Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 evaluate: House theater energy bar

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3

MSRP $999.00

“The Panorama 3 is a visceral performer with a number of lacking options.”

Professionals

  • Exceptionally highly effective
  • Elegant design
  • Amazon Alexa built-in
  • Hello-res audio compatibility
  • Robust low-end bass
  • Stirring performances for films

Cons

  • Not expandable
  • No HDMI inputs
  • No room correction
  • No peak channel changes

There’s a cadre of soundbars designed to be full residence theater replacements, all beginning at round $900. And never solely do they assist trendy encompass sound codecs like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, they can even develop through add-on audio system and subwoofers, providing you with most flexibility when it comes to room measurement, immersion, and funding. They usually double as sensible audio system too. These embrace the Sonos Arc ($899), Bose Sensible Soundbar 900 ($899), Sony HT-A5000 ($999), and LG SP9YA ($1,000).

Curiously, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) — a reputation that’s synonymous with world-class audio — has determined to throw its recent Panorama 3 ($999) soundbar into this combine, however with out the power to develop it past a single speaker. B&W says that is intentional, because it needs to offer prospects with the best and easiest setup doable. However has the venerable U.Okay. model stripped away too many options in its quest to be plug-and-play? Let’s have a look.

Design

Wide shot of the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Is there a Bowers & Wilkins “look?” On condition that merchandise just like the PX7 headphones, Formation wi-fi audio system, and Nautilus wired audio system appear like they had been designed by utterly totally different corporations, I’m unsure that there’s. But when I had been to choose a top quality that unites them, it might be sophistication, a phrase that I feel describes the Panorama 3 as nicely. With its tasteful mix of material, glass, and plastic, and its low-slung, hexagonal form, it completely straddles the road between stealth and sculpture, fading into the background whenever you’re centered in your film, whereas avoiding the ugly black plastic rectangle look of so many different soundbars.

At 46 inches extensive and solely 2.5 inches tall, it shouldn’t have any drawback discovering a house sitting in entrance of any TV 50 inches in display screen measurement or bigger. Relying in your TV, it’d even match between the legs in the event that they’re positioned on the furthest width. However, as with all soundbars which have up-firing peak channel drivers (which the Panorama has), you’ll improve efficiency for those who maintain it nicely ahead of the TV.

The Panorama’s biggest weak spot is its lack of expandability.

In case your TV is wall-mounted, B&W features a bespoke mounting bracket — a rarity at this value vary — which is designed to drift the Panorama nearly flush to the wall. I didn’t strive it, however I did pull off the small rubber gaskets on the again of the soundbar that conceal the interior sockets and I used to be in a position to insert the corresponding assist bars effortlessly — an excellent signal that it is going to work as designed.

I confess to being simply impressed by small issues and I’m fairly a fan of the Panorama’s contact controls. They lay hidden beneath that central glass floor, and robotically illuminate when your hand approaches. Granted, that tumbler will want frequent cleansing for those who use the controls loads, however that looks like a small value to pay.

Proper beneath the B&W emblem on the entrance face of the speaker is a skinny LED strip. Since the Panorama can double as an Amazon Alexa-powered sensible speaker, that LED indicator is primarily used for visible suggestions when issuing voice instructions. The remainder of the time, it stays darkish.

Connections

Close-up of the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3's connections.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

I discussed B&W’s deal with simplicity within the introduction, and nowhere is that extra obvious than whenever you have a look at the Panorama’s again panel. There, you’ll discover an HDMI ARC/eARC port (misleadingly labeled as simply “HDMI”), an optical port, an Ethernet port, a USB-C port, and the enter for the speaker’s energy cable. Which may sound like loads, however it isn’t. The USB-C port is strictly for service, that means you possibly can’t use it to attach different gadgets. The Ethernet port is helpful for many who have Ethernet cables close to their TVs (however the onboard Wi-Fi is greater than able to dealing with networking duties). Which leaves the HDMI and optical ports.

In contrast to many soundbars that present an HDMI and an optical port, however then power you to choose only one to make use of along with your tools (ahem, Sony), you need to use each ports on the Panorama. The soundbar will robotically use the port that it detects as having an energetic sign, however you possibly can power it to modify manually utilizing the Bowers & Wilkins Music app.

B&W hasn’t outfitted the Panorama 3 with any sort of room-correction system.

