Bose Smart Soundbar 900 : Atmos Adds to the Immersion

Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review: Adds Atmos immersion for $100 more

MSRP $899.00

“The Smart Soundbar 900 adds Dolby Atmos for only $100 more, making it a superb choice for a single-speaker home theater sound system.”

Pros

  • Elegant design
  • Good Dolby Atmos effects
  • Excellent music quality
  • Handy TV voice control
  • Private listening headphone sync

Cons

  • Only one HDMI port
  • Basic, non-backlit remote
  • Limited support for Android

When Bose debuted its $799 Smart Soundbar 700 in the last half of 2018, it probably should have included Dolby Atmos, the highly immersive surround sound format being used to augment both movies and music. It didn’t, and that gave perennial competitor Sonos an opportunity to swoop in with its own Dolby Atmos soundbar, the Sonos Arc, which debuted in 2020 for the same price as the non-Atmos Smart Soundbar 700.

But Bose has finally hopped on the Atmos bandwagon with its $899 Smart Soundbar 900. Is it worth the extra $100? Let’s find out.

Holes in the glass

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If you think the Smart Soundbar 900 looks familiar, you’re not dreaming. It’s a dead ringer for the Smart Soundbar 700, right down to the classy (yet easily smudged) glass top. The biggest difference is the matching set of racetrack-like oval holes on either end of the glass sheet. Those openings are for the extra up-firing drivers, which help the soundbar deliver the height effects that have become synonymous with Dolby Atmos.

The drivers are angled upward so that they can bounce specific sounds off of your ceiling and back down to your listening position. So even though the 900 is impressively short (2.29 inches tall) and could easily sit under most big-screen TVs, don’t put it there. It needs to be out in the open to make the most of those up-firing drivers.

In its black guise, the 900 pretty much disappears into the background, but if you want your soundbar to make a visual statement as well as an audible one, it’s also available in white.

One port too few

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You can connect the Smart Soundbar 900 to your TV with an HDMI cable or an optical cable, and Bose includes both in the box. If you use the optical cable, you won’t be able to send a Dolby Atmos signal to the soundbar even if your TV supports it. Atmos is simply too bandwidth-hungry for an optical connection — it requires the fatter pipe of HDMI. This is not to say that the 900 won’t deliver highly immersive sound when using optical — it will still sound great thanks to the company’s TrueSpace technology — you just can’t get the full Atmos experience without HDMI.

The Smart Soundbar 900 delivers beautifully clear, room-filling sound.

Speaking of HDMI, the 900 has just one HDMI port, which it uses to receive audio from your TV and to send control instructions back to the TV. For most people, that’s going to be a small annoyance, as it forces you to give up one of your TV’s HDMI ports, and doesn’t provide you with a replacement. Depending on the number of HDMI devices you have and the number of inputs on your TV, it might even necessitate buying an HDMI switch.

But for the audio purists out there with older TVs, it creates another challenge. If your TV doesn’t support HDMI eARC (that’s most TVs that are older than two years), there’s just no way to deliver the highest-quality audio signal that the 900 is capable of handling, namely 24-bit, lossless Dolby Atmos in Dolby TrueHD.

With other Dolby Atmos soundbars, like the Sony HT-A7000, you can connect a Blu-ray player or streaming media device to one of the soundbar’s HDMI inputs, thus bypassing your TV’s HDMI ARC limitations by sending the audio directly to the soundbar while the video is passed through to your TV.

The Smart Soundbar 900 isn’t the only Atmos soundbar with this limitation. The Sonos Arc also has just a single HDMI port.

Don’t lose the remote

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While it’s true that you can control all of the Smart Soundbar 900’s features from the Bose Music app (more on that in a moment), the included remote should be kept handy if for no other reason than there are no controls built into the soundbar itself. The only controls that Bose includes on that smooth glass surface are for smart speaker functions (microphone mute, action button). For volume, mute, play/pause, and other functions, you’ll need the remote or the app.

Strangely, Bose decided to equip the Soundbar 900 with one of its basic, non-backlit infrared remotes, while the Soundbar 700 comes with a much fancier, backlit Bluetooth universal remote. When I asked Bose why it did this, I was told that the Voice4Video feature (which I discuss below) is seen as a replacement for most of the universal remote’s features.

You’ll need an app for that

In theory, you can use the Smart Soundbar 900 with just the included remote