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Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 Review: The Best All-in-One Soundbar?

One Speaker to Rule Them All

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Bowers & Wilkins is one of the biggest audio brands in the world, and it’s officially  ready to join the spatial soundbar revolution. The Panorama 3 brings with it all of the experience of B&W’s long history making loudspeakers (even for Abbey Road!), as well as lessons learned from its 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-res Bluetooth connectivity with the AptX Adaptive codec. With an MSRP of $999, it doesn’t come cheap, but this a great option for an all-in-one Atmos-enabled soundbar at this price point.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $999 (Amazon
  • Technical Features
    • HDMI eARC
    • Discrete Dolby Atmos 3.1.2
    • Dolby True HD
    • Compatible with Bowers & Wilkins Music App
    • Alexa enabled
    • Bluetooth
    • Spotify Connect
    • AirPlay 2
  • Drive Units
    • 3 x 19mm (0.75in) Titanium dome tweeter
    • 6 x 50mm (2in) Woven glass fiber cone bass/midrange
    • 2 x 50mm (2in) Woven glass fiber cone atmos drive unit
    • 2 x 100mm (4in) Low profile bass unit
  • Audio Format Support
    • Dolby Atmos
    • Dolby Digital True HD
    • Dolby Digital+
    • LPCM
  • Connections
    • 1 x HDMI eARC
    • 1 x Digital Audio In (Toslink)
    • 1 x RJ45 Ethernet
    • 1 x USB-C (service connection only)
  • Frequency Response: 43Hz- 48kHz
  • Input Voltage: 100V - 240V, 50/60Hz
  • Amplifier Power Output: 400W
  • Standby Power Consumption: Below 2W
  • Bluetooth Connections: 
    • Bluetooth 5, class 2
    • aptX™ Adaptive
    • AAC
    • SBC
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 2.5in x 47.6in x 5.5in
  • Weight: 14.3lb
  • 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 cliche, is able to deliver room-filling sound. Cliche though it might be to describe it as such, it’s accurate in the truest sense. The sound quality is big and wide, and thanks to its upward-firing speakers, has a sense of height and scale that spans upward into the room. This is true for music and television shows that lack Dolby Atmos but is even better when they do offer it. 

The soundbar is big. It needs to be. Inside of its 47-inch chassis are 13 different speakers, each tuned to different parts of the frequency spectrum and purposes. Three 0.75-inch titanium dome tweeters handle the highs. Six 2-inch glass fiber 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. The arrangement is capped off with a set of two woven glass Atmos drivers, firing upward at an angle to reflect sound from your ceiling.

The size does necessitate a big TV to look appropriately sized, however. Our television is a 65-inch and looks fitting, centered underneath. A 55-inch would be the bare minimum with anything less causing the soundbar to extend past the boundaries of your screen — which you can do if you don’t mind the look. 

Compared to the Panorama 2, this new speaker has been shrunk down. It stands only 2.5 inches tall, making it easy to fit below the level of your screen. It’s not advisable to position it directly below your TV, however, as having anything above the soundbar will interfere with the Atmos speakers. B&W also includes a wall mount in the box to fit under a wall-mounted television, but I didn’t use it during my testing. Atop the entertainment center works just fine.

The Panorama 3 is a good-looking unit. That’s important, since you’ll be looking at it a lot, and Bowers & Wilkins have done well here. It’s modern and sleek. The angular design is attractive, and the fabric wrap and perforated top are both attractive. The centerpiece, though, is certainly the control pad.

In the center of the unit is a glossy black display. When not in use, it goes to sleep, only displaying the three central bars to indicate it has power. A built-in sensor brings the display to life when your hand is close, displaying 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 bit of non-black material on the unit, which is the Bowers & Wilkins logo itself. It looks great and works consistently and reliably.

It’s a design that drips with refinement. With just a little bit of time, you can see the revisions the engineers and product designers must have gone through to iterate and iterate and iterate until the Panorama 3 arrived where we find it today. It’s simple to get up and running with and even more simple to actually use.

Around the back, we find the IO which exemplifies this design ethos. You have Optical In, HDMI In (with eARC support, of course), ethernet, and power. Once it’s unboxed, you plug in your source, and then go through initial setup using the Bower & Wilkins Music app that walks you through the process. 