Nonetheless, the Panorama shares a weak spot that’s widespread to all Dolby Atmos soundbars that lack a devoted HDMI enter passthrough port to go alongside their HDMI ARC/eARC ports: In case your TV doesn’t assist Dolby Atmos output through HDMI ARC/eARC, you won’t find a way to get Dolby Atmos sound from the Panorama. You’ll nonetheless get fairly great-sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 in case your film or TV present helps it (identical as you’d through the optical port), however not true Dolby Atmos.

To be clear, B&W isn’t the one firm that has made this alternative — we’ve seen it on fashions from Sonos, Bose, and Polk Audio, too.

Setup

Getting the Panorama arrange is comparatively painless, however it’s a multistep course of and also you’ll want a telephone to do it.

Step one is to obtain and set up the Bowers & Wilkins Music app. Whenever you launch it, you’ll be required to create an account; you possibly can’t use the app with out one. From there, the app will stroll you thru the setup directions, together with plugging the Panorama into energy and your selected TV connection, figuring out the soundbar in your Wi-Fi community, after which including it to a particular room in your property (B&W calls these “areas”).

Afterward, you possibly can add any streaming companies chances are you’ll be subscribed to which can be additionally supported by the B&W app — I’ll talk about the Panorama’s music capabilities in additional element later.

The general setup course of is sort of just like those utilized by Sonos and Bose, however with one massive exception: B&W hasn’t outfitted the Panorama 3 with any sort of room-correction system, a giant, stunning lacking function on a soundbar of this caliber. Sonos has TruePlay, Bose has its AdaptiQ system, and Sony makes use of built-in microphones on its Atmos soundbars to measure how sound travels round your house, in order that it might probably make the mandatory changes. There’s no option to make handbook changes as an alternative.

Whenever you’re completed with the preliminary setup, you need to use the app so as to add Amazon Alexa to the Panorama for those who select. It’s fully non-obligatory, however for those who personal different non-B&W, Alexa-capable audio system, it’s the one option to allow the Panorama as a part of a multiroom audio system.

All the above is the advisable option to arrange the Panorama, however deep in the complete directions — which B&W doesn’t embrace within the field — you’ll discover there’s one other option to arrange the speaker that doesn’t contain the app in any respect. After initially powering it up, you possibly can press and maintain on the multifunction contact management (the icon with the three vertical strains) till the Panorama enters Bluetooth-only mode. At this level, it is going to perform accurately as a TV speaker, and also you’ll find a way to pair and stream music from Bluetooth gadgets, however you received’t have entry to any Wi-Fi options like AirPlay 2, Spotify Join, or Amazon Alexa. You furthermore may received’t find a way to make use of the B&W Music app to vary settings like bass or treble, or maintain the speaker up to date with recent software program.

Controls

Close-up of the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3's touch controls.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Controlling the Panorama is easy. However as with the soundbar’s connections, easy is solely one other phrase for “restricted.” With out its personal devoted handheld remote control, quantity and muting is dealt with by your TV’s distant. When linked to your TV through HDMI, distant synchronization ought to occur robotically by way of the wonders of Client Electronics Management (HDMI-CEC), however for those who’re utilizing the optical port, chances are you’ll must train the Panorama learn how to reply to your TV distant’s infrared instructions by way of a studying function constructed into the app.

Screenshot of the Bowers & Wilkins Music app for iOS tone controls.The under-glass contact controls offer you entry to quantity up/down, however surprisingly, there’s no option to mute the amount both from the bar itself or through the B&W Music app. Actually, the app is bereft of lots of the audio controls I’ve grow to be accustomed to, like loudness, EQ presets for film and music modes, 3D upconverting, an evening mode for diminished dynamic vary, or the power to spice up or decrease the extent of the peak channel drivers. B&W provides you two sliders for bass and treble management, however that’s it.

These may very well be chalked up as minor annoyances, I suppose, however there’s one lacking management that might probably make you very irritated: An adjustment for TV dialogue synchronization. It’s a little bit of an edge case, however some older TVs that use HDMI ARC (versus the newer eARC) can take extra time to course of the picture you see on-screen than they do to output sound to the soundbar. In these circumstances, the dialogue sound can precede the motion of characters’ lips. With the ability to introduce a slight delay on the soundbar can repair this.

