control a connected TV with a few simple voice commands.
Speaking of TV connections, the one downside to the Smart Soundbar 600 (the same downside as all Bose and Sonos smart soundbars) is that it only has a single HDMI ARC/eARC connection, so you can’t connect an external video source like a streaming media device and passthrough video to your TV while the soundbar handles the audio.
Like the Sonos Beam Gen 2, the Smart Soundbar 600 is quite compact, at just 27 inches wide and only 2.2 inches tall. That makes it the perfect size for a lot of small-to-medium-sized rooms on its own, or larger spaces if you add the additional components.
We’ll get our hands (and ears) on the Smart Soundbar 600 very soon, and when we do, we’ll be back with our in-depth review so you can see if this is the Bose speaker you’ve been waiting for.