When it comes to selecting a soundbar in 2022, there’s much to consider. Does it work seamlessly with the best audio streaming services? Is there support for Dolby Atmos? How does it look in front of a television? What does it cost?
The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3, the British company’s least expensive soundbar to date, has much going for it and checks all the right boxes. And yet, it’s not the best soundbar at its price point. Still, there are plenty of reasons to consider it, as you’ll discover below.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3
Bottom line: The Panorama 3 is a beautifully designed soundbar that will look terrific in any room. Nearly everything you might want in a soundbar is here, with some features better than others.
- clean sound
- Sleek design
- HDMI eARC
- Only one HDMI port
- Dolby Atmos somewhat muted
- Few discounts for now
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3: Price and availability
Source: Bowers & Wilkins
The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 is available at various retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H Photo. Unfortunately, there are very few discounts on the soundbar as it’s a relatively new product. However, that could change as we get closer to the holiday shopping season. Also, it’s only available in black at the moment.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3: What’s good
Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore
Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) is one of the most popular and iconic audio brands recognized globally. Now part of Sound United, which also owns Denon, Marantz, Boston Acoustics, and many other audio companies, B&W offers high-quality speakers and headphones. The Panorama 3, launched in March 2022, was most likely designed to take on the well-received 2020 Sonos Arc that sits at a similar price point. No doubt, it will fast become a close competitor, especially after a critical feature finally appears.
Not surprisingly, as a B&W product, the Panorama 3 is well-designed and made from high-quality materials. Designed to support wired and wireless connections, the hexagonal-shaped soundbar is sized right, measuring 2.5-by-46.6-by-5.5 inches with a net weight of 14.3 pounds. It’s ideally suited for smart TVs 55-inches and larger. Though the soundbar is easily hung on the wall using the included bracket, its low profile form makes it better suited to sit in front of a television. That lower profile bests the ones for the very popular Sonos Arc and Sony HT-A7000, which makes it a more flexible choice location-wise.
The Panorama 3 is naturally well-designed and made from high-quality materials.
The soundbar has a minimalistic look, which may surprise anyone who has seen B&W’s striking Zeppelin or sexy lineup of loudspeakers. The front-facing fabric mesh looks fine, although it won’t turn many heads. More impressive is the perforated metal grill with captive buttons for volume, play/pause, and a pairing indicator that sits on the top of the device. Those controls come alive when hands move above them using motion technology. Otherwise, the panel is empty with no emitting lights, which is how it should be when you’re in a dark room ready to enjoy a new film or your favorite TV show.
Moving to the back of the device, you’ll find a single HDMI eARC port, an optical digital port, an ethernet port, a power slot, a USB-C port for servicing, and a reset button. That HDMI eARC should make the soundbar future-proof, however, your TV must also be HDMI eARC-enabled to take advantage of the technology, which allows you to transmit the original full-resolution audio signal through an HDMI cable.
Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore
Moving past the Panorama’s hardware and look, it’s what’s happening inside the soundbar that’s most important. The Panorama 3’s internals are indeed impressive. There are 13 uniquely positioned individual driver units inside the soundbar, including two 4-inch subwoofers. In addition, it offers a 3.1.2 speaker system, meaning there are three main audio channels, center, left, and right; one subwoofer channel, and two upward-firing channels. The result is a competent Dolby Atmos presentation with immersive sound and deep bass.
The soundbar’s look is minimalistic, which may surprise anyone who has seen B&W’s striking Zeppelin or sexy lineup of loudspeakers.
Like most stationary audio products today, the Panorama 3 doesn’t come with a remote controller. Instead, you must use the free B&W Music app (for all the best iPhones and Android) to perform most of the soundbar’s functions, including setup. For example, the app can adjust the soundbar’s treble, bass levels, and other settings. You can also use the app to stream high-resolution audio content from TuneIn, LastFM, Qobuz, Deezer, and Spotify Connect. The soundbar also supports AirPlay 2, Bluetooth (aptX Adaptive), and Amazon Alexa.
You can also adjust the Panorama 3 by using Amazon Alexa, which works well. When connected to AirPlay, you can bypass the official app and use the iOS Music app.
Crisp and clear are two words that come to mind when first listening to content from the Panorama 3 soundbar. At less expensive price levels, even this is sometimes asking too much. Beyond this, expect to hear substantial highs, an expansive midrange, and deep lower frequencies. It also does a terrific job at handling abrupt shifts in tone and volume. There’s no crackling here, folks.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3: What’s not good
Undoubtedly, many will purchase the Panorama 3 because it supports Dolby Atmos. It’s there and certainly adds some magic to the home audio experience. And yet, as other reviewers have noted, it’s muted here, and there’s no way to tweak its performance. Other soundbars, including the Sonos Arc, include automated calibration and the ability to change the soundbar’s channel levels. Either of these would go a long way at improving the Panorama 3’s Dolby Atmos experience that doesn’t rise much above being adequate.
Another concern about the Panorama 3 is that you currently can’t link it to other wireless speakers in your household. Given there are 13 drive units installed on the soundbar and upward-firing channels, many folks might not need the feature. But if you plan on using the soundbar in a large room, it could be a problem. However, B&W promises to add the feature this fall through a software update, although it didn’t announce an exact date.
Although the B&W Music app gets the job done, it does require conquering a slight learning curve once you get past the soundbar’s seamless setup. In addition, the app isn’t exactly user-friendly to perform some actions, but it’s packed with great features like integrating with music streaming services and internet radio providers. On the daily, however, you’ll likely only use the app to adjust the volume.
Others might also be unhappy that the Panorama 3 only has one HDMI port. But unfortunately, this has become an industry trend. Luckily, this limitation probably won’t mean much to most users.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3: Competition
Right now, the similarly-priced Sonos Arc remains a better choice as it offers better Dolby Atmos performance, plus multi-speaker support, which the Panorama 3 doesn’t yet include. On the downside, the Sonos Arc is slightly larger, which could be a concern for some would-be buyers.
The Smart Soundbar 900 from Bose also scores pretty well, offering Dolby Atmos support, compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant, Voice4Video™ technology, Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect capabilities, and the option to connect it to wireless surround sound speakers.
Sony’s HT-A7000 can also be considered a worthy competitor. It brings Dolby Atmos, 360 Spatial Sound, Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect compatibility, and integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. However, it is $400 more than B&W’s product, which is something to keep in mind if you’re on a budget.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3: Should you buy it?
Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore
You should buy this if …
- You already use B&W products
- Don’t need multi-speaker support or are willing to wait for it
- Want a stylish, yet relatively small soundbar
You shouldn’t buy this if…
- You’re a budget shopper
- Need multi-speaker support now
- Want more control of Dolby Atmos
The Panorama 3 is a beautifully designed soundbar that works in most areas and delivers consistently clear and crisp sound. It’s a beauty, allows you to control everything from within an app or via Amazon Alexa, and offers compatibility with Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect for seamless streaming options. Still, some won’t be happy with the Dolby Atmos output.
If you’re finally buying a high-quality soundbar, you’ll adore the Panorama 3. It provides mostly pleasing sounds that you’ll hear from all directions, giving you that surround sound feel. Plus, it’s easy to use, thanks to the B&W Music app. However, it lacks a few features, including one that many consider essential: multi-speaker support. This may cause some to pause, but if you can wait until fall when the feature is expected to arrive, it’s a great product that won’t disappoint.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3
Bottom line: A nearly perfect soundbar that allows you to control it with Amazon Alexa — however, the hefty price tag may be a dealbreaker for some.
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