I’d even be remiss if I didn’t indicate that, very similar to the Sonos Arc and Bose Sensible Soundbar 900, there is no such thing as a visible indicator on the Panorama 3 for quantity stage. You’ll need to depend on no matter on-screen suggestions your TV offers (or your individual ears, I suppose) to know whenever you’ve efficiently bumped the amount up or down, however the solely approach you’ll know the place you might be on the soundbar’s personal quantity scale is to examine the B&W Music app.

Not that I contemplate Amazon Alexa a management per se, however getting it arrange on the Panorama was straightforward and the speaker’s inner mics are extraordinarily delicate, even selecting up voice instructions from adjoining rooms.

Sound high quality for films and TV

Close-up of the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3's height channel driver.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 is a powerful performer with distinctive energy. Should you need a soundbar that may fill even the most important of leisure areas with sound, that is your speaker. My media room actually isn’t large at about 16 toes by 22 toes, however I couldn’t run the Panorama increased than about 50% earlier than I needed to again it off — it’s simply that loud.

The center ranges are detailed and the highs are extremely clear — at occasions achingly so, verging on harsh. Some sibilance crept in at times, particularly when streaming music, however lowering the treble adjustment helped to maintain it at bay.

The built-in subwoofers aren’t any match for devoted subs, however there’s loads of low-end oomph and I even have but to audition a single-speaker soundbar that may do significantly better. Sony’s HT-A7000 is the exception, however it additionally prices an excellent bit extra.

The Panorama 3 actually places the “theater” in residence theater with a very visceral efficiency.

Heart-channel focus and readability may be very sturdy and that results in clear and intelligible dialogue. It bests the Sonos Arc on this space and is an excellent match for the Bose 900. The identical is true for stereo separation when enjoying two-channel TV audio or music.

In the case of watching films and TV exhibits, whether or not in Dolby Atmos or not, the Panorama creates a vivid and energetic soundscape, with spectacular quantities of element. Sonically, it casts a big web, and its up-firing peak drivers assist to create the impression that you simply’ve acquired audio system mounted close to the ceiling, on both facet of your TV. These results are most pronounced when enjoying Atmos content material.

Wide shot of the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 seen next to the Sonos Arc.Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 (left) and Sonos Arc. Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

However there are a two caveats. The primary has to do with the way in which the Panorama 3 powers every of its 3.1.2 channels. As a result of there aren’t any unbiased stage controls for the “.2” peak channels, I needed to push the speaker to that almost-too-loud 50% stage as a way to actually get essentially the most from Dolby Atmos’ peak results. Motion pictures like Mad Max: Fury Highway, Ford v. Ferrari, and No Time To Die all sound nice at this quantity — the Panorama actually places the “theater” in residence theater — with a very visceral efficiency. However easing again to extra reasonable ranges (the sort you’ll use more often than not) diminishes the expertise dramatically.

There’s an excellent scene in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, the place Duke Leto and his son, Paul, stage a rescue of spice harvesters on the desert planet of Arrakis as their harvesting platform is about to be attacked by a large sandworm. With the amount cranked, the soundtrack’s drumming beat created implausible urgency because the worm approaches, and the disembodied voices that Paul hears moved ghostlike across the entrance of my media room. However the Panorama merely couldn’t keep the depth and immersion of these results at decrease volumes.

The opposite caveat is the Panorama’s biggest weak spot: Its lack of expandability. B&W says that is by design and the corporate promotes its simplicity as a energy. However for those who discover the low-frequency results missing, or for those who really feel these entrance three channels simply aren’t providing you with the sort of immersion you count on from a Dolby Atmos system, there’s nothing you possibly can do.

In contrast to nearly each different soundbar on this value vary, there’s merely no choice so as to add an exterior subwoofer or satellite tv for pc encompass audio system, be they wired or wi-fi items.

Sound high quality for music

Close-up of the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3's front with touch controls.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

On paper, the Panorama 3 has every little thing it must be a standout speaker for music. It helps lossless hi-res audio streaming from throughout the B&W Music app, it consists of Apple AirPlay 2 for CD-quality 16-bit/44.1 kHz streaming from Apple merchandise, and it even affords aptX Adaptive compatibility for as much as 24-bit/96kHz lossy streaming from Android smartphones which have Qualcomm’s Bluetooth tech. Sure, Chromecast Constructed-in would have been good, however given the opposite specs, it’s not a deal-breaker. Then again, I used to be upset at the dearth of assist for DLNA or some other methodology for listening to music saved on a neighborhood community.

