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Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review: noise-canceling champion

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Bose’s original true wireless earbuds, the SoundSport Free, sounded fantastic but were foiled by connectivity problems and audio / video sync issues that the company never fully resolved. They also lacked active noise cancellation, which is the feature that Bose built its entire brand around. This allowed Apple, Sony, and others to seize the market with products like the AirPods Pro and WF-1000XM3 earbuds.

But Bose is tired of ceding ground to its competitors, and it’s returned with the QuietComfort Earbuds. Thanks to their completely redone design, the QuietComfort Earbuds are free from the frustrations that came with the SoundSport Free buds. They still sound terrific — and now, they’ve got ANC. It took Bose a while to get here, but the QuietComfort Earbuds deliver the best noise cancellation you can get in true wireless earbuds right now.

The big question is how much that’s worth to you. At $279, the QuietComfort Earbuds are a $30 increase over the AirPods Pro and in striking distance of Sennheiser’s $300 Momentum True Wireless 2. And while Bose has avoided any inherent flaws with the earbuds themselves, there are still minor annoyances like an awkwardly large carrying case and limited onboard controls that lack much customization.

At 0.3 ounces (8.5 grams) each, the QuietComfort Earbuds weigh about the same as Sony’s 1000XM3 buds in the ear, but the AirPods Pro (0.19 ounces, 5.4 grams) have them beat for all-day comfort. Bose’s earbuds are also larger than the AirPods Pro in every dimension and stick out further from the ear — though not to the same silly degree as the SoundSport Free.

Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds next to the Apple AirPods Pro.
Apple’s AirPods Pro are smaller and lighter than the QuietComfort Earbuds, but their noise cancellation isn’t as good.

But even if they’re not the most discreet or svelte, the QuietComfort Earbuds still feel very good in my ears, thanks to Bose’s StayHear Max ear tips, which have an integrated, flexible silicone wing that tucks into the ridge of the ear for added stability. Both the medium and large-sized ear tips worked for me and created a tight seal, but I ultimately found that mixing the two led to the best extended comfort. (There’s a reason manufacturers suggest trying that!)

Once they’re in place, the QuietComfort Earbuds aren’t going anywhere, and I’d be confident taking them for a run or through an intense gym routine. They’re rated IPX4 for water and sweat resistance, so sweat and the occasional splash of water should be fine, but avoid rainstorms. One thing worth mentioning is the occlusion effect; since Bose didn’t go for a vented design like the AirPods Pro or Pixel Buds with natural airflow, if you have a very tight seal with the QuietComfort Earbuds in, your inside voice might sound louder than normal, and in silent environments, you can hear yourself breathing. I noticed this when I first started using them, but it’s since gone away — either because the fit changed slightly or I’ve gotten used to it. Some people are more sensitive to this stuff than others.

Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds case next to cases for the AirPods, Pixel Buds, Powerbeats Pro, and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.
Bose’s case is substantially thicker than charging cases for many other true wireless earbuds.

The charging case for the QuietComfort Earbuds is… a lot. It’s nowhere near as compact as the AirPods Pro case or the cases for Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus or Google’s Pixel Buds. (The aforementioned Sennheisers also win out here.) I realize this is mostly due to the Bose earbuds’ larger size, but it still makes for an awkward bulge in whatever pants pocket you put them in. The case’s chonk factor isn’t a deal-breaker for me, as I always have a backpack with me for stowing it in. But at twice the thickness of an AirPods case, it could be for some.

Opening the case is more of a process than usual since Bose put in a latch that you’ve got to release by pressing the button on front. This takes firmer pressure than expected and can get annoying at times. On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about your pricey earbuds skittering across the floor if you drop the case. The front of the case has five LEDs to indicate battery charge level; Bose estimates up to six hours of continuous listening time for the earbuds themselves, plus two additional charges from the case. Those numbers are all very par for the course. The case supports wireless charging and has a USB-C port if you prefer to plug in for faster top-offs. (Fifteen minutes of charging can give you two hours of playback time.)

Bose retakes the noise cancellation crown

The audio quality and noise cancellation of the QuietComfort Earbuds easily outweigh the headaches from dealing with their awkward case. Bose has taken a noticeable lead over competitors and is nearing the noise cancellation effectiveness of full-size headphones. Instead of a simple on / off toggle like the AirPods Pro, Bose lets you choose between 10 levels of noise canceling. At 10, these earbuds do an astonishing job of hushing the world around you — better than Apple, Sony, and other competitors. Street noise just fades away; the constant hum of an air conditioner or the whir of a fan all but disappears. I’m not traveling much by plane at the moment, but I’m certain these would do a better job at muting cabin noise than other earbuds. You can even use the QuietComfort Earbuds in noise-canceling mode even when there’s no audio playing if you’re just looking for some peace and quiet.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds on a table beside the carrying case.
The ear tips have an integrated silicone fin for added stability.

