From entry level to high end, there’s no shortage of soundbars on the market. Each promises to deliver an elevated audio experience compared to your TV’s built-in speakers. As TVs have gotten thinner over the years, sacrifices have had to be made, and sound quality has often suffered as a result. Thankfully, brands like Bowers & Wilkins, often referred to as B&W, offer solutions that not only you allow you to bypass your TV’s speakers, but let you turn the experience up a notch and enjoy high-resolution multi-channel sound. As more movie and TV shows are encoded with multidimensional Dolby Atmos audio technology, it’s important for soundbars to keep pace; it’s no longer enough to just be louder—a soundbar must be better in every meaningful way. This is where B&W’s new Panorama 3 soundbar shines. Not only does it check multiple boxes, but it does so in the luxurious style for which the brand is known.
Design and Setup
There’s a lot going on under the hood of the Panorama 3. At approximately 47 inches wide, this soundbar is designed to pair with larger TVs, and inside its cabinet lie 13 individual drivers that allow the Panorama 3 to produce full-range sound. Two of the Soundbar’s up-firing drivers are dedicated to Dolby Atmos height-channel reproduction and another two act as dual subwoofers to deliver low-frequency impact. Altogether, these 13 drivers are powered by up to 400 watts of amplification, quite substantial for a system of this size.
On the rear of the soundbar, you’ll find digital optical and HDMI eARC connections. Please note that to take advantage of Dolby Atmos, the HDMI eARC connection must be utilized and connected to a compatible television. You’ll also need Dolby Atmos source material which, thankfully, is becoming more popular on platforms such as Netflix and Disney Plus. Unfortunately, the Panorama 3 doesn’t have HDMI inputs for connecting source components like streaming media players or gaming consoles, but it is equipped with Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 connectivity. Alexa compatibility is also onboard should you wish to add digital voice assistant to the soundbar’s repertoire.
Setting up the Panorama 3 is about as easy as it gets. Make your physical connections, download the Bowers & Wilkins Music app, and you’ll be guided through the setup process, which includes connecting it to the Internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
Unlike B&W’s Formation soundbar, the Panorama 3 doesn’t offer the option to pair additional speakers or a subwoofer to the soundbar, but the aforementioned AirPlay 2 connectivity allows the Panorama 3 to be utilized in a whole home music configuration via your home’s Internet connection, even alongside AirPlay 2-enabled speakers from different brands—this is one of the reasons I love AirPlay and am happy B&W continues to integrate it into its soundbars.
Atop the Panorama 3 you’ll find touch-sensitive playback controls that automatically illuminate as you approach. I like this design choice because it adds to the soundbar’s luxurious aura, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have little ones roaming around, as I do. Overall, I find the soundbar’s design to be quite nice and of high quality, thanks to its rigid frame. It received lots of compliments sitting on my TV stand, and it can even be placed on a wall if you so choose, thanks to the included mounting bracket.
There’s no remote control, but if you’re connected to an HDMI-CEC compatible TV you can use your television’s existing remote. If you’re connecting the soundbar to an older TV or via optical, the Panaroma 3 can learn IR commands from your existing remote. B&W’s Music App also allows you to control the volume from your smart devices, as well adjust treble and bass controls. I wish additional sound modes were offered and I hope more are added in the future via software updates. The app also allows you to link popular music services such as deezer, TuneIN, last.fm, and Tidal.
While sound quality is subjective, I find the Panorama 3 to be a very capable soundbar when fed high-quality source material and Dolby Atmos content. While soundbars tend to be limited when it comes to delivering truly immersive sound spaces, the Panorama 3 delivered a wide and airy Dolby Atmos experience in my 14 x 16 room—so much so that I wish more movies and music offered Atmos mixes. As great as the Atmos experience is, the soundstage shrank considerably when the Panorama 3 was fed standard 5.1- and 2-channel content. After multiple listening sessions, which covered a wide variety of material, it was clear to me that the Panorama 3 was intended for Dolby Atmos use. In most cases it will still deliver a better listening experience than TV speakers alone can offer when playing non-Atmos material, but the shift was noticeable, at least to me.
While I wish B&W offered a wireless subwoofer option to pair with the soundbar, bass production in the Panorama 3 was quite nice. Though low frequencies didn’t have the impact you’d expect from a dedicated subwoofer, the internal dual up-firing woofers complemented the soundbar’s other drivers nicely and the sound felt cohesive overall, even if it doesn’t shake your room during action sequences. If you live in an apartment and you want bass without a letter from the co-op board, the Panorama 3 should be on your shortlist.
Who is it for?
I’ve thought a lot about this question and, after spending a few weeks with the Panorama 3, I think I have a good understanding of its strengths and shortcomings. If you’re someone who plays a lot of high-quality source material, specifically Dolby Atmos, and want a soundbar that takes your listening experience to new aural dimensions, the Panorama 3 is the speaker for you. Not only will it shine, but it will also look good doing it. If you’re a casual listener who primarily watches dialogue-heavy content, or if you’re someone who listens to a lot of stereo music, you might be underwhelmed by the Panorama 3. Kind of like going 15 mph in a Ferrari, there’s just so much untapped potential waiting to be unleashed, safely, of course. Overall, the Panorama 3 is a worthy addition to B&W’s product lineup and does a great job of showcasing the benefits of Dolby Atmos.
What kind of content are you mostly watching and listening to on your home system? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section, below.