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View Full Version : Is BOSE Home Theatre Worth the Big Bucks ?


ralph124c
01-21-2007, 02:25 AM
I am shopping for a home theatre system, and I like the Bose ($1500) system. But I note, you can buy a Philips or RCA systems for MUCH less-top line PHILIPS about $350. Is the BOSE system all that much better? Anyone have any experienc with BOSE?

Sam Stone
01-21-2007, 04:03 AM
Bose is wildly overpriced. It's mid-fi equipment at hi-fi prices, essentially.

Any of the little 'cube' systems suffer from the laws of physics - the tiny cubes can't replay much bass, and the 'bass module' can't reproduce the highs. In a cube system, there's usually a big hole in the midrange - which happens to be where most dialog is in movies.

Bose isn't horrible stuff - if it was half the price it would be a decent value. Bose's business model is similar to Bang and Olufsen's - create a 'lifestyle' product, market the hell uot of it, make it look really slick and cool, give it a high wife acceptance factor - and then charge a hell of a lot of money for it.

wheelie
01-21-2007, 08:56 AM
I just replaced a pair of Bose 301's with Polk Audio (http://www.polkaudio.com) speakers (RTi8's (http://www.polkaudio.com/images/home/large/cherry/rti8.jpg)), and the difference is amazing. The Bose speakers were okay, but depend on reflected sound for proper imaging (they have drivers facing the rear of the speaker as well as the front - they call it 'direct/reflecting') and are very dependent on proper placement and room accoustics. Higher frequencies were kind of muddy and indistinct, too.
For the money, you can do better than Bose, IMHO. A lot better.

Polk Audio's HT systems - link (http://www.polkaudio.com/homeaudio/products/systems/).
Infinity's HT systems - link (http://www.infinitysystems.com/homeaudio/category.aspx?catId=HTS&finish=&enclosure=&technology=&Submit=Submit+New+Choices#).

Chefguy
01-21-2007, 09:44 AM
If you're going to spend that level of money, I would go with B&W. Much better value for the money. These (http://www.bwspeakers.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/products.ranges/label/Range%20DM300%20Series) are similar to what I bought. Hook them to a decent Yamaha amp and Bob's your uncle. I suggest avoiding the $350 boxed sets. While the fidelity isn't completely awful, you will generally get fuzzing on the bass at higher volumes. Always listen to the system before you buy, and crank it to reasonably high volume with the bass level turned up.

Hunter Hawk
01-21-2007, 12:44 PM
I haven't gone speaker-shopping for several years, but at that time the Paradigm Atom speakers were known for sounding remarkably good for the price.

Another piece of advice: Check out real hi-fi shops if there are any in your area. In addition to selling the high-end equipment, they'll usually also have cheaper stuff that's actually decent quality. Yes, you'll still pay more than you will at a big-box store, but you're also paying for (a) the sales peoples' expertise, and (b) a chance to listen to the equipment in a better environment.

And to be more blunt regarding wheelie's comments: IMO, the Bose "direct/reflecting" thing is a load of hooey. Once the signal is on the CD, that's as accurate as it's gonna get. And you only have two ears. So Bose is claiming that by degrading the signal upon playback, that's somehow going to help with imaging. You want good imaging, you either need a pair of headphones or a speaker array in an anechoic chamber--not the Bose strategy of "bounce the sound off the walls so it sounds muddy everywhere and tell the rubes that that's a good thing". (NB: I wasn't the guy doing research on spatialized sound in grad school, but I had to read some of the literature and I was sitting next to the guy who was doing the research.)

Jake
01-21-2007, 03:36 PM
The price of Bose is outrageous. I've purchased a 110 watt per channel amplifier with speakers from Sears. The total cost was under 400.00 dollars and the system is great. Takes some hooking up, but it's worth it.
My opinion? The more air the speakers move the better the bass. The better the amplifer, the better the tweeters.
I live in a small apartment and can get fidelity at low volulme, also.

Sam Stone
01-21-2007, 03:49 PM
I'm a big fan of Paradigm speakers. Paradigm is a Canadian company that designs and builds everything for their speakers, including the drivers. They have access to Canada's NRC acoustics engineering labs, and have taken full advantage of it. The result is competitively priced speakers that sound fantastic.

A set of Paradigm speakers equivalently priced to a Bose system will sound way, way better.

Liberal
01-21-2007, 04:20 PM
Great information and insight in this thread! Thanks, people. And thanks, Ralph, for raising the question.

Johnny L.A.
01-21-2007, 04:23 PM
This guy in a white van offered to sell me these speakers...

The Scrivener
01-21-2007, 06:16 PM
Audiophiles have a saying about Bose speakers: "no highs, no lows -- gotta be Bose".

My advice is to make sure to also test the speakers at a low volume, especially if most of your viewing will be at a low(ish) volume. Sales clerks like to crank up the volume when selling the merits of their wares.

wheelie
01-21-2007, 07:33 PM
Audiophiles have a saying about Bose speakers: "no highs, no lows -- gotta be Bose"Bose - Better sound through marketing.