On the opposite end, dropping down to zero puts the earbuds into full transparency / ambient mode. Bose has managed to tie Apple at making it almost feel like you’re not wearing earbuds at all. The transparency mode on the QuietComfort Earbuds sounds incredibly natural and will appeal to people who want a better sense of their surroundings when outside. When you take out either earbud, the one in your other ear automatically goes into full transparency — since Bose figures you’re probably trying to hear something. (Music also automatically pauses when an earbud is removed.)

You can double tap on the left earbud to switch between three “favorite” levels of noise cancellation. The defaults are 10, 5, and zero. I didn’t see any need to switch those up, but you can set them to whatever you want in the Bose Music app. Bose also lets you choose your preferred action for a long-press of the left bud: it can either announce battery status or skip to the next song. Unfortunately, that’s where customization of the controls end. These are the controls you’re left with:

  • Double tap on the right earbud to play or pause audio / answer a phone call
  • Touch and hold the right earbud to activate Siri or Google Assistant / decline a phone call
  • Double tap on the left earbud to switch between noise cancellation presets
  • Long press on the left earbud to check battery level or skip to the next song

And that’s it. There’s no way of going back to the last song with the onboard controls, and more frustrating is a complete lack of volume adjustment. Eagle-eyed Redditors spotted swipe-based volume controls in an early version of the QuietComfort Earbuds’ user manual, but Bose pulled it from the shipping product. The company tells me it’s still looking into adding volume adjustment through a firmware update, but no decisions have been made. I’m not sure what’s so hard when other companies are getting it right in earbuds that cost much less. But should you buy these, do so under the assumption that nothing’s going to change. If that proves to be the case, I can live with changing the volume on my phone (or via Siri).

Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds pictured worn in a person’s right ear.
The QuietComfort Earbuds don’t stick out of your ear as far as Bose’s previous SoundSport Free.

In my time testing the QuietComfort Earbuds, connection stability between the buds and my phone has been mostly flawless. Maybe that’s the result of upgrading to Bluetooth 5.1 or other internal changes, but either way, it’s a major improvement over the SoundSport Free, which suffered frequent audio dropouts. That’s not a concern this time around. Nor did I notice any audio / video sync mismatches when watching content from YouTube, Netflix, or Prime Video on my phone and laptop. Bose has successfully tackled the main flaws of its original true wireless earbuds.

Sound quality is still top notch. Bose isn’t shy about sculpting the audio; the company’s Active EQ boosts low and high frequencies at lower volumes so that music still feels dynamic even when you’re not cranking it. The QuietComfort Earbuds are very bass-forward and pack a wallop for hip-hop and EDM tracks. But the powerful low end also translates well to other genres. To my ears, these have a wider, richer soundstage than the competition (perhaps with the exception of Sennheiser).

A close-up photo of the ear tips for Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds.
Three sizes of ear tips come in the box.

A close-up photo of the microphones on the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
An array of microphones help the QuietComfort Earbuds pull off their fantastic noise cancellation.

Regardless of what genre you’re playing, the highs are detailed without ever coming off as harsh or shrill. Unfortunately, Bose’s app doesn’t offer any way to adjust the EQ for people who don’t love the default sound signature. Custom EQ is an option on the over-ear Noise Canceling Headphones 700, so it’s a bummer not to see it on these premium earbuds.

The QuietComfort Buds also handle voice calls well. They have a “self voice” feature that lets you adjust how much you can hear your own voice on a call so you don’t end up speaking too loudly, and they do a nice job of picking up your voice and reducing background noise so that others can clearly hear you. Only the right earbud can be used standalone for calls and audio.

The case provides two additional charges (12 hours) of battery life.

Unfortunately, Bose didn’t include multipoint in these earbuds, so they can only pair with one device at a time. Simultaneous pairing is still rare for earbuds — and a unique strength for Jabra — but when you consider that Apple’s AirPods Pro can now automatically and instantly switch between Apple devices, the QuietComfort Earbuds definitely take a usability hit. Multipoint is a longtime feature on Bose’s headphones, but for whatever reason, the company’s engineers couldn’t make it work here.

