What We Like
- A very simple, pleasant design that is versatile because of its small size.
- Universal remote control is a nice idea.
What We Don’t Like
- A total lack of presence during audio performance.
- Minimal customization options and playback modes.
Founded in 1964 by Amar Bose, the Massachusetts based technology giant has interests as diverse as suspension technology, car audio, and even military and NASA contracts! Let’s take a look at how well they’re doing when it comes to soundbars.
Like the overwhelming majority of soundbars on the market, the guiding principle behind Bose’s design of the Solo 5 is simplicity. The reason for this is fairly straightforward: the device is designed to be versatile. It is intended to blend seamlessly into pre-existing audio set-ups, and complement rather than clash with any TV you pair it with. Similarly, the need to allow for user discretion when it comes to placing the soundbar either on a flat surface near the TV or mounting it on a wall informs some elements of the design.
The soundbar itself is about as simple as they come. So simple, in fact, that there aren’t even any buttons on the model itself to content with. All of that is dealt with via the remote control instead. At just under 22” in length, the Solo 5 is one of the smallest soundbars we’ve come across, and this is a form factor that will appeal to some. Its low profile means that it should, in theory, be easy to place regardless of what your use case might be.
Several LED indicators can be found on the model which provide information about which features you have enabled (and power status of the device) at a glance. This is a nice touch, and keeps things simple.
There are not, to be honest, a great deal in the way of extra features included with the Solo 5. It is in that regard a fairly sparse offering, as competition at this price range often includes things like a wireless subwoofer, audio customization options, or otherwise useful additions. Bose has provided a button helpfully marked ‘Bass’ which, as you’d expect, boosts the bass. That’s about as exciting as it gets.
The included remote control—a surprisingly bulky device which seems to be about half the total size of the soundbar itself—can be configured as a universal remote meaning that you can use it to manage not only the Solo 5 but your TV, gaming system, or Blu-ray player as well. We can see this coming in handy, but it is hardly a killer feature and does not seem enough to justify the lack of other offerings.
All of the usual connectivity options are included. You’ve got optical, auxiliary, coaxial, and Bluetooth streaming on offer, so the choice is yours as to how you pipe audio in. A small but nonetheless appreciated feature is Bose’s automatic wake functionality which sees the Solo 5 turn itself on immediately upon detecting an audio signal from any of its input sources. This saves some considerable time in the long run, and is the kind of feature it is hard to imagine losing once you have it.
While the comparatively tiny form factor provides a good deal of versatility in terms of placement options, it is ultimately the downfall of this largely underwhelming offering from Bose. The Solo 5 simply isn’t big enough to house internals which warrant its price tag, and that statement applies to both the pure audio experience and the total lack of customization and dearth of audio options and modes on offer.
If you are pairing the Solo 5 with a small TV, the difference will be noticeable as it provides an immediate boost. But anything above that and it becomes disappointingly difficult to distinguish between what is being pumped out natively from the TV speakers and what the soundbar is offering itself. This, of course, is not a great sign. There is a definite boost to overall clarity and weightiness of the sound, but not enough, in our view, to warrant the cost.
Even when the Bass mode is activated, the actual presence that the Solo 5 has is totally lacking. It’s a shame to press a button labelled ‘Bass’ and then wonder if it’s made much difference at all. In fact, the main difference we heard was that the mids became muddier.
Whilst the Solo 5 is a good-looking device that has a versatile form factor, its tiny size is its undoing. Lacking the capacity to produce a sound with any real presence, it does not offer many extra features to compensate.