Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 Review: The Best All-in-One Soundbar?
Bowers & Wilkins is one of the biggest audio brands in the world and is officially ready to join the spatial soundbar revolution. The Panorama 3 brings all the experience of B&W’s long history of building loudspeakers (even for Abbey Road!), as well as lessons learned from their last soundbar in this line, the Panorama 2. It features a whopping 13 speakers, Dolby Atmos support, native integration with major streaming services and high-resolution Bluetooth connectivity with the AptX Adaptive Codec. With an MSRP of $999, it’s not cheap, but this is a great option for an Atmos-enabled all-in-one soundbar at this price point.
- Current price: $999 (Amazon)
- Technical characteristics
- HDMI eARC
- Discrete Dolby Atmos 3.1.2
- Dolby TrueHD
- Compatible with the Bowers & Wilkins Music App
- Alexa enabled
- Spotify Connect
- drive units
- 3 x 19mm (0.75″) titanium dome tweeters
- 6 x 50mm (2″) woven fiberglass bass/midrange drivers
- 2 x 50mm (2″) Atmos woven fiberglass drive unit
- 2 x 100mm (4″) low profile bass unit
- Audio format support
- Dolby Atmos
- Dolby Digital TrueHD
- Dolby Digital+
- 1 x HDMI eARC
- 1 x digital audio input (Toslink)
- 1 x RJ45 Ethernet
- 1 x USB-C (service port only)
- Frequency Response: 43Hz – 48kHz
- Input voltage: 100V – 240V, 50/60Hz
- Amplifier power: 400 W
- Standby Power Consumption: Less than 2W
- Bluetooth connections:
- Bluetooth 5, class 2
- aptX™ Adaptive
- Supported communication
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 2.5″ x 47.6″ x 5.5″.
- Weight: 14.3 pounds
- AirPlay2 Compatibility: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch with iOS 11.4 or later, Apple TV 4K or Apple TV (4th generation) with tv OS 11.4 or later, Mac or PC with iTunes 12.8 or later.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 – Overview, Design and Features
The Panorama 3 is an all-in-one soundbar that, if you’ll forgive the cliché, is capable of delivering room-filling sound. As cliché as it may be to call it that, it is quite true in every sense of the word. Sound quality is big and wide, with a sense of height and scale that extends up into the room thanks to the upward-firing speakers. This is true for music and TV shows, which lack Dolby Atmos, but is even better when they offer it.
The sound bar is big. It must be. Inside its 47-inch chassis are 13 different speakers, each tuned for different parts of the frequency spectrum and purposes. Three 0.75-inch titanium dome tweeters provide the highs. Six 2-inch fiber optic drivers span bass and mids. A pair of 4-inch subwoofers handle the punch and rumble of the bass and sub-bass, centrally located in large chambers. Completing the arrangement is a set of two Atmos woven glass drivers that angle upwards to reflect sound off your ceiling.
However, the size requires a large TV to look reasonably large. Our TV is a 65 inch TV and looks appropriate centered underneath. A 55-inch would be the bare minimum, with anything else resulting in the soundbar stretching beyond the confines of your screen – which you can do if you don’t mind the looks.
Compared to the Panorama 2, this new speaker has shrunk. It’s only 2.5 inches tall, so it easily fits under the plane of your screen. It’s not advisable to position it directly under your TV, however, as something above the soundbar will interfere with the Atmos speakers. B&W also includes a wall mount in the box that fits under a wall-mounted TV, but I didn’t use it during my testing. Above, the entertainment center works fine.
The Panorama 3 is a good looking device. That’s important because you’ll be watching a lot, and Bowers & Wilkins did well here. It’s modern and elegant. The angular design is attractive, and the fabric sleeve and perforated top are both attractive. The centerpiece, however, is certainly the control pad.
In the center of the device is a glossy black display. When not in use, it goes to sleep and only displays the three middle bars to indicate it has power. A built-in sensor brings the display to life when your hand is near it, showing volume and play/pause controls, as well as a circle button that can be used to summon Alexa. This area is also where you’ll find the only non-black material on the device, which is the Bowers & Wilkins logo itself. It looks good and works consistently and reliably.
It’s a design that oozes sophistication. With just a little time, you can see the revisions that the engineers and product designers must have gone through, iterating and iterating and iterating until the Panorama 3 got where we find it today. It’s easy to set up and even easier to use.
On the back we find the IO, exemplifying this design ethos. You have Optical In, HDMI In (with eARC support, of course), Ethernet and power. Once it’s out of the box, plug in your source and then complete the initial setup with the Bower & Wilkins Music app guiding you through the process.
Setting up the Panorama is easy and painless. Once connected, the app will recognize the soundbar and let you name the room it’s in (you can have multiple bars in different rooms of your home to create a multi-speaker array for household audio). You also program the soundbar to recognize the inputs from your TV remote, as the Panorama 3 doesn’t come with its own. Once it’s detected, you’ll be greeted with a number of different audiophile favorite music streaming apps that have native integration, like Tidal and Deezer. Spotify is also supported, but within its own app. And of course you can also stream via Bluetooth using the high-resolution AptX Adaptive Codec for full high-fidelity listening.
The app also allows you a limited amount of control to customize the sound. Once you click into the settings, there are +/- 6dB sliders for bass and treble. Turning the bass up all the way can make up for the lack of a subwoofer or the ability to buy one separately and add it at a later date. This all-in-one has a surprising amount of oomph that you might not find necessary. Still, I found I cranked up the bass for games and movies during the day and scaled it back down at night after the kids had gone to bed.
That simplicity is a double-edged sword, and the Gambit B&W makes the point here. You won’t find any additional modes for movies or games. There is no second HDMI input to power a game console. There is no subwoofer or remote control. It’s a simple all-in-one that promises excellent tuning out of the box, with a moderate amount of tone shaping to tailor it more directly to your tastes. This is the same goal as its main competitor, the Sonos Arcaims to.
Let’s get to the impressions.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 sound quality and usage impressions over one month
I’ve been able to live with the Panorama 3 for about a month and use it daily for testing. During that time, I’ve used it for movies, music, and gaming. I’m more of a personal audio enthusiast so far in my listening career but I know good sound when I hear it and this soundbar sounds great.
Regardless of the type of content you enjoy it with, it delivers full sound rich in detail. Hear Coheed and Cambria pearl of stars, The ominous drone that opens the song took on a whole other level of impending fear while still retaining all the detail in the singer’s voice and the precise timbre of the acoustic guitar. Streaming from services that support Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio takes listening to a whole new level as sounds pour in from all sides.
Playing is also a special joy. This soundbar is a huge upgrade from the Bose TV speakers Soundbar which I had used before and was impressed with (and still am for the price!). However, the sense of scale and spaciousness of the sound is on another level even without Dolby Atmos (more on that in a moment). Positionality is great, and the cinematic quality of bass response really enhances immersion and enjoyment.
It’s even better for movies and streaming. Dolby Atmos with music is fun, but there’s nothing quite like being sucked into an Atmos-enabled show and hearing the surroundings of the characters around you. When watching Moon Knight on Disney Plus, my wife and I noticed how extra realistic sounds seemed to come from left, right, and up. The speaker array works beautifully in unison, creating a very cohesive soundscape.
However, the Atmos effect is more subtle than I expected. This isn’t a soundbar that’s going to blow your mind with its Atmos implementation, unless you’ve never heard it before. It’s at this level that the Sonos Arc has an advantage, in my opinion. To my ear, however, it seems like Bower & Wilkins are aiming for realism more than the wow factor, consistent with their overall approach to accurate, enjoyable audio.
At $999, however, things were a bit too simple for my liking. If you’re hoping to enjoy Atmos audio from your gaming console, you’ll be out of luck due to the lack of a second HDMI port. I also wish B&W would open the gates a bit more and allow for custom EQ tailored for different types of content. If you’re the kind of listener who likes to tinker, the treble and bass controls will leave you wanting, although they offer enough headroom to push the soundbar in different sonic directions.
The Panorama 3 also suffers from an effect common to many speakers and competing soundbars: it really does sound best when it’s loud. This is fine during the day, but if you have young children or sensitive neighbors like me, the evening hours will require a lower volume. Bowers and Wilkins has done a good job of building wide dynamic range into the soundbar – you can listen at a reasonable level at night will sound good – but every night I felt the need to open the app and crank up the bass to compensate; something that a full-size subwoofer option would have compensated for.
The Panorama 3 is an excellent soundbar. It’s the audiophile’s living room speaker and tuned to deliver excellent sound quality for multiple types of content with minimal user input. Easy setup, easy adjustments when needed, and great sound every time. At $999, the lack of options might be a hard pill to swallow compared to cheaper soundbars, but like the Arc, this design is clearly intended for users who don’t want to worry about these things. It’s streamlined, for better and for worse, and thankfully it ends up very much on the side of the better.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some items may contain affiliate links and purchases made through them will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or relate to author compensation.
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