So yes, Bose’s new, almost-$300 QuietComfort Earbuds still have downsides. The earbuds are on the larger side, and their case is an absolute unit. The onboard controls need improvement. They lack multipoint. But there’s also plenty of good: Bose has leap-frogged everyone in noise cancellation (establishing itself as a leader once again) and come up with great-sounding earbuds that work reliably. Once the world is back to office life and boarding planes regularly, I think that’ll be a compelling combo — assuming you’re not already carrying around a pair of AirPods Pro or Sony 1000XM3s, that is.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

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The 10 Best Deals of October 27, 2020

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Gif: Juliana Clark

Best Deals of the DayBest Deals of the DayThe best deals from around the web, updated daily.

Tuesday’s Best Deals | Kinja Deals

It’s October 27, and we at Kinja Deals are here to bring you the top 10 deals of the day. Kick back with some vegan CBD gummies. Prep for your future Zoom calls with the MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit. Try your hand at indoor gardening with the AeroGarden Harvest 360.

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If you’re still looking to snag some deals, take a look at Tuesday’s best deals overall.

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If you’re going to give OLED a try, this might be the time to start considering. I’ll contend you can still get away with an LG B7, the baseline from a couple of generations ago, but the TVs have gotten exceptional. Burn-in and input lag are two of the biggest knocks against OLED, especially for gamers, but according to reviews, that should be a non-issue on the LG CX. So long as you’re not watching the news or playing games with the same HUD for many consecutive hours on end, you shouldn’t run into any nasty image retention issues anytime soon.

Now down to its all-time low price of $1,497 on Amazon and at BuyDig, this 55″ TV is one of the best LG currently has to offer. It begins with that beautiful OLED panel, of course, which bids sayonara to muddy grays and backlight bleed thanks to its per-pixel lighting. For movies, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision HDR return to give you the best cinematic experience possible, the latter adding a feature that automatically tunes the picture around your ambient lighting conditions and the content you’re watching.

The TV also includes both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, both of which are gaming features that eliminate screen tearing with little (if any) added input lag.

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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You can now commemorate your digital rags to riches story in Animal Crossing with a real world bell bag, now bundled with the game for $55. The bag alone is normally $20, and with Animal Crossing: New Horizons usually hovering around $50 these days, it’s a nice $15 value. We’ve talked at length about the game ‘round here, but this rave is all about that bag!

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This soft plush bag is super authentic with a brown star patch and a red drawstring to keep whatever you decide to carry inside from spilling out. The bag is about 5.95 inches wide and 4.9 inches tall, which isn’t a whole lot of room, but I’m sure you can find a good use for it!

Put down your purses, backpacks, and pocketbooks and try on an oldish-new way to transport your personal items and currencies. (Or, you know, just add it to your ever-growing Nintendo shrine.)

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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There’s nothing more vegan than letting everyone know you’re vegan, and while I don’t partake in the diet myself, I do try to reduce my animal-based intake where possible. And for avid CBD users like myself, it can be hard to find gummies that don’t use gelatin or other animal products to get their chewy mouthfeel. Complete with vitamins D3 and B12, Sunday Scaries Vegan AF gummies yield all the benefits of its classic Gummies for Chillin’ except, you know, without the dissuasive ingredients. Made from broad spectrum CBD oil and coconut oil, unlike some competing brands, Sunday Scaries’ gummies contain no THC, not even like trace amounts of the stuff. So if you’re trying to cut down on the devil’s lettuce, let our exclusive discount help with that.

Because CBD lacks the psychoactive chemical found in THC, it doesn’t get you “high” per se. Instead, it makes you feel relaxed while sober. Just pop a tasty gummy or two and you’re set to lie down for the night, free from racing thoughts about the impending doom of work tomorrow, hence the name Sunday Scaries. For a limited time, you can save 25% on these vegan CBD gummies using the promo code ESINV25 to see what it’s all about. Automatically applied at checkout, this brings the grand total down to $35, or $31 if you choose to subscribe and save. Before long, you’ll be singing its praises without ethical concern for environmental impact (well, save for the packaging I presume).

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This deal was originally published by Gabe Carey.

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If you need a massive storage upgrade and don’t need SSD transfer speeds, this Seagate Gold Box is perfect timing. External hard drives are up to 35% off at Amazon for the day, including a 2TB Backup Plus Slim that’s only $53, and you can get more than double the space for less than double the cost with this 5TB for $98.

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If you have tons of big games and large movies, you might want to step up to this 8TB instead, which is just $123 with the discount. There are options all the way up to a massive 10TB at Amazon, so shop around before the calendar turns.

