REVIEW: Why The Bose Lifestyle Sound System Totally Rocks

The Bose Lifestyle 535 Series III

The shelling of the trenches in World War I is when the power and quality of the Bose sound system literally hit home as we watched Warhorse. The sound took on a 3D quality as the Germans pounded the Allied frontline, the sound of the shells passing over my head before the deep crunch of impact.

I’ve had the top-of-the-line Bose Lifestyle 535 Series III at home for a couple of weeks now, and while the $4899 price tag means I’m going to have to work especially hard to convince my wife, I have no doubt it’s worth it. Now I want to watch that Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie with the amazing WWII opening scene with the sound up loud to hear how much work they put into it. Until you have a good sound system, it’s hard to appreciate why guys like that win Oscars for best sound.

My acid test is the opening scene of Star Wars when the Imperial destroyer rumbles across the scene. I have that sound locked in my head from childhood – the dread and fear that trembling bass sound creates. The Bose system nailed it. In three decades of watching the movie over and over again, this was the first time that memory I craved truly came flooding back.

The soul of the Lifestyle sound is the Acoustimass bass

I also dragged out another old favourite: the trippy 80s Goddfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi, with its cascading Phillip Glass soundtrack and deep Hopi Native American chanting. The power of that film is the music – there are no words – and I cranked up the sound when the rest of my family were out and just loved it.

Then there’s the music – my old clickwheel iPod is plugged in, while the “SoundTouch” wireless adaptor means my kids are giving Avici, Pitbull and Justice Crew a run via Spotify on the iPad.

By the way, the bass in Lorde’s tracks sounds awesome. For that we have the Bose “Acoustimass” speaker to thank. This big black monolith looks like it’s out of 2001: A Space Odyssey and it’s the heart, soul and guts of the Bose system, delivering bass you can feel on your chest.

The Bose Lifestyle 535 is currently sitting on top of my slightly clapped out Onkyo 5-speaker system, which cost about $1600 several years ago, with its broken, unfixable DVD player and single HDMI slot, which means every time we want to change from Apple TV to Wii U or something else, you have to unplug and replug. The remote stopped working years ago.

It’s time for a change.

The control console is elegantly understated and easy to hook up.

The Bose system has a subdued elegance to its design. You can see they’ve put a lot of thought into ease of use, which is welcome when home entertainment options are increasingly complex. Most options are just a single button push away and there’s an intuitive aspect that Apple buffs will appreciate.

The thing I loved first about the Bose 535 system was the simple set up. It took me about 90 minutes all up, but that’s only because I did a very unbloke thing and actually read the instructions first.

I must admit I was a little annoyed to be laying wires – isn’t this the era when everything’s wireless? – but it’s made easy by colour coding the lines for each speaker – and there are no fiddly wire ends to twist on, the speakers simply plug in. The “Jewel Cube Series II” are pocket dynamos – just 16cm high and weighing about half a kilo each. It’s a five speaker system. The two rear speakers are sitting on the floor behind the lounge, so I probably should spend the extra $249 for the speaker stands to get proper use out of them.

Setting up the SoundTouch wifi for the system, which means I can now play music from my phone on the Lifestyle 535

The console has three rear HDMI slots, plus one at the front, 2 HD component A/V inputs and a USB port. The front panel, which is hidden behind a door to maintain the sleek look, also has a headphone jack and a couple more analog inputs.

By the time I’d finished, the TV, AppleTV, DVD, Wii U and IPod were all plugged in, along with a jack for the laptop. It felt good to finally have everything hooked up knowing I didn’t have to change plugs any more. The instructions were easy to follow, which was a blessed relief because normally hooking up the back of sound system does my head in.

Here we go! The Unify program tailors the sound to your room, doing a series of audio tests which means the sound can be set up so it works for a specific location you are in the house.

After that, setting things up couldn’t be easier. All I had to do was follow the instructions on the TV and if I made a mistake or it didn’t work, it let me know and the problem was easily fixed. Then came the bit that amazed me. The system asked me to put on headphones with little microphones on them and move to five different locations to check and set the sound, so I tried both lounges, then the dining table (don’t tell my wife and kids) and then in the kitchen, cause I love listening to music when I cooking. Cool.

The set up program takes you through how to connect each device, saves a lot of confusion.

Setting up the remote was easy too, with the TV instructions guiding me through taking control of every other component.

It made me feel smart. Sorted.

Then there’s a smartphone/iPad app for the SoundTouch system, as well as a laptop program, which means you can control the music via those devices. And when you register, Bose sends you emails with tips, advice and forums to help you get more out of the system.

The remote takes control of your entire home entertainment network and is easy to navigate.

But wait, there’s more. Bose currently has a bonus offer – the Bose SoundTouch 30 Series II, worth $899, for free, with the Lifestyle 535. I can’t tell you how much I love this little wireless speaker. I’d long lusted after the Bose iPod system, but then Apple changed its base plug in and ruined that. The Soundtouch is the solution and the 30 is gutsy and will be coming on summer holidays with me as our portable sound system. It took seconds to set up – plug it in, get the wifi up and running with your phone and you’re away. It was cranking with Spotify while I set up the Lifestyle and impressed. It’s about 43cm by 25cm high and weighs about 8.4kg.

If I could only spend $1000 on sound, I’d run out and grab a SoundTouch 30. It’s worth letting Santa know if you’re looking for a compact, portable sound system.

What is it? Bose Lifestyle 535 Series III home entertainment system + bonus Bose SoundTouch 30 Series II

Price: $4899 (Soundtouch 30 normally $899, but free with 535)

Verdict: Seriously good sound in a sleek, petite package, with bass that pounds your chest. If you want to feel the sound in a movie like you do in the theatre, it’s worth the investment.

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