Rugged sound with strong bass • Stylish design gives a premium feel • No distortion • even at high volumes • Alexa integration is good
Painfully expensive • The screen does not do much • There is no way to share connected services between accounts
The Bose Home Speaker 500 is more expensive than other smart speakers, such as Apple HomePod or Google Home. But you get great sound beyond intelligence.
Sonos and Apple need to move as Bose is entering the next-generation speaker market.
With $ 50 more than Apple's HomePod and $ 100 less than the Sonos Play: 5, the Bose Home Speaker 500 may be reaching an ideal spot for next-generation smart speakers.
Do not get me wrong – $ 399.95 is too much for a speaker, especially one aimed at a broad audience. Bose expects its audio technology to give the Speaker 500 an edge over the competition.
On paper, it's smarter than HomePod thanks to Alexa (Amazon's assistant is better than Siri at this stage of the game), and Bose says the Speaker 500 creates "the broadest sound of any smart speaker." I was eager to see if there is any truth in this statement.
Speaker 500 is priced at $ 399.95, so you'd expect at least to have an impact. Well, after testing the speaker in almost every possible way, I can say yes.
High end seems
Apple and Amazon opted for an external mesh design for their smart speakers, but Bose took a different approach and went all-in on the choice. It is also clearly one of the reasons for the high price of the speaker.
At first glance, the stylish chassis does not look like a loudspeaker. It is relatively small, only 8 inches tall and has the shape of an oval. It is not portable (you connect it to a wall), but it's easy transportable as it weighs 4.75 pounds. Comes in luxury silver or triple black; I would recommend the latter.
The bottom half of the speaker has perforations around the sound. However, the Home Speaker 500 does not produce omnidirectional sound – it comes out from the left and right sides. This separation is not usually optimal for true stereo, but the speaker will use the walls and the space around the speaker to create a sound that fills the room. This is not unique to the 500 speaker; is a statement that many smart conversations make, including the Amazon Echo.
Bose put a small LCD in the center of the front of the speaker. It looks cool and can display the time making this one of the most expensive watches you will have.
The physical controls are at the top and include the typical playback, pause, volume and mute buttons. You can also manually turn on Bluetooth or switch to the Aux minijack input on the back. You can customize the six preset buttons through the application to provide one-touch access to multiple music sources. You can get very granular with it – for example, you can set Preset 2 as Hits 1 of Sirius XM.
Bose is obviously trying to keep up to date by adding smart features, but the company has built its reputation for sound quality and is not behind the Home Speaker 500. It can play very loudly – without distortion or quality loss. It seems good to play any genre of music. However, try as she might, she never convinced me that there was more than one speaker in the room.
It can fill a room with sound, and you can hear it all over the house, even in medium volumes, but the clear separation is not really there.
I tried many tracks. Bruce Springsteen "Racing in the Street," a more contained track with many instruments in different shades, was a great showcase for what the speaker could do. The beginning opens with some medium and high tones of a piano melody before the vocals begin. This continues with more layers of instruments at the top, but the Home Speaker 500 did not let a part of the track dominate the rest even when the battery went into high gear.
To my ears, the sound quality of the Home Speaker 500 is comparable to HomePod. The HomePod packs more bass and is a bit more balanced. However, the Home Speaker 500 has the advantage of being able to easily adjust the bass. It can definitely play higher than the Sonos Play: 1 and the second-generation Amazon Echo Show.
Alexa provides the smarts
Amazon's Alexa is aboard the Home Speaker 500, and it works fine. It's basically the same smart assistant you'd find on an Echo or other third-party Alexa speaker.
The eight-array microphones on the top of the device can hear you from a distance, as they are far away and use Bose's proprietary microphone technology that also activates active noise cancellation on some headset models. The best part is that they allow you to activate Alexa even with the volume all the way up (some Echo models have trouble listening when music is high). It should also allow you to save your voice, since you will not have to shout when you say "Alexa."
As with most smart speakers, you can press a mute button on the top, which will cut off the power of the microphones.
The exhibit is cool, but not long ago.
Echo Spot and Amazon's Echo Show have laid the groundwork for using Alexa with a screen. But that did not influence the Speaker Bose Home 500 at all; its 2.3 x 1.3 inch LCD does not show any of the Alexa media you see on Amazon products.
The screen is really just a small window to see the time, the music that is playing and the music service you are listening to. For supported services, it will show the artwork of the album, and was a success or a failure with Bluetooth streaming. But beyond this basic information, the screen adds nothing of value. Also, the LCD is difficult to look at when you are not looking directly at it.
A very connected experience
By building Alexa, Bose lets you connect a multitude of streaming services to the Home Speaker 500. All of this is controlled through the Bose Music application, which is required for setup. If you're thinking, "Oh no, another app," I'm with you. Bose alone has 10 different apps in the app store – you really should do something about it.
The configuration includes creating a Bose account, connecting the caller to WiFi, and linking Alexa. In the app, you'll link Bose to streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Deezer, Sirius XM and TuneIn. You can also stream music from any Bluetooth device. (or any device via the Aux input).
It's a truly seamless experience and as the Home Speaker 500 lives in your WiFi network, anyone can connect to it. The most disappointing thing here is that the services connected to the Bose speaker can only connect to a single account. That means everyone at home needs to use the same login, which can be annoying at times. I hope multi-profile support will arrive in the future.
IOS users should gain some extra love in 2019 when Bose promised support for the Apple AirPlay 2, which allows users to stream music to multiple audio devices at the same time.
The price you pay
Ultimately, the Bose Home Speaker 500 comes down to a price decision. Whether you're looking for a great sounding stereo speaker or an equally good smart speaker, there are other options. For $ 399.95, this is not the most affordable option.
It has produced a good and complete sound for all genres of music, which few speakers of this size can do, and Bose facilitates the connection of streaming services to the Home Speaker 500. The Alexa is useful, and the microphone technology is truly impressive.
If you like Bose and trust the brand, you will not be disappointed. But if you want similar results for less money, it is not difficult to find alternatives to Sonos and even Apple.