Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 review: a deceptively simple soundbar offering

We test the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3, a soundbar that wants to be your all-in-one home theater solution

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3
(Image credit: B&W)
Livingetc Verdict

The Panorama 3 soundbar is a slick and sophisticated speaker with a well-designed look and admirable simplicity when it comes to controls and features. The audio performance is good, rather than excellent, but it goes above and beyond for this price bracket.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Dolby Atmos surround sound

  • +

    Works with Alexa

  • +

    Designed to be an all-in-one sound system

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Can't currently be expanded with an external subwoofer or surround speakers

  • -

    Longer than the average soundbar (make sure you measure!)

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Looking for a soundbar that delivers fantastic sound without looking like an eyesore in an otherwise carefully designed space can be a challenge. Most of us want the best sound from our TVs as possible, but welcoming yet another black rectangle into the home isn't always appealing. 

We can be grateful for brands like Bowers & Wilkins, then, for realizing that good sound doesn't need to come in an ugly package. Following up their Formation range, we now have the Panorama 3 soundbar, with Dolby Atmos, smart home compatibility, and a more minimalist, elegant aesthetic.

Keep reading to see what we thought of the speaker or head over to our guide on the best soundbars for more.

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3: Key info

  • Works with: Alexa
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2
  • Dimensions: H2.5 x W46.6 x D5.5in
  • Weight: 14.3lbs

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3

(Image credit: B&W)

How does the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 look in a space?

The first thing that sprung to mind when the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 arrived at our home was how large the box seemed. Though we assumed that the actual unit would be smaller, we soon learned that the soundbar truly does measure the promises 46.6-inches. This is almost two inches longer than the Sonos Arc (opens in new tab) and 21-inches longer than the Sonos Beam (Gen 2).

We first saw the soundbar at the launch event where, mounted to the wall underneath a sizeable (we would guess in the realm of 75-inches) television, it looked sleek and unobtrusive. In the home setting, with our more diminutive 50-inch TV, it feels even more luxe.

So it's the Panorama 3's size and heft that go a long way to making it feel like a high-end choice, and the rest of the design choices enhance the simplicity elsewhere. For example, the speaker is just 2.5-inches tall, creating a flatter effect with slightly angular corners and edges. The fabric grille on the front looks great, and the soundbar will work just as well on a TV cabinet as it will mounted to the wall.

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3

(Image credit: Future)

How easy is it to set up the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3?

Because Bowers & Wilkins has committed to keeping the Panorama 3 as straightforward as possible, the set-up process is minimal. Simply power on the bar with the cable provided, and choose between connecting it to your TV via the optical or HDMI eArc inputs. We chose the latter, which is also recommended (as shown by the Quick Start guide).

You then need to download the B&W app on your phone, create an account and allow it to search for new devices in the vicinity. It should pick up the Panorama 3, after which the soundbar will be online and connected to your home network.

You can link music services within the app, including Deezer, Soundcloud, last.fm, Tidal, and qobuz. No Spotify or Apple Music, though. If you have more than one B&W product, you can also group devices into spaces e.g., your living room.

The Panorama 3 can also be controlled via Alexa if you have an Amazon smart home setup. It isn't an Alexa speaker on its own, but you will be able to control things like volume and playback using voice commands.

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3

(Image credit: B&W)

How is the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 to use?

The Panorama 3 impresses in some areas but is notably lacking in others. While general viewing was notably improved, with sounds more balanced and clear than our TV speakers alone could ever manage, we weren't blown away by how much the soundbar boosted content like music and action-heavy movies.

This isn't as much of a dig as it might sound, as we've had the pleasure of testing soundbars at a much higher price point. Though, as always, we experimented with the bass and treble levels to find that sweet spot, there's only so much that built-in subwoofer can do. Dolby Atmos, too, can only approximate surround sound, but we were surprised at how subtle the effect felt here.

One warning for those who don't like relying on their phone - the B&W Panorama 3 doesn't come with a dedicated remote control. Instead, you will need to use the app to adjust things like bass and treble levels. Those who have connected the soundbar to their TV via HDMI eARC should be able to turn the volume up and down using their television remote, and it will go into standby/wake up as your set does.

Despite some grumbles, the overall performance of the Panorama is satisfying. It will suit those who want a significant upgrade for their TV's sound without some arguably less essential bells and whistles. 

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Bar

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Bar

(Image credit: B&W)

B&W Panorama 3 vs B&W Formation Bar

The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 is now the second soundbar currently on offer from the brand, sitting alongside the Formation Bar (opens in new tab).

The Formation is a slightly different proposition than the Panorama, with a more intentionally stylish design and the ability to be used alongside other products as part of a wider surround sound system. Whereas the Panorama 3 has a very simple look, the Formation Bar has a gorgeously unique shape and aesthetic, meaning the only sensible way to display it is on the wall.

It's also even wider, measuring 48.8-inches wide. Make no mistake, this is a statement piece intended not just to sound great but also to make a visual impact.

The Panorama 3, on the other hand, adds audio features like Dolby Atmos to the mix, making it the superior sounding of the two. It's also significantly cheaper, saving you around $100 at the time of writing.

Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3

(Image credit: Future)

Would we recommend the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3?

While it's true that we expected slightly more from the Panorama 3, the soundbar is still a great pick. The Atmos doesn't pack the punch that audio fans (or those looking for a compact alternative to the best surround sound systems) might want. Still, the simple design, overall luxury look and feel, and extra features like Alexa compatibility all make it recommendable for us. 

About this review, and the reviewer

Caroline writes about everything technology and smart home for Livingetc, using her decade of experience to judge whether the new gadgets and devices being released are worth the time and money of our readers. All reviews are based on real at-home experience with the products, and the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 was tested in her flat over a period of several weeks. A sample was kindly provided by the company for review purposes. For more on our process, check out our article on how we create our buying guides.