Setting up the Panorama is simple and painless. Once it’s plugged in, the app recognizes the soundbar and has you name the space it’s in (you can have multiple bars in different rooms of your house to create a multi-speaker arrangement for household audio). You’ll also program the soundbar to recognize the inputs from your television remote since the Panorama 3 doesn’t come with its own. Once it’s recognized, you’ll be greeted with an array of different audiophile favorite music streaming apps that have native integration, such as Tidal and Deezer. Spotify is also supported, but within its own app. And, of course, you can also stream over Bluetooth using the high-resolution AptX Adaptive codec for full, high-fidelity listening.

The app also allows you a limited degree of control to customize the sound. Once you’ve clicked into the settings, there are +/- 6dB sliders for bass and treble. Turning the bass all the way up helps make up for the lack of subwoofer or ability to buy one separately and add it at a later time. There’s a surprising amount of oomph in this all-in-one, so you may not find that necessary. Still, for games and movies during the day, I found myself turning up the bass and then scaling it back at night after the kids had gone to bed. 

This simplicity is a double-edged sword and the gambit B&W is making here. You won’t find additional modes for movies or games. There’s no second HDMI in to run a game console. There’s no subwoofer or remote. It’s a simple all-in-one that promises excellent tuning out of the box, with a moderate level of sound shaping to fit it more directly to your taste. This is the same target its biggest competitor, the Sonos Arc, is taking aim at.

Let’s get into the impressions. 

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 - Sound Quality and Use Impressions Over a 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 games. I’m more of a personal audio enthusiast thus far into my listening career, but I know good sound when I hear it, and this soundbar sounds great. 

Regardless of the type of content you’re enjoying it with, it delivers a full-bodied sound that’s rich in detail. Listening to Coheed and Cambria’s Pearl of the Stars, the ominous drone that launches off the song took on a whole other level of looming dread while still preserving all of the detail in the singer’s voice and accurate timbre of the acoustic guitar. Streaming from services that support Dolby Atmos spatial audio takes listening to a whole new level as sounds push in from all sides. 

Gaming, too, is a particular joy. This soundbar is a tremendous upgrade from the Bose TV Speaker soundbar I had used previously and been impressed with (and still am for the price!). The sense of scale and spaciousness to the sound is on another level, however, even without Dolby Atmos (more on that in a second). Positionality is great, and the cinematic quality of the bass response really enhances immersion and enjoyment. 

For movies and streaming, it’s even better. Dolby Atmos with music is enjoyable, but there’s nothing like getting drawn into an Atmos-enabled show and hearing the environment of the characters around you. Watching Moon Knight on Disney Plus, my wife and I remarked about the way in which sounds seemed to be coming from the left, right, and above with particular realism. The speaker array works wonderfully in unison and creates a very cohesive soundscape.

The Atmos effect is more subtle than I expected, however. This isn’t a soundbar that’s going to blow your socks off with its Atmos implementation unless you’ve never heard it before. On that level, I think the Sonos Arc has an edge. To my ear, though, it seems like Bower & Wilkins are aiming at realism more than wow-factor, which is in keeping with its general approach to accurate, enjoyable audio.

At $999, however, things were a bit too simple for my taste. If you’re hoping to enjoy Atmos audio from your game 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 EQs that cater to different types of content. If you’re the kind of listener that likes to tinker, the treble and bass slider are going to leave you wanting, even if they do offer enough leeway to push the soundbar in different sonic directions. 

The Panorama 3 also suffers from an effect that’s common to many speakers and competing soundbars: it really sounds its best when it’s loud. That’s fine for daytime, but if you’re like me and have small children or sensitive neighbors, the evening hours demand lower volume. Bowers and Wilkins has done a good job crafting a wide dynamic range into the soundbar — you can listen at a reasonable nighttime level and it will sound good — but I nightly felt the need to open the app and turn up the bass to compensate; something a full-size subwoofer option would have prevented.

Final Thoughts

The Panorama 3 is an excellent soundbar. It’s the living room speaker for audiophiles and is tuned to deliver great sound quality across multiple types of content with minimal input from the user. Simple setup, simple tweaks when necessary, and great sound all the time. At $999, the lack of options compared to cheaper soundbars may be a tough pill to swallow, but like the Arc, this design is clearly intended for users who don’t want to worry about those things. It’s streamlined, for better and worse, and thankfully, it lands very much on the side of better. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to writer compensation.

8.5Great
Pros
  • Outstanding sound quality for music, movies, and games
  • Dolby Atmos provides immersive spatial sound
  • Easy to setup, customize, and enjoy
  • Integration with major streaming services
  • Powerful, room-filling sound
Cons
  • Bass doesn’t become truly impressive without added volume
  • One HDMI means no Atmos for consoles
  • No alternative sound modes, in-depth EQ, or added sub-woofer option


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight


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