People who do not have a lot of space for a home theatre often opt for soundbars as these take minimum space and yet pump out far better sound than your cranky televisions. If you need examples, the Bose Solo 5 is the perfect representation of it. It is compact, well-built, and doesn’t look like the odd-one-out in your home setup.
Looks aside, does the Bose Solo 5 have the bells and whistles in the performance department to draw people into buying it? Or is it more of side grade-of-sorts from your TV speaker output? It is time we find out for you.
This is the Bose Solo 5 soundbar review.
List of specifications
|Product Dimensions||21.6 x 2.6 x 3.4 inches|
|Wireless Audio Protocol||Bluetooth|
|Audio Decoding Codecs||Dolby Digital|
|Connectivity||1 x Optical TOSLINK
1 x Digital Coaxial
1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack
1 x USB (version unknown)
- Compact and excellent build quality
- Decent sound output
- Easy to set up and affordable (considering the ‘Brand’)
- Not much of an improvement from an average TV speaker
- Poor connectivity choices
- Lacks support for any major audio codec
What’s in the box?
- Bose Solo 5 soundbar
- AC power adapter
- AC power cord
- Remote control
- AA batteries
- Optical cable
- “Our Commitment To You” letter
- Global Support Region information
- Warranty leaflet
- Remote device codes
Design and build
We have seen several soundbars unnecessarily complicating stuff with a lot of awkward design choices. Bose Solo 5 is another story. It looks bland, which is not a bad thing for a bar, and has an all-black exterior. It is all plastic and has metal on the front and sides for extra cushion.
The Bose Solo 5 stretches 21.7 x 2.6 x 3.2 inches and can be termed ‘compact.’ It is not the iPhone XR compact, but doesn’t hinder the user and sits nicely on the front of your TV. Also, there are no external accessories, by default, which makes the dimensions more tantalizing.
Like the rest of the bar, its back is plain too, and you get a cutout on the right for the input ports. On the left, there is a built-in subwoofer. Also present are two holes for wall-mounting, but the positioning is such that they can stifle the subwoofer’s impact if used.
Summing it up, the Bose Solo 5 is a sturdy device. The plastic for the exteriors feels solid, and the added metal grille ensures further protection from any unwanted occurrence. We would make a judgment error if we call it premium, but it justifies its below-$200 price tag appropriately.
Bose has ensured a clutter-free, minimalistic experience for the Solo 5 soundbar. It has a straightforward interface with two LEDs below the front metal grille. The first one indicates if the bar is on or off, and the other one is for the Bluetooth connection. They light up if the user fiddles with the settings. Other than that, there are no manual controls on the bar, and we aren’t sure how to feel about that.
Unlike most other players, Bose decides to ship its soundbars with a large, bulky universal remote. It is the only way you can manage the bar, and it is a full-fledged one. It lacks support for any application which could have let the users manage it more conveniently, but most other manufacturers follow the same path.
Most soundbars come with HDMI CEC to allow other IR-based remotes to manage its basic settings, but the Bose Solo 5 doesn’t. Users only get a Power Saving mode, which turns off the device after 60 minutes of inactivity (most other OEMs have a 20-minutes waiting point).
It is one area where Bose has made questionable choices. It has a limited set of input options, making it compatible with precise setups. You get an Optical Audio In for surround-sound purposes. There are no HDMI ports, let alone Full HDMI In. There is an Analog Audio In for connecting to the traditional 3.5mm devices and, surprisingly, a coaxial cable for older ones.
If we talk about wireless connectivity, there is Bluetooth on board to let you add your PDA devices. The Bose Solo 5 soundbar doesn’t support Wi-Fi, Chromecast, or AirPlay, which means you cannot cast or connect to a network for added functionality.
We tried listing major audio codecs, but the soundbar is not compatible with any other than Dolby Digital. It is mainly due to the lack of an HDMI port. It can downmix though, and play Dolby Digital content via the optical port.
The lack of HDMI means that the Bose Solo 5 cannot act as a Passthrough and is not compatible with 4K or HDR10 playback. Also present is a USB slot, but it is only for updating the software.
The Bose Solo 5 is a 2.0Ch soundbar, and we found it to be okayish for mixed usage. Given its small footing and limited hardware, it doesn’t have too much of an oomph to leverage the overall audio quality but gets the job done. The speakers inside sound paltry, and it is not the best choice for large rooms. The embedded subwoofer doesn’t help much in the bass department, making it a problematic choice for action movie lovers and gamers.
If you are more into dialogue-based content, the Bose Solo 5 has terrific mid and great treble control to excel in that department. Its low-frequency level is quite extended, making it low on the necessary thump and rumbles. The instrument separation is on point, and the sound signature is neutral.
Soundstage wise, the Bose Solo 5 has a very narrow one and almost matches the bar’s width. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel diffused and is well-focused, letting you know the exact location from which it comes.
Even though it has an average maximum loudness, we found compression and pumping, which was more audible in the bass-heavy content. It lacks a dedicated center channel, but the neutral sound profile ensures that the audio is reasonably clear. The left and right channels try and make up for the same, but the overall imaging seems discrete.
Not many expect an excellent surround sound in a $200 soundbar, and the Solo 5 doesn’t blow anything away in this aspect either. The stereo content is downmixed to accommodate a 2.0Ch configuration, and there are no satellite speakers to create an immersive experience. Even though the side-firing speakers try to create an illusion, it fails, and there are no extra points in guessing that correctly.
Talking about sound enhancement features, the Bose Solo 5 is no more than the speaker in this regard. We have seen most budgeted and even some pricier offerings skipping on room correction, but Bose somehow didn’t find it necessary to add some sound presets or let users toggle the bass or the treble levels. It almost seems like a blasphemy to demand a graphic EQ here. It is similar to Google’s implementation on its Pixel line of smartphones but worse.
The Bose Solo 5 is almost like a plug-and-play speaker that does not look like one. It is relatively compact and can recreate vocals well. It doesn’t however, get loud enough and lacks the thump and rumble to excite users. Let us see how it stacks against the competition –
The Sonos Beam is a 3.0Ch configuration, which is a step ahead of the Bose Solo 5’s 2.0Ch. The dedicated center channel makes it more appropriate for dialogue-based content, and the imaging is cleaner and accurate.
It even gets louder and has numerous sound enhancement features onboard. The build is arguably better, too, but misses out on Bluetooth connectivity. It has Wi-Fi, though, to make it overall better than Bose Solo 5.
Like the Bose Solo 5, the Sony HT-S200F doesn’t have a dedicated subwoofer, but an embedded one. It steers ahead in overall loudness and holds its own even at the highest volume levels. It makes it more reasonable for large rooms. It too, misses out on creating ample bass but lets the users tweak the overall sound to compensate for the same. The build quality is slightly inferior, but it offers more functionality to the users.
Given its sub-$200 price tag, we already went in with diminished expectations. But the Bose Solo 5 failed to stand tall on whatever was left. It misses out on most major audio codecs, has no sound enhancement features and has a limited number of connectivity ports.
To its credit, the sound profile is balanced and reproduces mid well and handles treble with ease. But the lack of bass and HDMI In port can be a deal-breaker. Even if you are looking to upgrade from your TV speakers, it is unlikely that it will act like one at all. We suggest looking at other options instead of the Bose Solo 5 soundbar to get better returns on the money spent.