Bose Home Speaker 500 Speaker review: Natural midrange, great dynamics

Reading Time: 5 min read
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speaker

Although the Bose Home Speaker 500 is Bose’s very first smart speaker, it is definitely not its first speaker. Unlike Apple, Google, or Amazon speakers, the Home Speaker 500 benefits from the U.S-based company’s decades of experience in producing high-quality speakers, whether they be wired or wireless.

The compact anodized aluminum body, available in “Triple Black” or “Luxe Silver,” carries a microphone array for the built-in Amazon and Google Assistants, as well as two custom-made drivers firing in opposite directions. The result? “A soundstage wider than any other smart speaker, powerful enough to fill any room with an astonishing stereo performance,” says the manufacturer. Very well, then, let’s check on that!

We put the Bose Home Speaker 500 through our rigorous DXOMARK Homespeaker test suite to measure its performance at playing back audio. In this review, we will break down how it fared in a variety of tests across several common use cases.

Key specifications:

  • 2 custom drivers pointing in opposite directions
  • AirPlay 2, Google Cast, Bluetooth 4.2, and 3.5mm jack Aux input
  • Voice services: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Full-color LED screen
  • No IP rating
  • No battery

Test conditions:

  • Tested with iPhone SE iOS 13.5
  • Communication protocol used: AirPlay 2
  • Firmware version: 8.0.14-8927+0aa351d

About DXOMARK Wireless Speaker tests: For scoring and analysis in our wireless speaker reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests and undertake more than 20 hours of perceptual evaluation under controlled lab conditions. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. Note that we evaluate playback using only the device’s built-in hardware. (For more details about our Speaker protocol, click here.) The Bose Home Speaker 500 falls into the Advanced category of devices in the DXOMARK Speaker rankings.

Test summary

Bose Home Speaker 500
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speaker

Its global score of 130 certainly puts Bose’s first smart speaker among the top-ranking devices when it comes to sound quality. The Home Speaker 500 does indeed deliver natural midrange frequencies, clear treble, great dynamics, a decent spatial performance, and good loudness at maximum volume. It is thus particularly suited for listening to music while relaxing at home, during a friendly gathering, or outdoors. It also performs nicely in a kitchen or a bathroom.

The Bose Home Speaker 500 is one of the best speakers we have tested to date.

On the other hand, the Home Speaker 500 does not handle bass well — which may come as a surprise to some of you, since the company is known for its ability to pack strong bass in compact frames. The low end of of the spectrum is impaired by numerous resonances and distortions at loud and maximum volumes, which makes the speaker unsuitable for parties. Its soundstage is also particularly narrow, despite the manufacturer’s promise.

Sub-scores explained

The DXOMARK Speaker overall score of 130 for the Bose Home Speaker 500 is derived from a range of sub-scores. In this section, we will take a closer look at these audio quality sub-scores and explain what they mean for the user, and we will show some comparison data from two of the Bose’s principal competitors in the Advanced category, the Harman Kardon Citation 200 and the Sonos One.

Playback attribute comparisons

Timbre

Bose Home Speaker 500

130

148

Harman Kardon Citation 200

DXOMARK timbre tests measure how well a speaker reproduces sound across the audible tonal range and takes into account bass, midrange, treble, tonal balance, and volume dependency.

Playback timbre comparison

The Bose Home Speaker 500 offers a fairly good timbre performance, thanks to a natural rendition of the midrange frequencies at soft and nominal volume, and clear treble. As a result, voices and typical midrange instruments (violin, viola, guitar, flute, trumpet, harp, piano…) are faithfully reproduced.

Music playback frequency response

Unfortunately, that same midrange becomes inconsistent at loud volumes. Furthermore, the tonal balance is impaired by an excess of low-mid (250 to 500 Hz) resonances and a lack of high- and low-end extension, as shown in the graph (above 10,000 Hz and below 60 Hz).

The Bose speaker is a good choice for relaxing at home.

While its shortcomings at loud volume and at the ends of the spectrum prevent it from being a reliable party companion, its good performance in the midrange at soft and nominal volume makes it a good speaker for relaxing at home or during a small gathering of friends.

Dynamics

Bose Home Speaker 500

116

127

Harman Kardon Citation 200

Our dynamics tests measure how well a device reproduces the energy level of a sound source, taking into account attack, bass precision and punch.

