When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is an excellent value.
Bose makes a lot of great soundbars, but when it comes to striking a balance between performance, size, and value, the Smart Soundbar 600 really hits the sweet spot. Featuring clear and immersive audio, plenty of features, and a compact profile, the Soundbar 600 is the epitome of what a soundbar should be.
At $500, it’s a heftier investment than some of the discount specials you’ll see at big box retailers, but features like network streaming, Alexa voice control, and built-in up-firing drivers for true Dolby Atmos sound justify its higher price and make it a top contender for one of the best soundbars.
Perhaps most notable, the Smart Soundbar 600 offers ultra-clear dialogue for virtually anything you watch. For anyone who’s struggled to hear what’s going on in their favorite TV shows and movies, that alone makes this stylish little block of sound well worth consideration.
- Clear and detailed dialogue
- Balanced and immersive Dolby Atmos performance
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support
- Elegant yet compact design
What needs work
- Doesn’t include a subwoofer for dedicated bass
- Minimal input options and no HDMI video pass-through
- DTS decoding is not supported
The Bose Smart Soundbar 600’s minimalist design looks and feels premium
The Smart Soundbar 600 has HDMI and Optical ports to connect to your TV.
Unboxing the Smart Soundbar 600 gives off an Apple vibe thanks to its slick packaging, with everything in its right place. And at just 2.2″ (H) x 27.3″ (W) x 4.1″ (D), the soundbar jumps out as surprisingly small.
A smooth matte top sandwiches a rounded metal grille at the center, with only a pair of touch keys and a silver Bose logo interrupting the minimalist design. It would be nice to get some volume keys on top, but there are plenty of other ways to control the bar’s sound.
At the back of the bar is a shortlist of inputs, including HDMI eARC and Optical connections, a Bose subwoofer port, an IR blaster port, and a USB input for service updates. What you won’t find is an Ethernet port or a spare HDMI input. Such omissions are common on smaller bars like this, but that does make your connection options slightly limited.
Getting the soundbar set up is quick and easy
The soundbar includes a compact remote for easy control.
The Soundbar 600 reads like a direct response to Sonos’ popular Beam soundbar, offering a similar design, features, and simplified usability. But even ardent Sonos fans will be impressed by how easy it is to get Bose’s model up and running.
Simply connect the included HDMI cable between the bar and your TV’s HDMI eARC/ARC port, plug in the power cable, find the bar in the Bose Music app, and you’re good to go. The soundbar comes with its own remote, but the device’s HDMI connection lets you use your TV remote for power and volume if you prefer. (Note: Your TV must support HDMI-CEC and some older TVs may require you to select “HDMI ARC” as the output in your settings.)
If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI eARC or ARC port, you may need to use the optical cable for sound instead. However, this means you won’t be able to enjoy Dolby Atmos content.
Performance is incredibly immersive for such a little bar, and dialogue is easy to hear
With dedicated up- and side-firing drivers, the Smart Soundbar 600’s soundstage expands throughout the room.
The Smart Soundbar 600 boasts an expansive soundstage that’s really impressive for such a tiny box. The system sports side- and up-firing drivers to effectively beam Dolby Atmos audio throughout the room. This means that the device is capable of creating a sense of surround sound with effects that come from all directions, even above your head.
We tested the bar with a Dolby Atmos demo disc that features a variety of clips. The Smart Soundbar 600 pulled us into the rich scenery of each sequence, from the crisp buzz of insects in a swampy jungle to the spinning flap of a bird’s wings that almost seems to fully circle around the room. While the Soundbar 600’s tiny up-firing speakers don’t quite reflect audio off your ceiling accurately enough to fully recreate the illusion of rain overhead, the overall effect is a thrill.
Dolby Atmos content is readily available on streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus, as well as many Blu-ray discs. And even if you’re watching something that’s not mixed in Dolby Atmos, the bar uses Bose’s TrueSpace technology to create an Atmos-like experience from stereo and standard surround sound sources.
TrueSpace tech can elevate everything you play — literally. Though the PS5 doesn’t support Dolby Atmos for games, Bose’s processing takes PlayStation soundtracks to impressive heights. When playing It Takes Two, a co-op game in which you inhabit a fantastical landscape as a living doll, the bar provides a vivid 3D soundstage. Chirping crickets pop up around the room, waterfalls splash with an effervescent rush that seems to lick at your face, and all of the game’s bizarre creatures are realized with stark clarity and precision.
Music and dialogue sound excellent thanks to the powerful center speaker.
Some content, like the James Bond film “Skyfall,” doesn’t sound quite as immersive, but there’s still plenty to enjoy in the movie’s tense opening chase scene. While lower bass is predictably limited without a subwoofer, the bar shows solid pop in the scene’s percussive track, while effects like the punch of gunfire and grinding buzz of vehicles are realized with rich definition.
