Bose Soundbar 500 – A disappointment for an audio engineer

Honesty first

Let me start of by saying that I am a certified audio engineer and an audio enthusiast. I have spent hundreds of hours in studios with cutting edge audio equipment. I have been on seminars, workshops and tested a lot of speakers over the years. I also worked for a consumer electronics shop many years ago where I got to test a lot of speaker systems, mainly surround speakers.

Bose was one of my customers favorite vendors and I never understood why. Do not get me wrong here. Bose makes adequate speaker equipment, but all in all I never understood the hype.

The Bose Soundbar 500 has gotten a lot of good reviews out there, which was why I gave it a try. I wonder why though. For me the soundbar sounded OK, but not for a price of 660 USD. For that price I would expect a lot more.

Personally I am used to Genelec speakers with a flat/transparent frequency response. Genelec speakers are studio grade speakers used in a lot of well known music studios around the world.

A quick note about the optical cable

The sound bar comes with an optical input that I never managed to fit the cable. For some reason it seems the cable head was too large for the input on the soundbar but I think this problem is more related to the cable itself. Just make sure you test the cable in the store, because I managed to break mine and it could potentially harm your soundbar if you press too hard.

The ADAPTIQ functionality

After I finished the “ADAPTIQ” sound calibration I immediately checked to see if I could hear the difference. Absolutely no difference at all could be heard. But perhaps my listening environment did not require that much of calibration. Who knows…

The sound quality

The first music I played on the soundbar was Hiroyuki Sawanos “Symphonic Suite DEVIL First Movement D-Evil“, I have listened to this track a billion times before and I know exactly what it should sound like.

The first strike of the drums in the track should be impressive, feel large and powerful. With The BS500 the drums felt flat and dull. The same was the case for Has Zimmers “Time” from the Inception soundtrack.

Both of these music scores should really impress you with a large and powerful orchestra ensemble that consumes the space around you. But with the BS500 both of these tracks sounded flat and “closed”.

Half of the time I was asking myself if there was something wrong as they had no spatial distribution of the sound. In fact at one point I had to do a left/right channel test to check if the speakers were in fact stereo speakers. At that point I could hear the difference between mono and stereo, but of all the music I tested the BS500 on they sounded like they literally tried to kill the spatial mix in the track.

Every epic movie score I put on was so disappointing that I hesitated to put on my favorite music, in fear of ruining the impression forever.

I am generally very technical listener. Meaning that I pay much attention to the different instruments and timbre in the mix. With the Bose Soundbar 500 I had problems locating and focusing on each instrument in the music. It was like all of the instruments now had been smashed together with no spatial balance.

It also felt like the volume was uneven at times. Like someone where to adjust the volume up and down slightly.

One of my favorite music tracks to test on new speakers is “Kiss from a rose”. The track is by far the best mixed track in history if you ask me. The track is so well mixed and mastered that it almost makes any speakers sound good. Having said that I had high expectations for the Bose Soundbar 500.

The bass was barely audible (unless I used the app to turn up the bass). The vocals were very well audible. Perhaps too much, because at one point they completely dominated the whole sound space. The drums in this track is usually very clear and present. With the Bose Soundbar 500 they were barely audible in the background. Sounding washed out and flat while the vocals were straight in your face.

Summary

All in all the audio quality of the Bose Soundbar 500 is what made me return them. That is a shame, because they look and feel very stylish. Still for that price I expect a lot more. Especially when you get speakers like “Genelec G One” for about the same price. If these speakers were around one third of the price I would be happy. But then again I am sure a pair of Logitech computer speakers would do equally as good for that price point.