With the Panorama 3, Bowers & Wilkins wants to raise the bar for all-in-one soundbars again, including support for Dolby Atmos and a design that fits today’s interiors. Yet minimalism is central. In this review, we test the Panorama 3 to see if that bar is actually raised.
What is the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3?
Bowers & Wilkins is already ready for the third generation of the soundbar with the Panorama 3. However, with this generation, the company is going in a different direction, especially in terms of design. The new Panorama is designed to be unobtrusive. The soundbar has thirteen drivers in a 3.1.2 configuration, powered by ten 40 Watt amplifiers. The different drivers on the front provide the stereo and center channels. Two speakers are angled on top so that sound effects can bounce off the ceiling and give you the impression of a 3D soundstage. On top there are also two larger woofers of 100 mm that should provide the low tones. After all, there is no separate wireless subwoofer.
The Panorama 3 soundbar contains the same platform as the renewed Zeppelin- wireless speaker. Streaming is therefore possible via the Music app in which various streaming services are present, including Deezer, Soundcloud, Tidal and Qobuz. In addition, the soundbar AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect, and you can stream via Bluetooth with support for aptX Adaptive. The Panorama 3 is officially not a product from the Formation family of multi-room products, but interplay is possible via the Music app. Later this year, the Panorama (and the Zeppelin) will have multi-room capabilities. Bowers & Wilkins does not only emphasize minimalism and simplicity in use in terms of design. The Panaroma comes without a remote and also has no sound modes.
The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 is available for a price of 999 euros.
As mentioned, the Panorama 3 is designed not to stand out. The height is therefore limited to 6.5 cm, so that the Bowers & Wilkins can be placed with most modern TVs with a low foot. In addition, it is possible to sound bar to be mounted on the wall using the wall bracket. In terms of width, the speaker is tuned to a 55-inch TV, but you are of course free to place the soundbar under any size screen.
The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 is finished in metal top and bottom, with a speaker cloth covering the front and sides. At the top we see a piece of glass that contains touch controls. The icons light up when a finger comes close. The speaker is subtly but stylishly designed, has a sleek finish and therefore fits in almost any contemporary interior.
You can place the Panorama 3 under your television on a cabinet or hang it on the wall. What you choose is personal, but in any case keep in mind that the sides and top are free to send audio towards the ceiling and the sides of the room. As for the connections, you can connect a television directly thanks to HDMI eARC. If that is not an option, you can go for the optical input. Of course, the soundbar can be connected to the internet, via WiFi or an Ethernet cable.
Since the soundbar does not come with a remote, the installation takes place via the Music app from Bowers & Wilkins. The installation is very simple and a matter of pairing your smartphone with the soundbar. As soon as the LED behind the start/pause button pulses with amber-colored light, the soundbar is ready for a bluetooth connection, which fortunately happens immediately after startup. You then connect your smartphone to the soundbar and you can arrange the configuration in a few steps, for example by entering the password of your WiFi network and the login details of streaming services. The more famous options you have are TuneIn (internet radio and podcasts), Deezer, Soundcloud, Tidal and Qobuz. Spotify is not present, but can be used thanks to Spotify Connect.
Operation and use
The Bowers & Wilkins Music app is the place where you control the soundbar. A remote control is not included. And that is not really a loss since there are few setting options, the soundbar itself selects the active input and thanks to HDMI eARC (or the remote of the TV) you can set it softer or louder via the television. When streaming music, you use your smartphone or another (mobile) device, on which you select the music and control the volume at the same time. In addition to using streaming services in the Music app, you have the option to stream content via AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth. Incidentally, we see that, just like with the new generation Zeppelin, music from your own network can only be played via AirPlay 2 or Bluetooth. DLNA is not supported.
Since the Music app is used to control the Panorama 3, you might think that the soundbar is part of the Formation family. Yet that is not the approach of Bowers & Wilkins and the soundbar lacks a number of options that the Formation speakers do have, such as the simple grouping of multiple speakers in one zone. That option should appear in the future for the Panorama 3, but luckily you can now enjoy multi-room sound via a detour. Thanks to AirPlay 2, you can have music played on multiple speakers in the house, as long as they also have AirPlay 2.
The Music app is therefore quite minimally equipped for the Panorama 3. You can link the different streaming services, change the room in which the soundbar is located, change the names of the inputs and adjust the treble and bass. It is also possible to learn the remote control of the television so that you can directly control the volume. As soon as something is played, you can control the music and change the volume in the media player within the app. There are no more options for the time being, but we don’t miss anything. The app has a sleek design and otherwise works smoothly.
Minimalism is an important term for the Panorama 3. Not only in terms of operation and design, but also in terms of sound. After all, the soundbar is relatively compact and is supplied without a separate subwoofer. That subwoofer is built-in and, according to Bowers & Wilkins, that should not come at the expense of audio quality. Built-in are thirteen drivers in a 3.1.2 configuration, plus ten amplifiers with a total power of 400 watts. Drivers are positioned forward, angled up and angled to the sides so they can reflect audio and give you the impression of a 3D soundstage.
Although the Panorama 3 is minimalist in many areas, luckily that is not the case with the audio reproduction. We start with our playlists on both Spotify and Tidal and the Panorama 3 knows how to handle that. The first thing you notice is the warm and wide soundstage. The side-firing speakers clearly participate and add a lot of life and dynamics. The speakers provide good detail, but more striking is the convincing reproduction of the low tones, while the subwoofer is built into the soundbar. Music is warm, rich, dynamic and broad. It simply listens well and really knows how to convince.
If we switch to film – and then of course a film with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack – low tones come into their own again, but the real gut feeling is not there. That is of course not surprising, given the placement and size of the woofers. Yet many film viewers will not feel that they are actually missing something. Movies (now with Atmos) are shown with quite a bit of depth and width, but the real, surrounding 3D effect is missing. That in itself is not strange for a soundbar that relies on reverberation and smart algorithms, but the effect is still less compared to other top models in the market. We now have the Sonos Arc hanging and it is more convincing in this area. And although the dialogues are clearly intelligible, they lack some clarity. Sound effects are beautifully reproduced and the wide and deep display ensure that you are really sucked into the film despite the two points of criticism. Unfortunately, the Panorama 3 (for now) does not offer the option of adding extra speakers in the back of the room, something that several competing top models do offer. The Panorama 3 offers a lot of power and at the same time a lot of flexibility. It is a top soundbar for music and more of an all-rounder for film.
Conclusion – Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3
If we take all the pros and cons together, we can be very positive about the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3. The soundbar is very easy to use, has a sleek and minimalistic design and actually works straight out of the box. Everything you need as an average music listener and movie lover is included, including access to all popular streaming services. It is therefore an all-in-one device with which you can go almost anywhere. And multiroom with Formation will be added in the future. For people who are looking for ease of use, style and good audio reproduction for both music and film, this is definitely recommended. If you go for the best Atmos experience from a soundbar, there are better options, where you can also add rear speakers. After all, there is a lot of competition in this higher soundbar segment of around 1,000 euros.
- Wide and convincing audio reproduction
- Impressive bass performance
- Sleek and stylish
- Very user-friendly
- The best for music
- Many streaming services, bluetooth and AirPlay 2
- Wall bracket included
- No multiroom yet (but AirPlay 2)
- No DLNA
- Atmos effect is minimal
- No surround speakers possible