Speaking of definition, you won’t miss any dialogue in this scene or others with the Soundbar 600, no matter how much mayhem is going on. Whether you’re listening to the subtle nuances of Jimmy’s guttural rasp in “Better Call Saul“ or the helmet-clad speech of characters in Disney’s “The Mandalorian,” you can put the closed captions to bed with this bar at the wheel.
The device sounds surprisingly good for music, too, even though it doesn’t offer a way to listen to stereo sound without Bose’s TrueSpace processing activated. The five capable speakers inside the bar strike a great balance between all registers, offering some sparkle up top, a warm if slightly thin midrange, and more punch than expected in the upper bass. Vocals are smooth, strings and horns are sweet and lyrical, and even highly organic instruments like woody acoustic guitars are reproduced with precision.
The soundbar lacks punch in the lower bass and it doesn’t support DTS
Bass is solid considering the soundbar’s size, but you’ll want to add a subwoofer for the best performance.
The Smart Soundbar 600 does more for bass response than the vast majority of single soundbars we’ve heard at this size, and even a few larger systems. It’s frankly amazing what Bose can do with just five drivers and some digital signal processing from within the little black cabinet.
That said, if you’re looking for serious thump to punch up your favorite action scenes or hip-hop tracks, you’ll need to add one of Bose’s subwoofers, like the Bass Module 500, to get it. There’s only so much you can do to circumvent physics, and larger speakers are needed to reproduce the lowest frequencies that will get you physically invested in the gravitas of your favorite audio content.
That’s not a cheap enterprise with Bose’s options starting at $500, and like virtually all competitors, there’s no way to connect a third-party subwoofer if you’ve got one lying around. But the option to add a subwoofer to the system later helps mitigate the upfront cost and lets you take time to decide if you really need to upgrade.
Unfortunately, adding more pieces to the system won’t solve one of the soundbar’s other notable cons: its lack of DTS decoding. Though Dolby audio tracks are more common on streaming services, DTS audio formats are used on many Blu-ray discs. You can change your Blu-ray player output settings to PCM to get DTS discs to play, but if you’ve got a large collection of Blu-rays with DTS audio, having a DTS-compatible bar like the Sonos Arc or Beam is more convenient.
The soundbar’s smart features are impressive for the money
The Bose app lets you easily adjust settings and stream music.
The Soundbar 600 includes built-in smarts and voice control in the form of Amazon Alexa, which can be activated in the app and accessed via the onboard microphone system. Google Assistant is also supported, but you’ll need a separate Google device to access it.
The soundbar’s app is stuffed with plenty of other useful features, too, including basic EQ for bass and treble, the ability to tune the center and height channels, and access to a few built-in streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer. The list of integrated services isn’t as comprehensive as what you’d find on a Sonos soundbar, but you can stream other platforms from their own standalone apps via AirPlay 2, Chromecast, or Bluetooth. That latter option is particularly noteworthy, since Sonos soundbars lack Bluetooth support.
The app also lets you connect other Bose speakers to create a bigger sound system or a multi-room audio group. Bose’s SimpleSync feature even lets you connect compatible Bose Bluetooth headphones for stealthy playback options when the house is quiet.
Bose Smart Soundbar 600: Specs
|Spec||Bose Smart Soundbar 600|
Five drivers, including center, left, right, and dual up-firing channels
|Audio ports||HDMI eARC and Optical|
|Mics||Built-in microphone array with onboard mute|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi and Bluetooth|
|Voice Control||Alexa built-in, Google Assistant with separate device|
|Audio Formats||Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus|
|Dimensions||2.2″ (H) x 27.3″ (W) x 4.1″ (D)|
Should you buy the Bose Smart Soundbar 600?
The Smart Soundbar 600 is a great option for buyers who want immersive movie performance from one compact device.
Bose’s Smart Soundbar 600 is an excellent way to beef up your TV’s audio and stream music, offering crisp and clear dialogue, warmth and balance across registers, and dedicated up-firing drivers for true spatial audio immersion. The soundbar is also easy to set up and use, and offers plenty of modern features, from HDMI eARC to multiple streaming options, most of which are controllable via the Bose Music app.
When it comes to direct competitors, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a worthy alternative, especially for those invested in the Sonos ecosystem, but its lack of up-firing drivers makes it less appealing for those seeking impactful Dolby Atmos immersion in a minimalist device.
Though you can get a cheaper soundbar for casual listening, the Smart Soundbar 600 is an excellent choice for buyers who want something closer to a real home theater experience in a compact form factor. Frankly, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better performer at this price when it comes to balance, clarity, and especially dialogue enhancement, making the Smart Soundbar 600 one of the best values on the market.