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Bose Home Speaker 500 review
Killer sound comes at a killer cost.
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The Bose Home Speaker 500 is probably the best sounding, most attractive smart speaker money can buy. With room-filling sound, deep bass and Alexa and Google Assistant built-in, it’s everything you could ask for. The only downside is its eye-watering price tag, but if you’re after the best, you’d find it hard to beat this Bose beast.
The smart speaker spectrum is a pretty wide one when it comes to everything from price to audio quality. On the one side, there’s the ultra-affordable Amazon Echo Dot that you can grab from less than $60. Is it the best sounding thing in the world? No, but it gets the job done. However, if sound is important to you, Bose has the other end of the spectrum well and truly covered.
I’ve spent the last few weeks with far too many smart speakers, and I can say that the Bose Home Speaker 500 is without a doubt the best smart speaker currently on the market. There’s just one problem - the price.
Bose Home Speaker 500 price
I have to wonder if Bose naming this speaker the Home Speaker 500 was a conscious choice to prepare potential buyers for its price, which just so happens to start with the same number. Yep, this bad boy will set you back $599.95. It’s enough to put a lot of people off, but keep in mind this is Bose we’re talking about. Cheap and cheerful isn’t their thing - booming audio and high-end hardware, on the other hand, is.
That said, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s definitely one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market, with the average price of the speakers we tested hovering around the $200 mark.
Bose Home Speaker 500 sound quality
The only way Bose could get away with that spicy price tag would be to pull out something amazing in the audio department, which thankfully, they’ve done.
The Bose Home Speaker 500 features two custom drivers pointing in opposite directions, meaning audio can bounce off walls and fill a space with ease. It’s not a true 360-degree speaker array, but for its performance, it might as well be. The bass on Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ is rich and booming from all corners of the room, while melodies are clean, crisp and detailed.
Even with the volume turned up as loud as I could possibly have it (my neighbours love me), the sound quality didn’t diminish noticeably, although it wasn’t quite as crisp as it is at a normal human volume. Where the Bose Home Speaker 500 really shines is in the mids and trebles, with fantastic dynamics creating the perfect sound song after song.
Bose Home Speaker 500 design
I tested the Lux Silver variant of the Bose Home Speaker 500 (it also comes in Triple Black), which sports a beautiful, seamless matte silver aluminium grille, disrupted in the front only by the colour LCD, which displays what’s currently playing, or, if nothing’s playing, the time. At the back, you’ll find two inputs - one for the power adapter, and one aux-in. Long live the aux cable.
On top of the speaker, you’ll find a bunch of touch controls for when you feel like giving Alexa a break. From there, you can play and pause audio, increase or decrease the volume and mute the microphone (if you’re paranoid about your smart assistant dropping in on your convos). From the Bose app, you can also program the six numbered buttons to different playlists and radio stations.
There’s no doubt about it, it’s a nice looking speaker with a design that can both blend in and stand out. It is a little on the heavy side, weighing in at a hefty 2.15kg, but that’s to be expected given its size and volume output.
Bose Home Speaker 500 smart assistant
Can’t decide between Alexa or Google Assistant? Why not have both? The Bose Home Speaker 500 has both popular AI companions built-in, so you can enable either one. Their abilities are pretty similar on the surface, but there are a few notable differences between the two.
Firstly, some music services aren’t available on one or the other. For a full breakdown of which assistant can do what, check out the table below.
That said, there are ways to get your assistant to play music streaming services for which it doesn’t support voice control, and you can play pretty much anything through AirPlay (iPhone) or by casting (Android).
Secondly, there’s the question of who’s smarter. While Alexa is great for shopping requests (what would you expect from an Amazon AI?), Google is by far the best when it comes to general knowledge inquiries like, “Who’s the lead singer of Lime Cordiale?”, since your request will undergo a more intensive search rather than simply scanning a Wikipedia page (*cough* Alexa *cough*).
Bose Home Speaker 500 features
Smart speakers typically offer you one of two options when it comes to connectivity - WiFi only (like Sonos and Apple HomePod) or both WiFi and Bluetooth. Thankfully, the Bose Home Speaker 500 falls into the latter category, meaning you can have mates drop in to play DJ without having to make sure they’re on the same Wi-Fi network as the speaker.
There’s also the Bose Music app. Manufacturer-produced companion apps tend to be pretty hit and miss, but this one is absolutely a hit. The user interface is sleek and easy to use, no matter if you’re choosing tracks, adjusting the bass or treble or adding another Bose Home speaker to your collection.
Is it worth it?
I love the Bose Home Speaker 500. Honestly, it’s a fantastic sounding speaker with some great features, plus it looks bloody gorgeous. But I have a hard time recommending a speaker - no matter how good it sounds - for such a budget-busting price. It’s certainly worth a few hundred bucks, but at almost $600, unless you’re a real audiophile or have a bottomless wallet, you’d be better off buying multiple smaller (and cheaper) smart speakers for a multi-room experience.