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Bose vs Sonos Soundbars: An In-Depth Technical Comparison to Find the Best Premium Soundbar

If you‘re looking to upgrade from your TV‘s lackluster built-in speakers to an immersive soundbar, you quickly find yourself comparing the top options from Bose and Sonos. These two brands stand at the pinnacle when it comes to premium soundbars packed with advanced audio technologies and features.

But Bose and Sonos take somewhat different approaches when designing soundbars for both music and home theater use. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll compare all the nitty-gritty tech details side-by-side – sound quality, streaming protocols, Dolby Atmos support, smart features, design aesthetics and more.

You‘ll get to geek out on the audio formats, specialized speaker drivers, proprietary processing algorithms that make each brand unique. By the end, you‘ll know exactly which models are the right match based on your needs and budget. Let‘s dive in!

Overview: Bose vs Sonos Soundbars

First, a quick intro to the Bose and Sonos brands and what they represent in the world of premium soundbars:

Bose – Founded in 1964, Bose pioneered noise-cancelling headphones but really made its name with home and vehicle speaker systems. Bose aims for rich, powerful, cinematic audio in its soundbars like the Smart Soundbar 900. Proprietary technologies like Bose PhaseGuide, QuietPort and ADAPTiQ room calibration are designed to fill rooms with detail and thumping bass. Voice control is enabled through built-in Alexa and Google Assistant.

Sonos – Founded in 2002 with a focus on multi-room wireless speakers, Sonos later expanded into home theater soundbars like the Arc and Beam. Sonos soundbars support AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Alexa and Google Assistant for smart integration. A polished, minimalist aesthetic and seamless integration with other Sonos speakers for whole-home audio are hallmarks of the brand. Trueplay tuning optimizes the sound signature to your room.

Now let‘s examine how these two soundbar powerhouses compare across all the metrics that impact real-world performance, quality and value. From bass response to Dolby Atmos support, this guide will help you determine if Sonos or Bose is a better match for your needs and budget.

Sound Quality Showdown

The most critical factors for any soundbar are audio clarity, bass impact, immersive soundstaging and overall listening experience. Bose and Sonos take somewhat differing approaches to audio performance:

Speaker Drivers and Configuration – Higher-end Bose bars like the Smart Soundbar 900 utilize up to 9 drivers including dedicated woofers for bass, angled side-firing drivers for immersion and specialized upward-firing drivers. This results in true Dolby Atmos and surround sound effects without requiring separate satellite speakers.

The Sonos Arc tops out at 11 drivers including angled side-firers and upward-firers. More drivers provide separation between effects but both Bose and Sonos reserve their immersive speaker configurations for the highest-end models. Most mid-range options utilize 5-7 drivers. More basic models like the Sonos Ray have just four drivers, limiting their immersive capabilities.

Sound Signature – The core sound profile provides big clues into each brand‘s audio philosophy. Bose aims for powerful, immersive cinematic sound with strong bass response and crisp highs even at loud volumes. Bose‘s PhaseGuide tech is designed to reinforce dialogue and provide clear positional separation between effects. The goal is an engaging, room-filling sound.

Sonos targets a flatter, more natural audio profile without boosted highs or exaggerated bass. Accuracy and balance are prioritized over bombast. Even its lower-end models aim to reproduce recordings faithfully. The soundstage feels wider on Sonos bars with Left, Center and Right channels clearly delineated. But Bose‘s bombastic signature has more immediate impact.

Bass Response – For sheer bass power, Bose pulls ahead of Sonos. Larger woofers paired with Bose‘s proprietary QuietPort tech allow models like the Smart Soundbar 900 to really make action scenes shake with subwoofer-like low end. While accurate, bass on Sonos models like the Beam feels more polite and restrained in comparison. Sonos subs can be added for more rumble.

Dialogue Clarity – Voices and dialogue cut through well on both Bose and Sonos bars. The centralized channels prevent dialog from getting lost among explosive effects. Bose‘s PhaseGuide provides a bit more crispness and directionality thanks to its specialized center channel. But both avoid muddiness in the critical mid-range frequencies where speech lies.

Dolby Atmos & DTS:X – For truly immersive 3D surround sound, Dolby Atmos support is essential. Both Bose and Sonos flagships like the Smart Soundbar 900 and Arc feature Atmos with upward-firing drivers. But only the Sonos Arc decodes Atmos natively while Bose models downmix Atmos to 5.1 or stereo output. Neither brand supports the DTS:X audio format yet.

