Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 Dolby Atmos Soundbar Review

hcchighreccomendThis neat all-in-one soundbar excels with music and big movie audio, says Steve May

Bowers & Wilkins' Panorama 3 soundbar may not come with a subwoofer, but it still drops deep. I've got Bad Guy booming out, and the bass beat on this Billie Eilish 'banger' is brutal. The instrumentation is minimal, but the 'bar still spreads it wide, musical flourishes placed far apart. It's a reassuringly raunchy musical performance for what is ostensibly a home cinema product aimed at the no-fuss streaming movie market.

Self evidently the third iteration of B&W's flagship soundbar, it's unquestionably the best. The first Panorama launched back in 2009, the second model some four years later, its reappearance blessed with an HDMI connection for the first time.

This latest addition is the first to embrace Dolby Atmos (but not DTS:X), and it's a game-changing refinement. Spatial audio, be it straight Atmos, or an upscale of 5.1 or stereo source material, allows this speaker to sound larger and more impressive – but you'll need a big TV to partner it.

At 1,210mm wide, the Panorama 3 is a sizable beast. Ideally, you wouldn't want to use it with anything smaller than a 65in screen. You'll need wide AV furniture too, unless you intend to wall mount, for which a bracket is included in the box. The 'bar weighs a significant 6.5kg.

As you'd expect from the manufacturer, build quality and finish is excellent. There are pleasing angles to its chassis that help it appear sleeker than it actually is. The soundbar's forward-facing driver array is hidden behind an acoustic fabric wrap, while the top plate is perforated metal – you can just about see the upfiring height drivers if you squint.


Central to the perforated top-plate is a touchpanel with proximity sensor

At the centre of the 'bar is a capacitive touchpanel with proximity sensor that causes the display to light up when your digits approach. A quick wave reveals volume controls, a multifunction source select button and power.

In total, the Panorama 3 uses 13 drivers, including two 4in low-frequency units for deeper bass, and a pair of Dolby Atmos upfiring glass fibre cones, each bunkered in an individual acoustic chamber and pointing skyward. This leaves the remaining nine – three 19mm Titanium dome tweeters and six 2in glass fibre mid-rangers – to face front and side. The Atmos configuration is designated 3.1.2, with overall amplification rated at 400W. Start me up Setup requires you to jump through a few hoops, but is fairly straightforward. You'll need to download the Bowers & Wilkins Music app (available for iOS and Android, and originally launched to work with the brand's Formation wireless speakers), create an account and then discover and network-enable the 'bar itself.

There's no multiroom support out of the box, although a firmware update to resolve this is on the cards. We're told that in the future, the Panorama 3 will link with other Panoramas on your network (on the off chance you might own more than one), as well as stablemate Formation speakers. What the 'bar won't do is allow expansion of its own soundfield through an additional wireless subwoofer or rear speakers. It's been designed as an 'integrated self-contained solution,' explains Andy Kerr, B&W's director of product marketing.

There's no remote control supplied, so basic Panorama 3 operation comes either via your TV remote or the on-body controls. There's also the option of looping the speaker to an Amazon Alexa ecosystem.

Just The One
While this one-box sound system has a higher-end ticket price, connectivity is disappointingly frugal. There's a single HDMI for eARC screen hookup, plus legacy digital optical audio should you need it, as well as (aptX Adaptive) Bluetooth and Wi-Fi/Ethernet.