It's been a very busy month for Bose launches, with the brand transforming seemingly everything into 'Ultra' editions: first the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones (updating my personal favourite headphones, the Bose NC 700), followed by the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds aiming for the best headphones crown.
Now it's the turn of the company's soundbar range, with the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar being introduced as the replacement model for the previous Bose Smart Soundbar 900. That's an Ultra-ification triple threat completed, with this new soundbar adding artificial intelligence (AI) to try and outsmart its Sonos Arc competition in the bid for the best soundbar crown.
Based on the press images, which are among the most red and gothic I've ever seen (as you can see on this page), it looks as though Bose means business. But what exactly can AI do in a soundbar setting and why can this, supposedly, elevate the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar to beat its peers?
I'm going to quote Bose here directly to give the company's justification: the Smart Ultra Soundbar features an "A.I. Dialogue Mode to balance voice and surround sound for ultra-crisp vocal clarity. Using machine learning to listen to millions of content clips, the soundbar automatically adjusts tonal balance, making spoken words easier to hear without losing any impact of immersive sound effects." Sounds impressive – and is something many soundbars struggle to deliver.
However, while I'm yet to test this feature in person – the Smart Ultra Soundbar won't ship until the week commencing 10 October 2023 – it's not the first to try and tackle the balance of speech. Indeed, that key competitor, the Sonos Arc, features a Speech Enhancement mode – and in T3's review we stated that "speech is emphasised out of soundtracks clearly." So it sounds like game on to me!
The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar also includes Dolby Atmos output and Bose's spatial Technologies to decode tracks with three-dimensional qualities. The company is always coy when it comes to revealing speaker configurations and amplification, however, so there's no specific detail on that, except that "by combining custom arrays, dipole transducers, and low-profile transducers with Bose spatial technologies, it produces a layer of realism no other speaker can duplicate." Oh la la.
The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar measures 5.8cm/2.3in so is nice and shallow to fit below various TVs, while at 104.5cm/41in long and 10.7cm/4in deep I suspect it'll be best matched with the best 55-inch TVs or larger. There's an HDMI eARC port for handing over the audio to your screen too.
The price, at £899/$899 on Bose's pre-order page for either the black or white finish models, actually sits it above the Sonos Arc – making both soundbar options, which are single box solutions without subwoofers included, confidently placed at the upper end of this market.