Have a cigar. There’s a new baby in the Bose smart speaker line. The Bose Home Speaker 300 is the littlest and least pricey of four models in a rapidly expanding talk-to-me speaker family first announced in August 2018.

The 300’s kinship to its siblings is unmistakable in both industrial design and performance. If you relish Bose’s signature sound, you’ll be happy to bring this newborn home—especially if you’ve already bought something else in the lineup and you’re looking to build out a Bose-based multi-room audio system.

Be forewarned: Leading a product line with a small, affordable, affable performer is often a maker’s best strategy to lure you into investing in the rest of its product line. If at first it does succeed, you’ll shop, shop again—perhaps for a bigger-voiced, slightly brighter-sounding Home Speaker 500. Or for one of Bose’s well-received smart soundbars—the Bose Soundbar 500 or the larger Bose Soundbar 700—to cumulatively fill your house with synchronized (or disparate) sound.

bose home speaker 300 no 1a Jonathan Takiff / IDG

The baby Bose Home Speaker 300 (left) doesn’t fall far from the bush that gave us the Home Speaker 500 (right.)

That customer-nurturing strategy has worked well for Sonos, who uses its smallest and least-expensive Sonos One as the initial lure. And that’s clearly the rival that Bose is gunning for with the similarly sized Home Speaker 300. Both speakers offer the choice of either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for calling out song and station requests, asking for the news, checking the weather, and ordering merchandise, as well as casting such smart-home charms as dimming the lights, adjusting the thermostat, and closing the garage door (provided you have the requisite gear, of course).

Bose’s offering is priced $60 higher than the Sonos One, but it offers a few features Sonos doesn’t: Most notably six station/album/podcast/playlist preset buttons, and Bluetooth connectivity. Those goodies almost justify the price bump. (Apple users will want to know that both speakers can also operate in Apple’s AirPlay 2 ecosystem.)

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The earlier Bose SoundTouch streaming speaker line also has six preset buttons. But if you have multiple models sitting on your home Wi-Fi network, they’ll all share the same preset content; in other words, if you program a SoundTouch’s preset number three to tune to BBC6, preset number three on all the other SoundTouch radios in your house will also tune to BBC6. With the new Home Speaker line, you can set presets individually on each box, and then share the selections via speaker grouping if you so choose.

Filling the bill

Bose touts “360 sound” dispersion in the Home Speaker 300; in its larger stablemate, the $399.95 Home Speaker 500; and in the aforementioned Soundbar 500. But the two tabletop speakers approach the mission differently. The similarly oval-shaped Home Speaker 500 packs stereo speakers that fire left and right to enhance a sense of spaciousness. The smaller Home Speaker 300 uses a single, full range transducer—approximately 2.25 inches in size, I’m told—that fires down into an acoustic deflector, radiating sound in every direction through the enclosure’s perforated metal grill work.

bose home speaker 300 no 3 Jonathan Takiff / IDG

The Bose Home Speaker 300 (left) takes up roughly the same shelf space as the Sonos One (right).

I got out my trusty Radio Shack sound pressure level meter and compared dispersion patterns and levels on both a first-gen Sonos One and the Bose Home Speaker 300. With its discrete front-firing mid-range/woofer and tweeter, the Class D-amplified Sonos One registered louder on the meter—up to 102dB, with some audible distortion noticeable above 98dB—when the meter was pointed dead center at the speaker. The Bose registered 98dB max, but with no audible distortion at that level. But those readings were taken off axis, left and right, which indicates the Bose HS 300 creates a larger sound field.