For an additional $100 MSRP, Bose Smart Soundbar 900 adds Dolby Atmos compatibility, ceiling-tilted speakers, and better soundstage than Bose Smart Soundbar 700. The Bose 900 provides stronger bass and much higher sound quality, especially if you have a Dolby Atmos-compatible TV with an eARC connection.
Simply put, the Bose 900 is worth spending the extra money.
If you own a Bose Smart Soundbar 700 already, the 900 isn’t enough of an improvement to justify replacing your 700. For the money it would cost to upgrade to a 900, you could add a Bass Module (subwoofer) or Bose Surround Speakers (rear speakers). And a Bose 700 with a subwoofer and surround speakers will sound significantly better than a Bose 900 without these add-ons.
If your budget is tight, or if your TV isn’t compatible with Dolby Atmos, the Bose 700 is still a great soundbar. Now that the Bose 900 has been released, it may be possible to find the 700 available for a discount.
Neither Bose 700 or Bose 900 is a perfect soundbar, but the 900 comes closer. If you are looking for a great all-in-one soundbar for less than $1,000, either the Bose 700 or Bose 900 is a great option.
The appearance of these two soundbars is extremely similar. Because the Bose 900 is just a refresh of the Bose 700, this makes sense. Bose 900 is a couple inches longer, but the devices are otherwise nearly identical in design.
Even though Bose 900 is slightly larger than the 700, it is still quite a bit smaller than its closest competitor, Sonos Arc, which is ~4 inches longer than Bose 900.
The rectangular shape of both the 700 and 900 has sharp, crisp lines. The glass top also has an elegance that most soundbars can’t match.
From a functional standpoint, the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is a big upgrade. Instead of the simple center/left/right channel setup of the Bose 700, the 900 also adds ceiling-tilted speakers for a surround sound experience. This makes it a closer competitor to the Sonos Arc. This will be covered in much more detail later in this article, but if you are wondering whether these added speakers make much of a difference, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Bose 900 doesn’t include a subwoofer or rear speakers, but is compatible with the Bose Bass Module 700 (subwoofer) and Bose Surround Speakers 700. For an additional $1,200 – $1,400, these add-ons will take your home theater setup to the next level. If you don’t have a $2,000 budget, don’t worry, because the Bose 900 is excellent as a standalone soundbar.
Both the 700 and 900 include a remote. The remote on the 700 has more functions and provides a little more flexibility. Evidently the goal with the new remote for the 900 was simplicity, but it doesn’t feel like an upgrade.
Design winner: Bose 900
As mentioned above, Bose 700 is a simple 3.0 soundbar with a center, left, and right channel.
On the other hand, Bose 900 adds ceiling-tilted speakers to achieve a surround sound effect. These speakers were a key reason why many users chose the Sonos Arc (which has upward-facing speakers) rather than the Bose 700 (which lacks upward-facing speakers). So, by adding speakers, Bose 900 will surely recapture some market share from Sonos Arc.
The first question people will ask is whether or not the ceiling-tilted speakers make a difference. In our testing, the answer is that they make a significant difference. The surround sound is more immersive with the Bose 900 than Bose 700. Other users and reviews tend to agree with this assessment.
Both Bose Smart Soundbar 700 and Bose Smart Soundbar 900 sound excellent for movies and music alike. To my ear, the 900 has better sound quality for movies. The soundstage is wider by a clearly-noticeable margin. And the three-dimensional audio effect from the upward-facing speakers is evident.
Even beyond the soundstage and surround sound, Bose 900 just has a crispness and clarity that Bose 700 lacks. When you factor in the improved bass on the 900, the sound quality battle becomes pretty lopsided.
For music, 700 and 900 both perform well. For a home theater setup, 900 is the clear winner. Even beyond the sound quality upgrade, you also get more features and functionality with the 900.
Another knock on the Bose 700, which causes many users to purchase the Sonos Arc instead, is the lack of Dolby Atmos compatibility. Dolby Atmos, in oversimplified terms, is a “better” form of surround sound which is capable of “creating” sound anywhere in the 3D space of your home theater.
Because Bose 700 lacks Dolby Atmos and upward-facing speakers, sound is emitted from a left, right, or center channel only. This creates a flatter, more two-dimensional audio.
Bose 900, on the other hand, is compatible with Dolby Atmos. Again, this makes it a more worthy competitor to the Sonos Arc.
Dolby Atmos sound through the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 has a more immersive quality, putting you in the middle of movie scenes. With this setup, you can hear sound coming from overhead and even behind you.
However, Dolby Atmos on the Bose 900 has some limitations.
Dolby Atmos on Bose 900 — Further Discussion
First, if your TV doesn’t have an eARC connection, Atmos is irrelevant. Generally, only newer TVs have the eARC output.
A TV with a traditional ARC connection, which is combined with an HDMI port and may be labelled “HDMI ARC,” will transmit a downgraded version of Atmos which is just Dolby Digital Plus.
