Over the course of the last ten years, I have purchased ten different soundbars from companies like LG, Samsung, JVC, Bose and a few others I don’t remember. Some come loaded with fancy specs, powerful subwoofers, Dolby Atmos and other features I paid a premium for. And you know what, with the number of hours I work, I never used 90% of those features. I’ve flushed thousands of dollars down the drain for the latest, most advanced tech–all for nothing.
I suspect I am not alone. Think about it this way: the average consumer doesn’t know the difference between Atoms, DTS, DTS X or the distinctions in sound quality between them. Nor do they have the time to invest in researching, dissecting and experimenting to get the best sound out of those technologies. Like me–and this is only my opinion–they want what I like to call the best ‘out of the box’ experience. Plug it in. Listen. Enjoy the bar with no hassle. Nothing more, nothing less.
The average person who buys a new 4K TV usually turns to a soundbar to get better sound than the tiny speakers that can be installed into a flat-screen display–not a complete home theatre experience, but just something a little more fulfilling. And they don’t want to pay hundreds, never mind thousands of dollars. The value here matters for most people.
Then there is trying to make everyone in your household happy with that soundbar. Again, making the assumption that the average consumer has a busy family like mine, there is little time for hour-long tutorials on how to turn on the soundbar, memorize what input does what, what to do when it doesn’t work and on and on. I just need it to work–simply, easily and sound really good. My family has to like the choice–all of us.
Well, I think I have found the answer: The Bose Solo 5. In fact, after owning this soundbar for six months I went and bought another one. That’s coming from someone who has spent over $1,000 for a much more advanced Samsung Dolby Atmos system with a big and beefy subwoofer.
Let me give you four simple reasons why this might just be the best soundbar you can buy–well, if you take into account the best ‘out of the box’ experience:
1. Easy to Set Up: And I mean really simple. Take an optical cord, plug it into your TV and that’s it in many situations. One Samsung QLED I plugged it into instantly picked it up and worked right away. A 6 series TCL needed a tweak in the menu and I was good to go.
There is one downside: no HDMI connectors. However, for my needs–the two units I have are in our main living room that does not need massive sound power and a bedroom–I did not need all of the benefits of HDMI. I just needed a good sound at a good price. And that’s the Solo 5.
2. Sound Quality: Amazing. Just amazing.
No matter if it was on Xfinity, Netflix, Disney + or XM Radio this soundbar is a superstar. Again, this is not a $1,000 monster soundbar, so don’t expect miracles, but for a bedroom or even a living room where you don’t need a full theatre experience and you need good sound, it works great.
3. I Can Hear the Voices!: I have had many bad soundbar experiences where my wife and I notice that conversations get drowned out in the special effects and action scenes of our more expensive soundbars–especially my big and bad Samsung Atmos bar. For my wife, who suffers from hearing issues and ear ringing, it gets even harder. I want to enjoy great sound with her, so like I suspect many couples, we need a good pick in a soundbar that makes us both happy.
Thankfully, conversations on Solo 5 are clear, crisp and pronounced. This might be related to the dialogue mode that is mentioned in the specs of the bar, although, I have never done anything to activate it.
4. Price: I paid $199.99 at my local Best Buy in Gaithersburg, M.D., just north of Washington, D.C. The Bose website is now selling it for $179.95 as of this posting, as is Best Buy.
Now, there will be those who don’t agree, who want something more advanced, more power or HDMI passthrough technology. And I respect that, as there are many excellent choices and I say explore them and let me know what you chose and why. But for me, simple and amazing sound is what I need–and the Bose 5 excels in those areas.
Harry J. Kazianis is a Senior Director at the Center for the National Interest. His work and ideas have appeared in the New York Times, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, USA Today, The Week, the American Conservative and many other outlets across the political spectrum. Harry enjoys writing about technology issues and products from a real-world perspective. You can follow him on Twitter: @Grecianformula.