Bose Smart Ultra soundbar review

This new flagship soundbar from the American manufacturer certainly looks the part, but does it live up to its name? Steve Withers finds out...

Bose's Smart Ultra is the latest addition to the brand's Dolby Atmos range of soundbars, which includes the Smart 600 and Smart 900. The latter was the previous range-topper, now usurped here, although the Ultra costs about same (£899) and sports a near-identical feature-set.

You get the same elegant design, discreet size, and superb build quality of its predecessor, with a choice of black or arctic white finishes. As a result, it retains the perforated metal grilles around its sides, but also the annoyingly distracting glass top that acts like a mirror below your TV screen.

Connectivity is surprisingly basic for a soundbar at this price with only a single HDMI eARC port, and an optical digital input. Wireless connectivity is more expansive with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast providing plenty of options.

Bose includes a wired subwoofer output, providing an easy method of boosting the low-end. It also sells optional surrounds and subs for expanding the soundstage.

In keeping with its name the Smart Ultra also has a built-in microphone and works with Alexa and Google Assistant, providing both smarts and a degree of voice control.

TrueSpace invader
The soundbar has six 100mm x 50mm racetrack drivers and three 25mm tweeters, augmented by a pair of rear-facing bass reflex ports. Two of the larger units point upwards for sonic height, creating a 5.1.2-channel system, but in classic Bose form it doesn't say what amplification is being used.

These speakers are enhanced by a raft of proprietary tech, including PhaseGuide to beam and bounce sounds, and TrueSpace for precise directionality despite the lack of rears. There's also an A.I. Dialogue Mode for clearer dialogue in busy soundmixes.

The Smart Ultra doesn't decode DTS:X, but given the lack of an HDMI input and the fact most TVs don't support the format it's absence is largely moot.

The included remote is the kind of fiddly credit card-sized zapper that will get lost down the back of the sofa. Luckily the Bose Music App is excellent, providing a slick interface for setup (including mic-assisted ADAPTiQ room correction), operation, and accessing music streamers like Spotify.

Ghostly goings on
The 'bar impresses with Dolby Atmos material, creating an expansive presence at the front of the room with The Others (4K BD). The scene where curtains suddenly swish open in front of you remains terrifying, while footsteps overhead are also delivered with unnerving skill.

Of course the effectiveness of Bose's PhaseGuide and TrueSpace technologies will depend on the shape of your room and the reflectivity of its walls and ceiling, but there's no denying they work. The drivers also deliver a balanced midrange and crisp treble that's sure to please.

The Smart Ultra is less confident dealing with genuine immersion and the lower end of the frequency range. The scene in Spider-Man: Far From Home (4K BD) where Mysterio taunts our hero with illusions is less effective because his voice is floating around at the front of the room and never behind you. The same goes for the climactic fisticuffs in Godzilla vs Kong (4K Blu-ray), where the lack of deep LFE robs the battling titans of their size and weight.

In addition, while TrueSpace is effective at adding dimensionality to Atmos mixes, the tech is also applied to two- and multi-channel audio and can't be turned off. You really don't need it while watching the news, and on a carefully crafted 5.1 track like Tenet (4K Blu-ray) the added processing affects the overall balance, making localisation more fuzzy and losing coherence.

Overall, this is a sleek-looking option from Bose that performs well – just don't expect subterranean bass or complete immersion. For that you'll need to add sub and surrounds.

HCC Verdict: 4/5

Bose Smart Ultra

Price: £899

We say: This classy 'bar is definitely smart but not quite ultra, delivering a big front soundstage but lacking in real bass depth and immersion.


DRIVE UNITS: 6 x 4in/2in racetrack drivers; 3 x 1in tweeters ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED): N/A CONNECTIONS: HDMI with eARC; optical digital audio input DOLBY ATMOS/DTS:X: Yes/No SEPARATE SUB: No. Optional REMOTE CONTROL: Yes DIMENSIONS: 1,045(w) x 107(d) x 58(h)mm WEIGHT: 5.8kg

FEATURES: PhaseGuide and TrueSpace technology; A.I. Dialogue mode; ADAPTiQ room correction; Bose Music App; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 5.0; Chromecast; AirPlay 2; Spotify Connect; subwoofer output; built-in microphone; works with Alexa and Google Assistant; wireless surround speaker and subwoofer expansion options

Bose UK