The Bose Solo 5 is one of the most compact soundbars we’ve reviewed, looking more like a dedicated 5.1 centre channel speaker than a soundbar.
Its diminutive size means it's the perfect soundbar for your bedroom or kitchen television.
Measuring at 548x70x86mm and weighing only 6.35kg, wall-mounting the soundbar is relatively straightforward. However, brackets aren't included and you'll have to splash out an extra £33 for the Bose WB-120 bracket. If you do choose to wall mount the Solo 5, you can easily toggle the soundbar’s audio output to compensate for the lack of bass this creates.
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Bose Solo 5 Review: Design and remote
The all-black design is largely minimalist save for the Bose logo and subtle status indicators on the front. The status indicators light up in different colours and combinations to let you know the Solo 5’s current mode, such as glowing amber when dialogue mode is turned on.
There aren’t any control buttons on the soundbar itself. Fortunately, Bose includes a useful universal remote control. While a remote control is often included with most soundbars, the Bose universal remote is impressive as it can be programmed to control other devices using the database of manufacturer IR codes included.
The remote control, therefore, has additional buttons to control other devices: channel control, menu buttons and the like are included for controlling anything from your television, satellite box to a DVD or Blu-ray player.
There are six labelled shortcut buttons at the top and each one can be programmed to control an independent device. You just need to hold the relevant preset down and input the manufacturer code to program the remote control. The universal remote only works over infrared, so unfortunately, it won’t be able to control a console such as a PlayStation 4 if that’s your chosen Blu-ray player. I had no problems with my Samsung television, however.
Usefully, the Solo 5 also has an auto-wake function when it detects a sound source so you don’t have to manually turn it on along with your television. Its auto power down only kicks in after 60 minutes of inactivity, which seems overly long, however.
Bose Solo 5 Review: Connectivity and inputs
The available connections are very basic with just optical, coaxial and auxiliary connections available in keeping with its budget price, although it's good to see optical and coaxial cables included. There's no HDMI port, so make sure that any device you want to connect has a coaxial or optical output. You do get Bluetooth wireless but this doesn’t support the less-lossy aptX codec, which is a shame. There’s also no NFC for quick-pairing your device.
There’s also not much in the way of different sound modes, either. Using the remote control, you can turn on a dialogue mode, which is designed to make speech clearer, but that’s it aside from the bass adjustment. It would have been nice to have seen other presets for watching sports or listening to music.
Bose Solo 5 Review: Sound quality
Sound quality when watching movies was pretty good. Dialogue even without the specific mode turned on was crisp and easily comprehensible. the Dialogue mode will be useful for anyone hard of hearing as it not only emphasises spoken word but also decreases the bass to improve intelligibility.
Inside the Solo 5 are only two speakers that are both located towards the centre of the speaker. There isn’t as much stereo separation as we would have liked and the soundstage is very narrow. It meant sound effects lacked directionality when watching films and you don't get the enveloping audio that larger soundbars can provide.
If you find your television’s built-in speakers are a little quiet, you’ll be pleased to find the Bose Solo 5 can reach a loud enough volume to fill a medium-sized room easily. Listening to music, the Solo 5 performed well. Mids and trebles were nice and crisp but you might find you’ll want to dial the bass up from its factory setting as the lower frequency sounds lack presence otherwise. This was also the case when watching movies. You’ll want to turn up the bass to make movie explosions have more impact.
Bose Solo 5 Review: Verdict
Overall, the Bose Solo 5 is a simplistic soundbar. It’s barebones in terms of functionality but its low price makes it an inexpensive upgrade if you find your television speakers lacking and don’t want anything too complicated.
While it will certainly improve on television speakers, its sound improvements aren’t drastic, which is a shame. Really, it’s the included universal remote control that sets it apart from other budget soundbars but, even with this, you're better off with an alternative model such as the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana.