Panorama 3 Review: First Dolby Atmos Soundbar From Bowers & Wilkins!
Bowers & Wilkins comes up with some very impressive products, that’s for sure. The Panorama 3 soundbar is the brand’s first crack at a Dolby Atmos soundbar, and while it’s not too bad, some tweaking to the sound would definitely make it much better. At S$1,680 or US$999, it’s certainly on the pricey side.
Let’s talk design first. The soundbar is on the larger side at around 121cm long but it’s relatively low profile at 6.5cm tall, which means it should typically fit nicely under most TVs. It’s a bit of a squeeze here with our TV, but it’s still right about there. You also get the wall mounting kit in the box, so that option is available if you want it. The soundbar comes in at 6.5kg as well, which is about right for its size, although it does mean that if you’re handling it yourself, you’ll probably need to be a bit careful wrestling it into place.
Around the front and sides, you get a fabric mesh covering which is pretty nice. On top, there’s a reflective piece that hides the touch control buttons, which automatically turn off after a while so the soundbar looks really sleek all the time.
Inside, you get 13 drivers in a 3.1.2 configuration, which includes two subwoofers. At the back, you get an HDMI eARC port, optical digital input as well as the port for power. There’s no remote included in the box, and the soundbar must be set up using the Bowers & Wilkins Music app. During setup, the app will let users “register” their TV remote so it can be used to control the soundbar by pressing the volume up and down buttons as well as the mute button.
Speaking of the app, it’s a really simplistic experience. There’s no room tuning or anything like that. All you get is the streaming options for Tidal and other services, a two-bar EQ for treble and bass, volume options and yeah, that’s about it. But you’ll really want to tweak the EQ, so it’s a good thing that it’s available.
The speaker also supports AirPlay 2, the aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec and Spotify Connect, which is convenient. I really do hope that Bowers & Wilkins expands the list of streaming services supported in the Music app though, especially for Apple Music since that’s what I’m using right now.
There’s also no way to add a dedicated sub or additional speakers, so you’re pretty much stuck with just the soundbar. So the question is, does it sound good enough with just the soundbar?
When it comes to movies and shows, yeah, it’s actually honestly quite decent. The speaker is very detailed, and you get a good sense of the soundstage and openness. Thanks to the two subwoofers inside, you get plenty of impact and rumble, even though it’s not quite as weighty as you would get with an additional sub. But when things get a bit more complex, dialogue does tend to take a backseat, which is where the EQ comes into play. I found that raising the treble up by a notch helped to elevate voices enough while not compromising the other aspects.
The same thing goes for music, really. With the EQ set to neutral, vocals feel quite recessed and it really does impact songs quite a bit. With music, I typically set the treble to +2 or +3, and this will probably be something you should look at doing as well if you have this soundbar. Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all solution, as I found that movies with the treble increased up to +3 didn’t sound all that great. +2 is probably the sweet spot for most content, but it really depends on the genre of music you listen to most as well.
Something that I will say though, is that music still feels very much in front of you and somewhat compressed in terms of the soundstage. After trying some excellent home theatre systems, this was a bit of a letdown for me. But of course, for this price point and the fact that it’s a single soundbar, I can’t expect it to perform as well as a multi-speaker setup.
If you want a single soundbar setup to work with both movies and music, then the Panorama 3 is a decent option, but don’t expect it to excel at both at this price point. For a first attempt, it’s not bad, and I’ll certainly be watching B&W’s future offerings with interest.