Making a speaker small normally means that you have to sacrifice on audio quality. But Bose has proven time and time again that speakers in small packages can sound really good. Products like the Bose SoundLink Mini and SoundLink III sound terrific considering the size and while these speakers fall under the battery-powered Bluetooth speaker category, these speakers can also function as TV speakers thanks to the standard audio jack. Having the speaker serve double-duty makes the pricey investment worthwhile and you should notice some improvements to the audio quality. However, the SoundLink series wasn’t really made for TV use. In fact, Bose has a more dedicated lineup if you are looking for something that sounds better than your TV’s built-in speakers. You can either pick one of the Bose CineMate models which are basically sound bars or you can a Bose Solo model like the Bose Solo 15 if you prefer a pedestal soundbar.
The Solo 15 has a simple black design that looks like it was designed to blend in with other home theater components. It measures close to 25 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 3 inches tall and weighs a good 12 pounds but the speaker is sturdy enough to handle the load of 50-inch TVs and smaller. Although the speaker is specially made as a pedestal soundbar, the speaker also looks fine on its own in case you have a bigger TV. The Bose logo is the only thing you will see on the front of the speaker and the front itself curves nicely outward giving the unit a modern feel. When turned on, a small status indicator will appear below the logo. It can change color and blink depending on the system’s state.
The Bose Solo 15 is so basic to the point that you won’t find any buttons on the front or back of the unit. The back does have a knob for bass adjustment but the rest of the elements there are just connection ports. Aside from the essential power button, all you really need to care about is the three ports within the “TV” group. This speaker supports coaxial, optical and analog connections and you only need to pick one. Of course, it is best to pick the coaxial or optical ports if you want the best possible audio quality.
With no power button or any other form of physical control on the speaker, you have to resort to the remote control to operate the other features. While the Solo 15 should work with a number of universal remote controls, the remote that comes with the package isn’t worth losing. For a soundbar remote control, it has an unusually large amount of buttons. This is because this remote is actually a fully-fledged universal remote that you can use on your TV and other devices. You can switch sources, control the playback of a media player, change the channel and even activate a few special TV functions if your TV supports it. It is really nice for Bose to include this as it adds significant value to the overall package.
Other than being your TV’s best friend, the Bose Solo 15 doesn’t do much else. Unlike other soundbars, the Solo 15 lacks Bluetooth functionality which might be a bummer for some people as it could have been nice if you can wirelessly stream music and put those powerful drivers to good use even if the TV is off. But the Bose Solo 15 is still a good one-trick-pony as it is extremely easy to set up. After making the appropriate connection, you should be able to power it on and use it after you mute the TV’s built-in speaker.
The Solo 15 also comes with a simple power-saving feature that automatically switches off the speaker after it has been idle for an hour. You can also have the speaker automatically wake up if a sound signal is received by holding the power button for 5 seconds. It is also pretty easy to make the remote control recognize the TV – just hold the TV button until the other source buttons glow and then enter the code that matches your TV manufacturer. The package also includes a book containing all the universal remote device codes.
The Bose Solo 15 isn’t loud enough to fill the living room with upbeat music but the 5 drivers within the speaker do a much better job in producing clean audio than integrated TV speakers and Bose’s own SoundLink family. It is really a soundbar tailored for movies as it uses Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to optimize the audio fidelity even for lower volumes. You can also activate a special Dialog mode on the remote control to put a bit more emphasis on dialogs. Aside from the bass adjustment, there isn’t much else you can do with the speaker.
The Solo 15 is priced at a fairly steep $449.95 but when you consider the pedestal design, very simple setup and its passable audio quality for TV usage, it rises to the occasional. The universal remote is a nice inclusion too but hopefully its successor will add Bluetooth capabilities and extra audio options so its role extends beyond the TV too.
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