Bose Videobar VB1 review: A videoconferencing bar with excellent audio
There are cheaper options but this high-quality VC unit delivers a slick, professional meeting experience
The Bose brand is best known for its hi-fi equipment, but its Bose Work family of products is designed to provide fully rounded communications solutions, and the Videobar VB1 is its first all-in-one videconferencing solution.
The design is classy: the VB1 takes the form of a sleek brushed-graphite bar that can be mounted under a meeting room monitor or placed on a desk using the sturdy metal stand included in the kit. Wherever you choose to put it, its 48mm height means it won’t get in the way.
Happily, the low profile doesn’t come at the cost of features. The VB1 sports a central 4K camera and a powerful 20W speaker at each end. Six microphones along its length pick up audio and take care of speaker tracking, while both Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac wireless are built in for easy connection to your network. Bluetooth is available for mobile access too, while USB Type-C 3 and HDMI ports handle host computer and meeting-room display connections.
One clever feature of the VB1 is its support for DisplayLink: other VC bars require a HDMI connection to show your meetings on the big screen, but Bose uses a USB cable instead, to ensure compatibility with the widest possible range of devices. We tested this on a Windows 10 PC loaded with the DisplayLink driver and Microsoft DisplayLink Manager app, and found we could easily swap between local and VB1 monitors, or mirror our local screen to the VB1.
Performance was good during meetings. Speaker tracking was suitably quick, with the camera consistently snapping to the correct speaker within about three seconds, and we were impressed with the unit’s ability to transmit clear human voices while excluding other extraneous sounds. We confirmed this for ourselves by setting up a Teams meeting between our VB1 host and another system at the far end of the lab, and making distracting sounds such as hand clapping, paper rustling and keyboard tapping. Through all this the receiving station remained entirely silent, while spoken words were conveyed flawlessly. Indeed, our testers remarked on how clear and natural speech sounded, even when speakers were seated as far as four metres away from the VB1.
Bose’s experience of designing loudspeakers is just as much in evidence. The VB1 projects the best sound quality we’ve heard from a room bar, and it’s great for music too, so you could use it to provide background music for events.
As for video quality, we’ve no complaints. The camera’s wide field of view allows it to work in larger meeting rooms; our only issue is with the digital zoom. This nominally offers 5x magnification, but when the auto-tracking feature zooms in close to a speaker’s face, the image quality conspicuously deteriorates.
PTZ can also be controlled from the supplied remote handset, along with audio volume and Bluetooth controls. Adjusting the camera settings disables the auto-framing feature, but you can instantly turn this back on by hitting the button in the centre.
Bose’s Work Configuration web console provides remote access to all video and audio features, plus a choice of backlight-compensation levels. We particularly like the way the microphone page shows a visualisation of the mic array audio beams, allowing you to change between dynamic and static modes and define custom speaking areas for the room.
Control apps are also offered for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android, which mirror the remote handset controls. And if you have multiple VB1s, you can use the Bose Work Management app for Windows to manage them all from one console.
It’s far from the cheapest VC bar on the market, but Bose’s Videobar VB1 is a class act for huddle spaces and meeting rooms. It’s easy to set up and use, with smart auto-framing features, and its audio quality is a cut above the rest.
Bose Videobar VB1 specifications
4K camera, 115º field of view, 5x digital zoom
6x beamforming microphones
2x 20W speakers
Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
HDMI 2.1 out, USB-C 3, 3.5mm audio in
IR remote control
686 x 96 x 48mm (WDH)
2yr limited warranty
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