EQ Customization – Here Sonos pulls ahead significantly. Its app provides granular control over equalization presets and settings. So you can tweak the sound signature to your liking based on room acoustics and content types. Bose soundbars lack any kind of customizable EQ – you only get Bose‘s default audio curve which caters to big, bold sound.

Room Correction – Both brands provide auto room calibration to optimize the audio. Bose‘s ADAPTiQ uses a calibration microphone to analyze room acoustics. Sonos Trueplay relies on your mobile device‘s mic as you wave it around the room. Each system tweaks the EQ and timing to compensate for bad room acoustics.

Overall Winner: Bose for Power, Sonos for Accuracy – It‘s a close match-up as both Bose and Sonos yield huge audio improvements over built-in TV speakers. If absolute power, bass impact and cinematic sound are the priority, Bose wins out. But Sonos provides a more accurate, balanced profile with the flexibility of customizable EQ. For classical music or acoustic genres, Sonos excels with wider staging and natural sound.

Features and Connectivity

Of course seamless connectivity and smart features are also essential in the modern streaming era. This is another area where Bose and Sonos take slightly divergent approaches:

|| Bose Soundbars | Sonos Soundbars |
|HDMI Ports| 1 | 1 |
|Optical Input| Yes | Varies by model |
|Bluetooth| Yes | No, Sonos omits Bluetooth entirely for highest quality over WiFi |
|WiFi | 802.11ac | 802.11b/g/n/ac |
|Ethernet| No | Available on some models |
|AirPlay 2| Yes | Yes |
|Chromecast| No | Yes, built-in |
|Spotify Connect| Yes | Yes |
|Works with Alexa| Yes, built-in mics | Yes, built-in mics on some models |
|Works with Google Assistant| Yes, built-in mics | Yes, built-in mics on some models |
|Dolby Atmos| Supported on Smart Soundbar 900, 700 | Supported on Arc |
|Dolby Digital| Yes | Yes|
|DTS Digital Surround | No | No |
|Hi-Res Audio| No | Yes, Sonos supports lossless HD audio codecs|
|Gaming Mode | Yes, on 300 and 700 models | No, but promised for future update |
|Dialogue Enhancement | No | Speech enhancement on Beam, Ray |
|Night Sound Mode | No | Yes |
|App with EQ Control | Bose Music app, no EQ adjust | Sonos S2 app with full EQ control |
|Wall Mountable | Brackets sold separately | Integrated, brackets included |

Proprietary Streaming Protocols – Bose and Sonos also support their own WiFi streaming platforms. Bose SimpleSync lets you stream music to a Bose soundbar from other Bose smart speakers and soundbars on your network. Sonos backs its own robust platform for streaming music and podcasts to any Sonos speaker from 100+ services.

Smart Assistants – For voice control, higher-end Bose and Sonos bars both integrate mics for Alexa and Google Assistant commands. You can ask them to play music, look up facts, control smart home devices and more. Lower-cost models lack mics so you need an external smart speaker.

Multi-Room Audio – Here Sonos provides a clear advantage with its mature wireless platform that lets you easily pair surround speakers, rears, and other Sonos devices like the Sonos One for whole home audio. It‘s seamless to control your entire system from the Sonos app. Bose is more limited currently when it comes to expandability.

Gaming Features – For gaming consoles or PC setups, fast audio response time is critical. Bose steps ahead in this realm with dedicated low-latency gaming modes built into its Smart Soundbar 300 and 700 models. Sonos bars currently lack these enhanced gaming audio features but may add them in future software updates.

Ease of Setup – Both brands aim to make setup straightforward using either mobile apps or included remote controls. Sonos provides a bit more hand-holding guidance during initial configuration using its app. Bose relies more heavily on its physical remotes during setup. But for basic plug and play, it‘s largely a wash between them.

Overall Winner: Sonos for Features, Bose for Gaming – With its wider codec support, custom EQ and seamless streaming, Sonos wins out for overall features and connectivity. But only Bose currently provides tailored low-latency gaming audio modes. For the most lag-free gaming experience today, Bose bars are the better choice.

