This week we reviewed the Bose Home Speaker 500 smart speaker, a Bluetooth-compatible model featuring Amazon Alexa voice recognition technology. This multi-room speaker is also compatible with devices from the Bose SoundTouch 500 range.
Bose Home Speaker 500: design
The speaker is built around a steel chassis with an anodized aluminum shell. The Bose Home Speaker 500 gives off a feeling of sturdiness and high-quality work. There are tactile controls on the top of the speaker to access different sources, control the volume, deactivate the microphones or activate the presets created in the Bose Music app (songs, playlists or web radios). The front of the speaker sports an LCD screen which displays the artwork linked to the currently played track and may also show the time.
Bose Home Speaker 500: drivers
As is often the case with Bose, we don’t know much about what’s going on inside the product. According to the manufacturer, there are two “custom drivers”. They’re clearly positioned on each side of the speaker and diffuse sound towards the front. Bose claims that it’s possible to obtain true stereo sound with the speaker. Clearly, it isn’t, as the soundstage is limited by the speaker’s size and by the two drivers which are too close to each other.
Bose Home Speaker 500: configuration
Contrary to what the speaker indicates, it isn’t the Bose Music application that needs to be downloaded, but the Bose SoundTouch application (on Android devices at any case). The former cannot set up the speaker, whereas the latter was created specifically for this task. As soon as the speaker is detected, the app connects to it and prompts the user to manually reconnect to the usual WiFi network. Thus begins a convoluted process that requires you to repeat the same operation multiple times without really knowing what’s going on…
Eventually, after discovering that our Android smartphone was connected to the Bose SoundTouch speaker’s WiFi access point, we tried to access a hypothetical web interface (http://188.8.131.52). It worked, and we were prompted to enter the password for our main WiFi network.
We then had to use the Bose Music app to finish the installation, which was a success. Finally, the speaker was automatically updated with the latest version of the firmware.
Bose Home Speaker 500: with Alexa
The Bose app successfully added the speaker to our Amazon Alexa account. The official Amazon Alexa app for Android allowed us to set a default music streaming service, as well discover some of the voice assistant’s features. For example, it is possible to define daily routines, to be woken up, listen to the news, the weather, traffic reports and music… The Alexa app also displays the user’s voice demand history and provides examples of actions that the assistant can perform (create a shopping list, read Kindle books…).
For more specific actions, the user can download Skills. There’s a lot to choose from, from nursery rhymes to Fight Club quotes, school canteen menus and Harry Potter encyclopedias. Once a Skill has been installed via the Alexa app, it may be launched using a key phrase: for example, “Alexa, what is my daily news flash?” for the news. The command isn’t sure to work if it is said any differently.
Bose Home Speaker 500: without Alexa
You can listen to music on the Bose Home Speaker 500 without using Alexa. The number of online music services is therefore considerably reduced, leaving only Spotify (subscription required) and TuneIn (no subscription required) available. The official app can be used for Spotify, as the speaker is compatible with Spotify Connect. For TuneIn, you have to go through the Bose Music app, which may also be used to navigate Spotify’s catalogue.
It is impossible, however, to listen to audio files stored on a smartphone via the home network with the Bose Music app, or any other app.
Nonetheless, the Bose Home Speaker 500 can play any music from a smartphone using Bluetooth transmission. Naturally, there is some compression due to the use of the SBC codec.
Lastly, the speaker is fitted with a line input to connect an analog source (CD player, DAP, etc.).
Bose Home Speaker 500: listening impressions
Bose decided to emphasized the lows – thus overshadowing the mids – all whilst adding clarity to the highs.
The restitution is substantial. Anything but neutral.
That said, it is also rather restful and permits long listening sessions without any fatigue. The dynamic range is therefore relatively limited.
Bose Home Speaker 500: compared to…
Sonos One: with a similar format, the Sonos One with Amazon Alexa is more balanced, equipped with state-of-the-art drivers and amplification. This results in a lot more precision for the Sonos speaker, which is more pleasant to listen to. The Sonos app provides access to all online music services (subscriptions required).
Audio Pro Addon BT C5A: this Audio Pro speaker is also more neutral.
Bose Home Speaker 500: conclusion
After a laborious setup, the Bose Home Speaker 500 works really well. Its sound signature will appeal to those who are looking for a cozy atmosphere rather than ultra-precise restitution. Too bad reading audio files from a smartphone isn’t possible. Let’s be honest, Google Assistant and Chromecast compatible speakers are a lot more user-friendly.
What we liked:
- The build quality
- The control screen
- The shortcut buttons for web radios
What we would have liked:
- An easier configuration
- To be able to read MP3 or FLAC files via WiFi
- A richer midrange