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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Over 11,000 customers can’t be wrong. 60% of Amazon reviewers have given the MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit a 5-star rating. If you’ve been looking to clean up a few coffee stains or make those pearly whites a little brighter this is the kit you’ve been searching for. Save 30% on this kit today.

If you’ve seen these sets before you know it comes with a LED light that helps accelerate the whitening process. It has a built-in timer so you don’t need to worry about setting one yourself and each session will be accurate. Also in this kit are the three 3mL teeth whitening gel syringes and the mouth trays for top and bottom. This kit provides enough gel for nine treatments. The trays don’t need to be molded which alleviates a huge headache and is usually my biggest gripe when I’ve tried kits akin to this one. Several customers have mentioned this worked just as well with their sensitive teeth which are really nice to know if you’re on the delicate side. Use these bad boys once a day for ten minutes and see stains from your life fade away even after one treatment. If only you could remove other problems that easily.

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This deal was originally published by Sheilah Villari.

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I live in a basement apartment so I thought this would be a fun experiment when I got one of these. I also with a roommate who is an excellent cook and constantly looking for fresh herbs and our garden isn’t reliable with the neighborhood creatures. I was pleasantly surprised by the AeroGarden Harvest 360 and if you’re a foodie with a green thumb this is the deal for you. Save $50 on this model right now.

I don’t know what I was expecting but I don’t think it was for them to all grow so quickly. I put the AeroGarden in my room on a high shelf away from all the dogs, so a pretty lightless area. I will say the 20W LED grow-lights are very bright, but duh, they’re supposed to be the sun. They’re on a timer too so you don’t need to worry about turning it on and off. It was easy to set up and I really love that it’s got light indicators that let you know when your plant babies need water or food. Yes, it comes with plant food that’s easy to measure out and pour in the well. It was simple enough to get the pods into the AeroGarden with relatively no mess. I haven’t figured out how to harvest them yet which will need to be done very soon. My pack came with Genovese basil, Thai basil, dill, curly parsley, mint, and thyme. I can say the basil smells lovely. This was a fun experiment that I was pleasantly surprised by and I’d be willing to try some more advanced things like lettuce or tomatoes. The AeroGarden is a great alternative for the plant minded individual worried about pesticides or herbicides.

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This deal was originally published by Sheilah Villari.

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Listen, no matter how loud the anti-maskers have a temper tantrum, masks protect yourself and others from COVID-19. We’re living in a pandemic and you know, it requires a bit of preparation for going out in public. This 40-Pack of KN95 masks is $24. Yes, masks are overpriced these days, but these five-layer KN95 masks block 95% of air particles up to .3-micron levels. What are you waiting for? Grab a box and start using them!

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher. 

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If you’ve been looking for a way to take your temperature (or anyone else’s) without touching, you should look into this infrared forehead thermometer. It measures the heat coming off you in about a second for the best possible reading. You can also use it in the ear. It’s only $22, which is about $40 off the original list price. I would grab it before it’s gone.

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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Our pals at Elle Paradis want to treat you not trick you this week unless you’re into that. As a lead up to the spookiest day of the year grab 2 extra good when you spend $75.

My favorite little devil bullet ($22) is one of the free goodies. Channel your dark side in a discrete and clever manner. This smooth silicone little satan vibe has ten different settings and will be as naughty as you want to. Easy to use as it has one button and it’s splash-proof for simple cleaning. This buzzing Beelzebub will need AAA batteries but it’ll be worth it when get to dance with diablo.

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A handful of bundles are on sale for All Hallows’ Eve too. This Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun Bundle ($55) that’s discounted 77% in this deal. I do like the variety in this set though. A little something for the backdoor and the front door. Two massagers and a G-spot vibe. Stimulate the spirits just remember to clean the ectoplasm after.

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Free shipping on all orders.

This deal was originally published by Sheilah Villari.

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If you have the occasional pimple, much like me, chances are you don’t want it to be there. You should check out Rael Pimple Patches. Only $16, they’re made with hydrocolloid that’ll extract all the nasty-ass puss straight from your pimple without ever having to pop them. Which means no acne scars! They also come in two sizes, 10mm and 12mm for regular and extra-large pimples. Shoot, I might buy some!

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher.


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Microsoft gets a pandemic boost thanks to Surface, Xbox, and cloud services

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Microsoft posted the first quarter of its 2021 financial results today, reporting revenue of $37.2 billion and a net income of $13.9 billion. Revenue is up 12 percent, and net income has increased by 30 percent. While the ongoing pandemic continues to force many to work remotely during an economic downturn, Microsoft is benefiting from the shift in the way people are now working, playing games more, and connecting to others through videoconferencing.