Playback dynamics comparison

With a score of 116, Bose’s smart device delivers an above-average dynamics performance. While punch is excellent at soft and nominal volumes, attack and bass precision are both good — except at respectively quiet and maximum volumes. The dynamic sub-attributes evaluation confirms that the speaker is particularly good for listening to music while relaxing at home or during a friendly gathering, but less so when it comes to partying.

Spatial

Bose Home Speaker 500

99

Highest Score

Our spatial tests measure a speaker’s ability to reproduce stereo sound in all directions, taking into account localizability, balance, wideness, distance, and directivity. Please note that wideness is 0 on mono speakers and speakers that cannot deliver a significant stereo effect.

Playback spatial comparison
The Bose doesn’t truly deliver stereo sound. In our TV use case, it’s hard to locate the sources of sound in space.

There is little wonder why the Home Speaker 500 is not omnidirectional. The treble (blue) curve in the graph below clearly shows two directivity lobes — one toward the left side of the speaker, another one toward the right — which correspond to each of the two drivers. But surprisingly, and unlike Bose’s claim, the speaker doesn’t truly deliver stereo sound, which means the sound will only very slightly differ from left to right, regardless of the mix.

Playback directivity

The soundstage, which is supposed to be “wider than any other smart speaker,” is actually very narrow: both the Amazon Echo Studio and the Google Home Max rendered wider stereo sound fields in our tests.  That said, the balance between left and right is excellent, with content such as voices perfectly centered. Thanks to the faithful rendition of mids, the perceived distance is accurate.

Volume

Bose Home Speaker 500

82

136

Yandex Station

Our volume tests measure both the maximum loudness a speaker is able to produce and how smoothly volume increases and decreases based on user input.

Playback volume comparison
Loudness an maximum volume is good.

The speaker delivers a good loudness performance at maximum volume; however, the consistency sub-score is impaired by the last four volume steps, which are practically the same, and by a lack of linearity in the middle of the curve.

Playback volume consistency comparison

Here are a few sound pressure levels (SPL) we measured when playing our sample recordings of hip-hop and classical music at maximum volume:

Correlated Pink Noise Uncorrelated Pink Noise Hip-Hop Classical Latin Asian Pop
Bose Home Speaker 500 84 dBA 81.9 dBA 82.3 dBA 78.2 dBA 83.2 dBA 75.4 dBA
Harman Kardon Citation 200 86 dBA 85.5 dBA 83.1 dBA 80.2 dBA 84.1 dBA 77.9 dBA
Sonos One 85.6 dBA 83.7 dBA 79.5 dBA 75.5 dBA 81.8 dBA 74.4 dBA

Artifacts

Bose Home Speaker 500

63

122

Amazon Echo Studio

Our artifacts tests measure how much source audio is distorted when played back, along with such other sound artifacts as noise, pumping effects, and clipping. Distortion and other artifacts can occur both because of sound processing and because of the quality of the speakers.

Playback artifacts comparison

In the artifacts area, the Home Speaker 500’s only issue is the massive bass distortion occurring at loud and maximum volumes. However, at other listening levels (nominal, soft, quiet, faint), there is no noticeable distortion. Furthermore, no temporal artifacts (compression) are perceivable, regardless of the volume.

Playback total harmonic distortion
Artifacts are not an issue at low volumes.

While audio latency is contained via Airplay and through the audio jack input, the induced delay is quite elevated in Bluetooth (226 milliseconds on average). We therefore recommend avoiding the Bluetooth connection for synchronized content such as videos, unless you can calibrate the Audio/Video offset.

Conclusion

The Bose Home Speaker 500 falls short of delivering on wideness, and its soundstage has some very noticeable bass distortions at loud and maximum volumes. But its natural midrange rendition, its excellent punch performance, and its good spatial attributes — apart from wideness! — ensure the Bose Speaker 500 a prominent spot among the wireless speakers we have tested so far.

Pros

  • Midrange frequencies sound natural, and treble is clear.
  • Punch is overall powerful, especially at nominal volume.
  • The speaker’s maximum volume offers good loudness.
  • Distance rendering of the sound sources is realistic.
  • The sound is consistent between front/back and left/right side of the device, which makes it suitable for a friendly gathering or an outdoor use.

Cons

  • Bass suffers from massive distortions at loud and maximum volumes.
  • Both high- and low-end extensions are lacking.
  • The sound field produced is particularly narrow.

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