Bose challenges Sonos with new Alexa-powered smart speaker and soundbars

Bose has just announced a $400 home smart speaker and two soundbars that will be available in October. All three products will ship with Alexa voice support, with “other voice assistants to follow” according to the company. Each has an eight-microphone array for far-field voice recognition. AirPlay 2 functionality will be added in early 2019.

The Bose Home Speaker 500 has quite a look to it. (I’m not yet picking a side as to whether it’s nice or ugly.) I do know that there’s a small display on the front that shows the album art of whatever’s currently playing. That’s literally all it’s for; it’s not a touchscreen and won’t show you any other content, by the looks of it. Bose claims the Home Speaker 500 will deliver “the widest soundstage of any smart speaker available today.”


Bose

The aluminum-wrapped build houses two custom drivers “pointed in opposite directions — so sound reflects off surrounding walls, separating instruments to the far left and right, and placing vocals where the artist did.” The display on front doesn’t seem to be a touchscreen; instead, Bose has several buttons on top for controlling playback. It seems like there’s a lot going on up there. actually. Those “1 2 3 4 5 6” numbers are preset buttons for accessing your favorite playlists, internet radio stations, and other stuff you listen to often. Other buttons up top confirm the presence of an AUX jack and that you’ll be able to mute Alexa/voice.


Bose

And then there are the two soundbars. The $800 Bose Soundbar 700 “was engineered to outperform every other product in its category. Measuring 2 inches high, 4 inches deep, and 38 inches long, there’s a metal grille running around it with a tempered glass plate on top. Having not yet heard it myself, I’m just going to give you Bose’s marketing spiel on what makes it sound good.

Bose PhaseGuides™ have to be heard to be believed, sending multiple channels of a soundtrack or song throughout a space, placing discrete sound in places where there are no speakers. Bose DSP, custom low-profile transducers, and QuietPort™ technology deliver exceptional detail and depth for your favorite tracks, crystal clear dialogue for Netflix, and dramatic realism for sports.


Bose

The $550 Soundbar 500 is smaller, thinner, and matte. Both of the Bose soundbars include HDMI ARC support. They also feature Bose’s “ADAPTiQ” tech for automatically making audio optimizations based on a room’s sound characteristics. Last, Bose says they “can be wall-mounted or expanded with a wireless bass module and rear speakers for a full 5.1 experience.”

This wave of products from Bose is an unmistakable challenge to Sonos and competes directly against the Sonos One and Beam, albeit at higher pricing. This is Bose, after all. But the company says the speakers “work brilliantly alone or together as a multi-room system,” which is another clear indication of what competitors Bose has in mind. Multi-room playback isn’t new for Bose; the company’s home speakers have been doing it for awhile. But this is the company’s latest push to go up against Sonos, Amazon, Google, Apple, and other companies that offer the capability with their speakers.


Bose

It’s even following the Sonos strategy of offering multiple voice assistants… eventually. Considering the challenge Sonos has faced in bringing Google Assistant and Alexa onto a single smart speaker, I’ll believe that bit when I see it. Still, I’m looking forward to checking out that weird-looking Home Speaker 500 — with its 1980s product name and all.