Design and Build Quality

You‘ll also want to consider physical design factors like the profile, controls, included hardware and overall fit and finish:

Dimensions – In terms of dimensions, Bose soundbars aim for a compact, low-profile design well-suited for mounting below today‘s thin-bezel TVs. For example, the Bose Smart Soundbar 700 measures just 2.3 inches tall. Sonos soundbars have slightly larger profiles – the Sonos Arc soundbar sits 3.4 inches tall. Bose‘s slimmer aesthetic may fit better in constricted TV cabinets.

Wall Mounting – Sonos bakes wall mountability into most models with integrated mounting points and hardware included in the box. Bose wall mounting brackets are generally sold separately. So Sonos provides more flexibility for placement above or below your TV.

Controls – Both brands include basic onboard controls for power, volume and playback. Voice controls are available on select higher-end models. Bose generally provides more elaborate IR remotes while Sonos expects owners to use their app for control. CEC support on both allows TV remote control.

Materials – Premium materials like tempered glass, aluminum and rigid polycarbonate are utilized across the Bose and Sonos lineups for their soundbar chassis. You‘re investing in quality construction designed to last with either brand. So this comes down purely to aesthetic taste.

Subwoofers & Add-Ons – To expand upon the main soundbar with deeper bass or rear surrounds, both Bose and Sonos offer wireless subwoofers, surround speakers and rears. Sonos gear seamlessly pairs within the Sonos app ecosystem. Bose add-ons require using a separate Bose Connect app. Sonos expands more cleanly.

Colors – While black soundbars are ubiquitous, Sonos differentiates by offering the Arc in black or white. Bose limits color options to just black or silver for a more muted look. So Sonos gives you an extra design choice.

Overall Winner: Design Tie – For design and build, Bose and Sonos finish nearly neck and neck. While Sonos offers more mounting flexibility, wall mounting may not be important if you plan to place your soundbar on a TV stand. Pick based on the aesthetic and profile you prefer. Both are built to last.

Bose Smart Soundbar 700 vs Sonos Arc

Value and Price Comparison

Budget also weighs heavily in any soundbar purchase decision. Let‘s see how Bose and Sonos compare across low, midrange and high price tiers:

Model Price Drivers Amplification Dolby Atmos?
Sonos Ray $279 4 Class D digital No
Bose Smart Soundbar 300 $299 5 Not specified No
Sonos Beam (Gen 2) $449 5 Class D digital No
Bose Smart Soundbar 500 $549 6 Not specified No
Sonos Arc $899 11 Class D digital Yes
Bose Smart Soundbar 900 $899 9 Not specified Yes (downmixed to 5.1)

Budget Tier – The Sonos Ray and Bose Smart Soundbar 300 both come in right around $300. The compact Ray is an awesome starter Sonos model. But the Bose 300 pumps out louder, fuller sound for the dollars.

Mid-Range Tier – The $450 Sonos Beam Gen 2 squares off against the $550 Bose Smart Soundbar 500. While the Beam provides awesome Alexa and streaming features, the 500 outmuscles it for theater sound.

Flagship Tier – Bose Smart Soundbar 900 takes on the Sonos Arc around $900. The Arc pulls ahead for native Dolby Atmos along with wider surround staging. But the 900‘s sheer power is hard to beat if you want room-shaking impact.

Add-Ons – Beefing up your system with add-on speakers and subs costs extra. Here Sonos‘ wireless ecosystem provides an advantage – it‘s easy to integrate their subwoofer and satellite speakers like the Sonos Ones. Bose‘s add-ons require using another app and feel less unified.

Overall Winner: Bose Offers More Audio for the Buck – While Sonos provides greater whole home expandability, Bose simply packs more sonic bang for the buck at each comparable price point. The amplification, specialized drivers and Bose audio enhancements like PhaseGuide deliver more commanding and full-bodied sound performance straight out of the box.

Recommendations: Best Bose and Sonos Soundbars for Every Budget

Given everything we‘ve covered in this guide comparing Sonos vs Bose soundbars, here are my top recommendations across budget levels and use cases:

  • For big, truly cinematic sound under $500 – Bose Smart Soundbar 500 – $449
  • For minimalist design and awesome Alexa integration – Sonos Beam (Gen 2) – $449
  • For serious gaming audio with low lag – Bose Smart Soundbar 700 – $799
  • For room-filling Dolby Atmos – Sonos Arc – $899
  • For the most powerful, premium home theater experience – Bose Smart Soundbar 900 – $899

I hope this in-depth technical comparison has armed you with everything to confidently choose the best Bose or Sonos soundbar for your personal needs and budget! Let me know if you have any other questions.