Large home theatre systems are great and they offer a great experience, while watching movies. Unfortunately, there are downsides to it, too. Home theatre systems are complicated, massive and take up a lot of space. For those who don’t like wires lying on the ground, it’s an even bigger nightmare, considering the number of cables that are needed to connect the various sources to the receiver-amplifier and then then on to the various speakers. A sound bar is then the ideal solution to the chaos.
There’s no shortage of companies building these soundbars. There are models starting from as little as Rs.20,000 and those that run into many lakhs. Of course, features and performance are part of the package. The Bose Lifestyle 135 is one of their soundbar systems and it’s been launched in India, just a short while back.
Design and build quality
Unlike floorstanders, soundbars are more compact and are often a slim bar that sit under your television set or is wall mounted. The Bose Lifestyle 135 is no different in this aspect. The sound bar component, itself isn’t too large – it measures roughly 3 feet in length and roughly 6cm in depth, so it’s slim and easy to wall-mount it. The bundled woofer isn’t too large, either – it’s made of wood, unlike the satellite, which is predominantly plastic. Accompanying the woofer and sound bar is the control unit that has all the inputs and output connectors.
No display at the front
Quality wise, the control unit and the sound woofer feel like they’re of good quality. The control unit is elegant and it looks like a really sleek media player – the size of a standard DVD or Blu-ray player. The front of this unit has a small flap that hides some of the connectors – there’s also a panel of physical buttons underneath. The foldable panel is also handy as it helps protect the connectors from collecting dust. There is no display at the front of control unit, though.
The remote control for the Lifestyle 135 is massive and also heavy, thanks to the four AA batteries required to power it. It’s heavy, but it fits well in the hand, even though it’s a little long. Button quality is great and the layout is optimum. The top of the remote has the source selection controls, followed by the volume, channel controls and the media playback controls. There’s also a set of number buttons for quick entry.
Like most of the Bose products, there are no clear performance specifications mentioned in any of the material. This means no total output power in watts or a frequency range. Typically, users would connect source devices to the Bose Lifestyle 135’s control unit and the video signal would be output to a large television or projector. For this reason, there are three HDMI ports at the rear and one at the front for quick access – typically, to connect a camera or camcorder to it. Apart from that, there’s support for a variety of audio and video inputs that ranges from composite to component video connects to coaxial and optical audio inputs. FM and AM radio support are present using external antennas as well. Apple iPod and iPhones can be connected using the dock, though.
No shortage of connectors
There are two USB ports as well – one at the front and the rear, both of which, unfortunately are useful for only viewing photos. Audio and video playback would have been an added bonus – considering products priced at a fraction of its price sport these features. There’s a headphone jack included on the front panel as well.
Power to the control unit comes through a proprietary power connector and there’s also a multi-pin audio connector that sends the signal to the soundbar. The woofer or the soundbar don’t have any controls – for volume or for tweaking the characteristic of the woofer’s sound. All these controls are present on the user interface.
The user interface is very nicely designed. For example, the colours chosen for the UI are elegant and the animations very smooth. The control unit detects inputs and accordingly enables those menus and features on the UI. The unit is really simple to use and the remote control works well with it. Tweaking of the sound can be done in a few button presses. A bunch of other settings, such as the ones for video
Moving on to what matters the most in a audio system – the performance. The Bose Lifestyle 135 performs well. The speakers on the Lifestyle 135 sound bar are able to disperse sound equally and widely across the room. You don’t really get the feeling that the sound is originating from the centre, but it does a good job of surrounding the room. Sure, it’s not as impressive as a proper 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound solution, but it delivers a good sound overall.
The large remote control
The woofer, by default is not very loud. This was the case while playing music from an external source over HDMI. With movies, the power output seems more balanced. Surround sound effects are decent and the woofer adds the needed punch for action packed movies. The soundbar itself renders voice and music rather well. One doesn’t absolutely need to sit in front of the soundbar to appreciate it as the spread of sound through the room feels even. Movies are fun to view with the soundbar in place.
On the music front, it doesn’t sound as rich as a pair of floorstanders would. Metal and rock music, for example don’t sound excellent. There’s some lack of some bass, which can be tweaked a bit. The higher frequency range overpowers the mids, so the sound can be a little shrill and cold sounding. Warmth comes when you cut down the treble a bit. Vocal and classical music sounds great and so does acoustic. Acoustic guitar music has a faint bass sound to it, which the woofer is able to reproduce accurately, along with the soundbar.
A bit on the pricier side
The price of the Bose Lifestyle 135 in India is Rs.1,79,888. Clearly, neither is it a mainstream product, nor is it good value for money. While the design and aesthetics of the product are great, we expected more in terms of features from the control unit that’s part of the kit. The speakers, themselves are good and they deliver. We only have a few complaints about the sound not being exceptional. We also think that a price of close to 1.8 lacs is quite a lot for a soundbar. If you were to ignore the size of your sound solution, you’d be able to invest in a much more sophisticated and a more stunning sounding system.
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