High-end soundbar gaming gets super competitive. Being stuck inside for two years straight is a hell of a way to convince people that a shrill, shrill soundtrack might be suitable for The tiger kingbut it just won’t work for The Mandalorian or Loki. So, dropping big bucks on a big speaker for your TV has become almost essential for some. It’s an investment, right?
The latest entry to the market is Bowers & Wilkins’ behemoth, the Panorama 3. Much like last year’s lavish Zeppelin revival and the PI7 KO wireless headphones before it, this soundbar really doesn’t mess around when it’s it’s about providing a lot of ringing for a whole lot of your hard-earned money. It’s designed to go hand-in-hand with the market-leading Sonos Arc, and so everything about it is meant to deliver the crème de la crème of audio. While it may not be suited for the cost of living crisis, this Netflix-enabled boombox speaks (strongly) for itself.
All about this Dolby Atmos
As with many flagship soundbar releases over the past year, the big banner upgrade with the Panorama 3 is the inclusion of Dolby Atmos. Not yet familiar with what is quickly becoming the benchmark for surround sound? Basically, that means a bunch of speakers have been crammed into this creation so it can beam audio up, forward, and just about anywhere in your vicinity with the effect of bringing a cinematic caliber of height and width to your TV viewing. It’s one of those things that feels like a bit of a gimmick – and it may be on less qualified models such as the latest Sonos Beam – but really brings a rich, textured punch to proceedings when placed between good hands. Hint: you probably shouldn’t associate this thing with a clunky old JVC.
Compared to any soundbarless setup you might have before, plugging in the Panorama 3 is an instant hallelujah moment, like putting on a pair of prescription specs for the first time. Its effect is akin to a wall of sound, with drive units projecting sound upwards as well as directly at you. The impact is better felt, cinematically speaking, with the volume increased to around 75% capacity. Action movies, we found, get the full effect – the thrilling jets to life in Superior gunDenzel blasts a guy with a bomb in his ass The man on fire – that sort of thing. If you want to use the thing as a sort of living room speaker, it’ll happily oblige too. The chirping synths of Billie Eilish’s “So I Am” took on a utterly otherworldly quality when we fed it with Dolby Atmos-enabled Apple Music Fares.
seems to kill
In gaming audio, looks aren’t everything, but they sure do matter – all right, this thing will be sitting under your TV for years to come. Of course, Bowers & Wilkins has plenty of product design pedigree in its locker, extending right down to the loudspeakers used to outfit Abbey Road studios, and so this thing is truly a beauty. An admittedly gargantuan one at 1.2m wide, but a beauty nonetheless. We actually think its sleek, angular vibe is a bit more shapely than the Sonos-made alternative. Don’t stick it near a TV less than about 55 inches, it will look a little silly.
The Panorama 3 can be connected to most newer smart TVs via HDMI (there’s only one port) or older TVs via optical cable. With the former the experience should be pretty seamless, with your TV remote doing the volume work, but with the latter it’s a bit fiddly – you’ll need to set the TV volume to zero and use the Bowers & Wilkins app to control the soundbar volume. For music and everything else, the app lets you pair with a host of streaming services, and you can stream everything else via Airplay or Bluetooth.
Panorama 3 Verdict
Listen, it’s probably a good chunk of your rent for your month (if not all of it), but the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 has the power to turn even the sweetest house system into an absolute beast. Its physical heft combined with some serious Dolby Atmos chops means even the most fragile streaming specials are elevated to aural nirvana, even if the on-screen content doesn’t quite match. Whether you want to properly experience the roar of a Champions League crowd or bask in the glory of John Wick, there are few slimmer soundbars up to the task.
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