B&W has a long history with soundbars. In fact, the Panorama soundbar has been produced by the company since 2009. Unlike most competitors, the Panorama soundbar was designed with a single speaker in mind, eliminating the need for an external subwoofer add-on. B&W updated the Panorama model with the Panorama 2 in 2013 as well as the Panorama 3 in 2022 to keep up with advances in sound processing technology and connectivity demand, but the original premise of the single-speaker design remains. This review allowed me to see firsthand what the B&W Panorama 3 soundbar has to offer in terms of features and performance.
To be more specific, the B&W Panorama 3 is not completely wireless because it requires an HDMI/optical cable connection to the TV in order to decode the surround content in the programme materials being played. Nonetheless, B&W placed it in the Wireless Speakers category on its website, and calling the Panorama 3 soundbar a wireless speaker isn’t entirely inaccurate given its versatile wireless streaming connectivity. In fact, its wireless connectivity capabilities are comparable to those of the B&W Zeppelin.
Design and Build Quality
The Panorama 3 soundbar has a low-profile, wide-and-sleek design that is elegant in its simplicity. The visible part of the speaker in a typical placement is mostly made up of a nice blend of the fabric grill covering its front and sides and the plastic grill on its top panel. A glass strip with touch-illuminated control buttons extends from the speaker’s middle top area to a Bowers & Wilkins nameplate near the front edge. When you lift it, you can feel its moderately heavy weight and the rigidity of its construction, indicating its overall excellent build quality.
The soundbar can be easily placed on the table where your TV stands or mounted on the wall with the included wall brackets due to its low profile (only 2.5′′ high) and short depth (5.5′′). It can also be placed on a shelf, but because the Panorama 3 has upward-angled Atmos drivers, this may prevent the speaker from projecting sound upward into the room ceiling. The Panorama 3 is only available in black, which may not match some room décors, but I believe black is the finish that most people want for their soundbars in order to match the black screen of the TV display (when not in use) as well as being inconspicuous in a dimly lit or dark watching environment.
Panorama 3’s clean and simple exterior conceals sophisticated internals. To begin, there are 13 drivers inside, which are arranged in the 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos configuration. The forward-firing driver array is set up in the standard left, centre, and right (LCR) configuration, with fully-decoupled 0.75′′ titanium-dome tweeters and two 2′′ midrange drivers on each side.
A pair of 4′′ subwoofers are mounted on the top panel, with effective acoustic volume covering the majority of the speaker enclosure. Finally, the elevation channel for the Dolby Atmos surround format is delivered by two angled upward-firing Atmos drivers located near the outer edge of the top panel. Its internal amplifier can deliver 40 W to each tweeter, 40 W to each pair of midrange drivers, 40 W to each subwoofer, and 40 W to each Atmos elevation driver, for a total output of 400 W.
The B&W Panorama 3 wired connector ports are located in a recessed area on the middle back panel and include HDMI eARC, Toslink optical, an ethernet port, and a USB-C port (for service only). There’s also a power port and a reset button. A short press and release of the reset button reboots the soundbar but does not erase the settings, so it functions similarly to the restart button on your phone or tablet. By pressing this reset button for more than 5 seconds, you can restore the soundbar to its factory settings. In a standard setup, the recessed connectivity area conceals the cable connection to the soundbar for a neat appearance.
When connecting, you will need to tilt the soundbar forward to access the connection ports in this recessed area. The HDMI connection is the primary connection to use for decoding surround sound from programme materials played on the TV. A Toslink optical port is also included to accommodate older televisions that lack HDMI outputs. The Panorama 3 supports Dolby surround formats in their native form (Dolby Atmos, Dolby True HD, and Dolby Digital+), which means it will not perform a surround mix from a two-channel audio signal. There is currently no DTS processing capability.
Setup and Use
When used as a traditional soundbar, the Panorama 3 is virtually plug-and-play. Simply connect the HDMI cable from the TV’s HDMI ARC socket to the Panorama 3’s HDMI port and power on the device, and you’re ready to go. To use all of its features, you must first download the B&W Music app and follow its simple step-by-step instructions to connect the soundbar to your Wi-Fi network. Once the Panorama 3 is connected to the network, the app can be used to control the device, including its wireless streaming playback functions.
The B&W Panorama 3 was placed on the top shelf of my large AV rack, which also served as a stand for my 75′′ Samsung TV in the living room. The HDMI eARC port on the soundbar was connected to the TV. Activating the CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) feature on the TV allowed me to use the TV’s remote to control the volume level of the Panorama 3, which is especially useful given that the soundbar does not come with its own remote. During my evaluation, I used video materials from the Xfinity cable service as well as streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Videos, and Disney+. I used the Tidal streaming services to listen to music.
The Panorama 3 delivered a pleasing, well-balanced sonic performance for casual music listening as a music streamer. Even though I preferred its sister product, the Zeppelin, for this application, the Panorama 3 produced respectable stereo music performance that, in my opinion, did not lag far behind the Zeppelin. The Panorama 3 actually has the advantage of being able to play music embedded with the Dolby Atmos music format, which the Zeppelin could not. When played through the Panorama 3, some of these Dolby Atmos music mixes sounded better to me than their original stereo counterparts.