The Bose Solo 5 is a tiny TV sound bar system from a big name, but the sound is, well, kind of middling. If you’re looking for dialogue to be clear, then it’s fairly exceptional. If you’re looking for crashing bass, then this really isn’t the device for you.
It’s a beautiful piece of kit that would perform excellently in a secondary room, combined with a TV of about 32 inches.
Some retailers are selling it at £240 and at that price we can’t help but feel you are paying too much for the brand’s reputation. If you can pick it up for sub £200, which it is sometimes available for, then it’s a more attractive offering.
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To be perfectly honest in this price range we wouldn’t pick this model – instead we’d go for the Aego Soun3bar (check out our review here), even if they do spell “soundbar” the wrong way.
What first struck us was just how dinky the Bose Solo 5 is, measuring up at just 55 x 7 x 9 cm.
It’s essence it’s simple black cuboid with a black grill and logo on the front. Even with such an unassuming design Bose has clearly paid attention to the small details. The lack of buttons on the front, the pleasingly rounded corners and the sturdy build mean its quality shines through.
There are also LED indicators that change colour to let you know what sound mode you are currently listening to.
Frustratingly, wall brackets are not included, which means you’ll have to go the hassle of sourcing some if you want to hang it in your living room or kitchen.
While the soundbar may be diminutive, the accompanying remote is definitely not. This is because it can actually serve as a universal control for your TV, set-top box etc. It’s a nice feature, but we’re not sure we would be bothered to programme it and get used to a new layout. It also only works with infrared devices, so we were not able to use it to control an XBox One.
Most soundbars on the market are actually a soundbar and subwoofer combo – i.e. a skinny rectangle you put in front of your TV, and a bigger box you put behind you in the room to provide the oomph (and a bit of a 3D effect). The Solo 5 only has the soundbar, and this is something we just can’t get over.
Yes, it has excellent clarity and is a huge jump from the tinny speakers that come built into your TV set, but it still lacks the bass, excitement and immersive quality of so many other similarly priced rivals.
This is compounded by the fact that the two speakers inside are positioned towards the centre of the bar. Bose has angled them outwards to try to widen the soundstage . It does help a bit, but is still a way away from a top end surround sound experience.
It’s a good option if you don’t have room for a subwoofer. For example, if you planned for this to accompany a kitchen TV set, then you would be hard pressed to beat that superb Bose clarity and authority with any other stand alone bar (not to mention the convenience of it being so small) – but it’s not going to fill a family living room.
Musically, it can handle classical quite well. However, it’s more of a companion for those who like to sit in with a glass of red and listen to Radio 4 than for those who like speed garage.
Sound presets are kept to a minimum, which might annoy an audiophile but can actually make life much easier for the rest of us. There is a dialogue mode and some control of the bass if you wish to to change settings, but apart from that you just plug it in and get on with listening.
Auxiliary, coaxical and optical connections are available (and the latter two come with their cables supplied in the box). We were disappointed not to see an HDMI connection. There is a USB connection, but this is only for service updates, so you can’t stream songs from a memory stick. However, it does come with Bluetooth so you can stream music and podcasts easily from your phone or tablet.
The Solo 5 is set to work pretty much seamlessly straight out of the box and doesn’t require a technology degree to use. It has a practical auto-wake feature, meaning it will hear you switch on your TV and start up right away automatically.