Cloud services are the biggest boost to Microsoft’s revenues from the pandemic shift in behavior. Both Office commercial and consumer are up, with Office 365 Commercial revenue growth up by 21 percent. Server products and cloud services revenue has also increased 22 percent as more businesses rely on cloud services for remote working. Azure revenue itself grew 48 percent.

The biggest news here from a consumer point of view is that Microsoft 365 Consumer subscribers have also increased to 45.3 million. That’s a jump of 27 percent year-over-year, and likely thanks to Microsoft’s renewed focus on consumers with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams earlier this year.

Cloud and Office aren’t the only products driving Microsoft’s growth, though. Surface revenue has jumped by 37 percent this quarter to $1.5 billion. That’s a big increase for a quarter that hasn’t seen any new Surface devices introduced. Microsoft only just introduced a new Surface Laptop Go device and updated Surface Pro X earlier this month, but those will count to next quarter’s revenue.

Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox consoles.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Over on the gaming side, Xbox content and services revenue has also increased significantly by 30 percent compared to the same quarter last year. A number of consumers have turned to gaming and services like xCloud or Game Pass during the pandemic, and it’s clear there’s an increased demand for Microsoft’s gaming services. Microsoft notes that Xbox Game Pass subscriptions and strength in third-party and first-party titles helped with revenue.

Microsoft is now gearing up to launch its next-gen Xbox Series X and Series S consoles on November 10th. The consoles complement Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service that launched last month, and the company’s ongoing efforts with Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft revealed it has 15 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers last month, but the company hasn’t provided any fresh numbers today.

Microsoft appears to be bullish about demand for the Xbox Series X and S consoles. “We expect very strong demand following the launch of our next-generation Xbox Series X and S consoles,” said Microsoft CFO Amy Hood during a call with investors. This demand should drive “supply constrained hardware revenue growth of approximately 40 percent” next quarter.

Microsoft reported a jump in Windows usage earlier this year after lockdowns throughout many parts of the world led to remote working for many. This jump in usage hasn’t resulted in increased Windows OEM revenue during this quarter, though. Windows OEM revenue has dropped 5 percent, and Microsoft blames lower commercial demand for the dip.

While commercial demand for PCs might be softening, Windows OEM non-pro revenue has grown by 31 percent, thanks to consumer PC demand. It’s likely that students and families are driving this growth during the pandemic, turning to PCs to help support remote learning. During an earnings call with investors, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said “PCs have become mission critical,” and that Microsoft is seeing double digit growth in monthly active devices for Windows 10.

Surface Laptop Go.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Elsewhere, LinkedIn revenue has also grown by 16 percent year-over-year with 722 million users. Search revenue has decreased by 10 percent, though. Microsoft splits its various businesses into three buckets: productivity and business processes, intelligent cloud, and more personal computing. The more personal computing bucket includes Surface, Xbox, and Windows, and Microsoft says gaming and Surface drove its revenue growth of 6 percent for this quarter.

Azure drove the intelligent cloud revenue growth, and Office 365 and LinkedIn helped the productivity and business processes bucket. It’s clear that these main revenue drivers — Azure, gaming, Surface, and Office — have been influenced by the pandemic.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the beginning of this pandemic that the company had witnessed “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” That transformation appears to be continuing for many businesses, students, and consumers.

Update, October 27th 6:10PM ET: Article updated with comments from Microsoft’s investor call.

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You can now buy Vizio’s rotating Atmos soundbar

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Vizio’s Elevate soundbar has finally hit shelves. You can buy it today for $999.99. The 48-inch soundbar supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The soundbar houses 18 speakers and comes with a wireless eight-inch subwoofer. The cool thing is that some of the speakers rotate — they face upward while you’re playing Dolby Atmos content and point forward for standard audio.

I spoke to Vizio CEO William Wang about the Elevate earlier this year. He said the soundbar is intended to hook non-enthusiast customers on Dolby Atmos by showing them, visually, the difference between the two tiers of audio. He also noted that while the Elevate is asking a steep price, he expects the rotating speakers to appear in lower-cost devices down the road. The Elevate is being positioned as a good companion purchase for Vizio’s first 4K OLED TV, which is also now available.

Currently, you can order the Elevate at Best Buy and Walmart. Vizio says it’s coming to Amazon and Sam’s Club, too, but those don’t appear to have active links yet.

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