Bose just released its Smart Soundbar 600, a compact Dolby Atmos soundbar that appears designed to compete head-on with the Sonos Beam 2nd Gen. The new Bose ‘bar is priced at $499 / £499 / AU$799, and serves as a step-down Atmos option from the company’s flagship Smart Soundbar 900 ($899 / £899 / AU$1,399).
Same as with all the very best Dolby Atmos soundbars, the Smart Soundbar 600 features up-firing speakers to deliver overhead effects present in Dolby Atmos movie and TV soundtracks, with two of its five drivers dedicated to that task. A pair of side-mounted speakers work to create a wide sonic spread, and a tweeter mounted front and center lends clarity to dialogue.
The inclusion of up-firing Atmos speakers on the Smart Soundbar 600 is what really sets it apart from the similarly priced Sonos Beam, which uses virtual processing to deliver Atmos effects from its front-facing speaker drivers.
Otherwise, the new Bose ‘bar is about as compact as the Sonos, measuring around 2 x 27 x 4 inches (H x W x D). Also like the Sonos, it’s an all-in-one package, though it can optionally be expanded for full range surround sound by adding the company’s wireless speakers ($399). Another add-on option is the wireless Bose Bass Module ($499) and, unlike the Sonos Beam with its Sonos Sub Mini, the Soundbar 600 can be mated with a pair of subs for even more and better bass.
Other features found on the Smart Soundbar 600 include both HDMI eARC and optical digital audio inputs for connecting to a TV (sources can’t be connected directly to the optical digital input) plus the company’s TrueSpace processing for upconverting both stereo and regular 5.1 channel sources for Atmos presentation. Alexa voice control is built-in, and the Soundbar 600 also works with Google Assistant, giving you the option to connect a Google speaker for voice control.
Unlike with the Sonos Beam, Bose gives you a hardware remote control. The Soundbar 600 can also be operated using the company’s app, which offers a fairly extensive range of audio adjustments, including dialogue and height channel level. Bluetooth, Chromecast built-in, and AirPlay 2 are supported for wireless streaming to the soundbar from a phone or tablet.
Atmos in action
When we reviewed the Sonos Beam 2, that soundbar’s virtual Atmos processing left us somewhat underwhelmed, with overhead effects in movie soundtracks seeming to cut out at head-level as opposed to coming from above.
With the Bose 600, Dolby Atmos soundtracks get a more height-enhanced presentation, which is due to that pair of up-firing drivers on the soundbar’s top surface. It’s not as though Atmos height effects rained down from above my head – the 600 is a highly compact design with suitably small speakers, after all – but there was a sense of sound expanding well above and beyond the confines of my TV’s screen.
How did that play out when watching movies? When I watched a 4K Blu-ray disc of Godzilla (2016), guns being fired at the MUTO creature had a strong upward trajectory and the sounds of helicopters circling the mayhem as downtown Honolulu got hammered appeared to emanate from above the screen. Godzilla’s mighty screams also had a powerful impact, with surprisingly big sound coming from the small soundbar.
The height of the Bose 600's sonic image also impressed on another 4K disc, John Wick 3, with the sheets of rain in an early scene where Wick eludes his would-be assassins seeming to come from above the screen, if not from above my head. And in another helicopter-heavy sci-fi movie, District 9, the police copters encircling the alien encampment in multiple scenes had a believable 3D spatial trajectory.
To check out Bose’s TrueSpace processing, I streamed the 2022 stereo remix of Taxman from The Beatles’ Revolver (which comes out in a Super Deluxe Edition box set next week) to the Bose 600 via Chromecast from the Tidal music app on my phone. I don’t usually go for music listening on soundbars, but there was a nice sense of stereo separation and the sound didn’t seem confined to the physical confines of the Bose ‘bar. Not bad at all!
The Bose Smart Soundbar 600’s compact design, extensive feature set, and under-$500 price make it a formidable competitor to the Sonos Beam. And its up-firing speakers let it make a good run at presenting Dolby Atmos height effects – something the Beam with its virtual Atmos processing didn’t convincingly deliver when we reviewed that model.
We’ll be running a full review of the Soundbar 600 with more extensive listening tests in the near future, so keep a close eye out for it.
In the meantime, check out our roundup of the best Black Friday soundbar deals.
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Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.