Though the B&W Music app is a far cry from the Sonos app in the case of music administration and streaming, it’s higher than many others, and has sturdy looking out and favoriting options. Bowers & Wilkins is doing an excellent job with supported streaming companies: Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, TuneIn, Final.Fm, Soundcloud, NTS, Sprint Radio, QQ Music and Ximalaya are all included at this time, and B&W says that each Pandora and Amazon Music can be added shortly. When that occurs, you’ll have two lossless hi-res streaming choices in Qobuz and Amazon Music. There’s additionally Spotify Join assist, and B&W claims that if Spotify ever makes good on its promise of a hi-fi tier, the Panorama can be prepared.

The tuning of the speaker’s excessive frequencies creates a coldness to the vocals.

These are the specs. In follow, the Panorama 3 produces correct, full-range sound, with an EQ that comes very near the coveted impartial stability that audiophiles crave. I discovered there have been solely minor high quality variations when streaming from Tidal HiFi throughout the app over Wi-Fi, or when utilizing Bluetooth with my aptX Adaptive check telephone, a Xiaomi 12 Professional. As with most soundbars I’ve examined, you’ll get the best possible outcomes for those who stream your music out of your TV over HDMI utilizing both a built-in app on the TV or through a linked streaming machine like an Apple TV 4K.

However nearly as good because the Panorama is for music — and it’s loud sufficient to energy a small rave — I desire the way in which the competitors sounds. The tuning of the speaker’s excessive frequencies that I discussed above,creates a coldness to the vocals. The processing additionally introduces a hollowness that I attribute to the TV-oriented tuning, which feels like it’s attempting to introduce further depth, however doesn’t fairly succeed.

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 shown in front of a TV.Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

The Sonos Arc is hotter and makes use of its multichannel speaker array to larger impact, and for those who like a extra impartial EQ, the Bose 900 sounds much less processed, and affords a good extra expansive soundstage whereas managing to keep away from the Panorama’s chilliness. In the meantime, Sony’s AT-5000 is a musical Swiss military knife, with tons of format assist (Chromecast, AirPlay, hi-res Bluetooth with LDAC, and Sony 360RA) and wonderful sound high quality. Once more, it’s the Panorama’s lack of settings that hurts it right here. The bass and treble controls are efficient, however they solely go to date.

Our take

I respect Bowers & Wilkins’s want to make the Panorama 3 an easy and great-sounding turn-key soundbar. It’s superbly designed, and at the suitable quantity ranges, it’s a helluva nice residence theater speaker. However with no expandability, restricted settings, and music replica that isn’t nearly as good as its friends, I feel most individuals can be happier with different choices in the identical value vary.

Is there a greater various?

I’ve but to seek out a soundbar at this value that may match the Panorama 3 for sheer energy, however as I’ve highlighted all through this evaluate, these merchandise every have strengths that make them sturdy alternate options (bullets characterize options that the Panorama lacks):

Sonos Arc ($899)

  • 5.0.2-channel processing
  • Alexa or Google assistant
  • Expandable
  • Changes for peak channels
  • Room calibration
  • Very good multiroom audio assist
  • Higher general Dolby Atmos efficiency
  • DTS compatibility

Bose Sensible Soundbar 900 ($899)

  • 5.0.2-channel processing
  • Alexa or Google Assistant
  • Expandable
  • Devoted distant
  • Changes for peak channels
  • Room calibration
  • Higher for music
  • Chromecast Constructed-in

Sony HT-A5000 ($998)

  • 5.1.2-channel processing
  • Alexa or Google assistant
  • Expandable
  • Devoted distant
  • Changes for peak channels
  • Room calibration
  • DTS:X compatibility
  • Chromecast Constructed-in
  • HDMI enter with 8K/Dolby Imaginative and prescient passthrough

How lengthy will it final?

Given Bowers & Wilkins wonderful popularity for constructing high quality merchandise, I count on the Panorama 3 will final so long as you would like it to. The one caveat could be for those who resolve to run it with out a community connection, during which case an absence of entry to firmware updates could shorten its helpful life span. B&W backs the Panorama 3 with a two-year guarantee.

Must you purchase it?

Sure. Should you’re aware of the Panorama 3’s limitations, and suppose it is going to meet your wants, it’s a superb single-speaker residence theater resolution for medium-to-large-size media rooms.

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