Additionally, even if your TV has the newer eARC connection, most streaming services with “Dolby Atmos” actually use the downgraded version of “Atmos” which is Dolby Digital Plus.
So, it sounds great in theory that Bose 900 supports Dolby Atmos, the latest and greatest version of surround sound. But, you will really only get true Dolby Atmos through your Bose 900 if it is hooked up to a new TV with eARC, and if the media (such as Blu-ray) also supports Dolby Atmos.
One final point to discuss: even if one of the above situations applies, and results in Dolby Atmos being downgraded to Dolby Digital Plus, audio will still be higher quality on Bose 900 than Bose 700. This is because Bose 900 is compatible with Dolby Digital Plus, while Bose 900 is not. Bose 700 is compatible with Dolby Digital only.
Another difference between Bose Smart Soundbar 700 and 900 is that the 700 supports DTS audio, whereas the 900 does not. For Blu-ray and some other media, this may be an issue, and may lead some to choose the 700 rather than the 900.
Any discussion of sound codecs quickly becomes technical and complicated. For the sake of brevity, we won’t go into a great amount of detail here. But if you have a strong preference for DTS format versus other codecs, it makes sense to do some further reading on the topic.
Sound quality winner: Bose 900
Software & Features
Overall Thoughts on Setup & Software
Because both soundbars are recent models from Bose, the software and features are similar across the board.
Setup on both systems was relatively simple for a tech-savvy individual. Some people may find it moderately challenging. My only complaint is that you are asked to download an app which guides you through the setup process. Most of us have used a device that features an app-based setup, and I often find them frustrating.
Once set up, both soundbars are generally easy to use. However, each has some limitations and eccentricities. Bose software is frustrating, and very poor considering the high quality of the Bose soundbars as a whole. Software updates are time-consuming, which can be annoying when you just want to get the system fired up and test it.
Bluetooth and Accessory Connection
Bose 700 lacks the eARC jack to support Dolby Atmos, but it has bluetooth. Bose 900 has both the eARC jack and a bluetooth connection.
Both the Bose 700 and the Bose 900 have built-in microphones. Each works with Alexa and Google Assistant. The microphones are high quality, but neither voice assistant functioned perfectly. In our testing, we have yet to find a smart soundbar that has a flawless voice assistant. Still, it is better to have one than not.
If you have an older Bose sound system or speaker that you wish to connect to a Bose 700 or 900, verify whether or not the 700 or 900 allows it. Neither soundbar is especially backward-compatible with older devices.
The Bose 700 is compatible with both the Bass Module 500 and Bass Module 700.
We expected that the Bose 900 would phase out compatibility with the Bass Module 500. Thankfully, the Bose 900 is still compatible with both the Bass Module 500 and Bass Module 700.
Software winner: Tie
Both Bose 700 and 900 should hold up for a lot of years. Bose soundbars, and the Bose 700 in particular, have excellent reliability. The build quality of each is solid, and device failure is rare. The soundbars only come with a one year warranty from Bose, but either device should last well beyond that period.
Bose 700 has been around since 2018, and many of these devices are still in use.
Since Bose 900 is a recent release (2021), we don’t have much evidence of longevity. But, the build quality is solid, and the history of previous Bose soundbars leads us to believe that Bose 900 will be a reliable device.
In terms of device lifespan, the bigger concern with both Bose 700 and Bose 900 is how quickly the device will become obsolete. Generally, Bose abandons their products quickly and leaves old products without support.
If you are concerned with device failure due to workmanship or build quality, stick with the Bose Smart Soundbar 700. We have three years’ worth of evidence that the device is durable and well-built.
But if software obsolescence or lack of device support is your bigger concern, spend the extra ~$100 on Bose Smart Soundbar 900. The 900 is three years newer, and should have support from Bose for a lot of years.
Reliability winner: Tie (Bose 700 for track record, Bose 900 for continued software support)
Bose 900 provides a better surround sound experience, especially if you have a new-model TV with an eARC connection.
If you are planning to purchase a new soundbar, choose the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. It retails for ~$100 more, and gives you a much improved soundbar for the extra price. You get better sound quality, more bass, more immersive surround sound, and access to Dolby Atmos (and Dolby Digital Plus).
If you already own a Bose Smart Soundbar 700, the new version probably isn’t different enough to justify spending nearly a thousand dollars to upgrade. You would be better off purchasing a Bose Bass Module, since a 700 soundbar with the subwoofer will give better sound than a standalone 900 soundbar.
On the used market, you can score better deals on the Bose 700. If you can save a few hundred dollars on Bose 700 (whether by buying used or finding a closeout price), it may be worth saving the money. This is especially true if you don’t care about Dolby Atmos, or you have an older TV that lacks an eARC port, since Bose 700 is a great soundbar in its own right.