Second the recommendation for Paradigm. Very good value, nice speakers. Didn't know they were Canadian. A friend of mine had a pair he used as surrounds a few years ago.
Just retired another Bose speaker tonight, got the matching center channel speaker (http://www.polkaudio.com/homeaudio/products/csi3/) to go with my new Polks. :D Cost the same as the bose, too.

Enter the Flagon
01-21-2007, 09:34 PM
A friend of mine had a high-dollar Bose Acoustimass system, and when he blew up the woofers, he asked me to fix it.

So I took it apart, and I have to say, I was very impressed with the engineering - "How did Bose manage to make such a cheaply-made system sound even halfway decent? These drivers are one step up from junk, and the cabinet is crappy-ass pressboard!" I said to myself.

Bose stuff doesn't exactly sound terrible, but plenty of other manufacturers offer much better value, I'd say, in agreement with the previous posters here. In addition to the speaker makers listed above, check out the NHT and PSB speaker lines for excellent sound at each price point.

Freudian_Slip
01-22-2007, 06:07 AM
We had an Acoustimass 5:1 system for about five years (which ran about $1000 on sale back then). It was certainly an upgrade from the cheap speakers before (and being the first surround sound set --- that certainly helped).

It was a reasonable setup for movies. Music sounded uniformly awful through it - to the point that my CD collection sat and gathered dust. When I started buying DVD-Audio and found the sound didn't improve, it was time to move on.

We acquired five Mirage Omnisats and a really nice subwoofer (which fortunately was on sale). The difference was - and is - startling. Movies are great, and the music is too.

It ended up costing about $500 more than the Bose for a drastic sound improvement. Would I go back to Bose? Nah.

Chefguy
01-22-2007, 09:57 AM
When I was speaker-shopping many years ago, I was all hot for the Bose 301 or 401. Luckily, the audio guy at the PX had some expertise. He put a 301 on the right channel of the demo amp and a Cerwin Vega! on the left. What a good education that turned out to be. The CV! was cleaner, crisper, and "lit off" at a lower Db than the Bose. In later years I bought a set of 901 speakers, just because the price was incredibly low at $400 (with the amp), but was never really impressed with them. Compare the sound from a 901 with a B&W Nautilus and you'll never buy the hype again.

Ponder Stibbons
01-22-2007, 10:03 AM
To echo what's already been said, Bose just ain't worth the money. They put out an OK product priced as an audiophile product. My main speakers are CV!'s I bought fifteen years ago and have never disappointed me as I've upgraded other equipment in my system. I recently bought the Super Audio CD of Dark Side of the Moon and was so blown away by the sound quality I just sat and listened to it all the way through. That with my "ancient" main speakers and five-year-old (forget the brand, sorry) surround speakers.

ralph124c
01-22-2007, 10:21 AM
People have told me that B&O is the "Bose" of Europe-very expensive, beautifully executed, but really mediocre sound at an obscene price! Wht do audiophiles think of B&O? I like their CD players-wave your hand, the door opens-but is this so much visual nice stuff masking the inherent mediocrity?

Hampshire
01-22-2007, 10:51 AM
Sub/Sat systems (subwoofer/satellites) all suffer from the same general problem; using a 2-3" driver for your directional highs and a 6-8" box subwoofer for your non-directional lows leaves a big hole in the middle of your music.
Their popularity came mainly from the ability to have a simulated "big sound" in your living room without large intrusive speakers and for that they do well.
However they are by no means an equivalent to traditional tower speakers and shouldn't claim to be (and shouldn't be priced like them).

If your situation demands a sub/sat type system then BOSE does do a commendable job. However, there are plenty of competitors in the sub/sat market that make a comparable system often for 1/2 the price.

There are a few things BOSE does very well however.
They market themselves perfectly. If you want to hear a BOSE speaker you can go to a BOSE store and get an excellent demo of the speakers by a very well informed BOSE sale person. Not always as easy with big box stores. You just hope they have them hooked up correctly and wonder if they sound as good in your living room as they do in the middle of a huge retail space.
They provide excellent customer service. The speakers have a 5-year warranty and they replace them, not reapir them, instantly.
They're excellent for the electronic impaired. The instructions for hook-up are idiot proof. They supply speaker wire. The wire is pre-stripped and labeled. Perfect for those who don't know a left speaker negative connection from an RCA input.

romansperson
01-22-2007, 11:29 AM
I'll add another vote for Polk. I've always liked their stuff.

I'll throw in Cambridge Soundworks (http://www.cambridgesoundworks.com/store/category.cgi?category=0) too. Nice sounding AND nice-looking.

Kind of off the subject, but -- do you have a dog? I found that I can't use my home theater for movies. The surround sound freaks him right out, and I've heard other people say the same thing.

Phlosphr
01-22-2007, 11:41 AM
People have told me that B&O is the "Bose" of Europe-very expensive, beautifully executed, but really mediocre sound at an obscene price! Wht do audiophiles think of B&O? I like their CD players-wave your hand, the door opens-but is this so much visual nice stuff masking the inherent mediocrity?
B&O person here: My wife and I have a B&O soundscape in our living room and we love it. The guy who installed it for us did say that the warranty and upgrades are worth the money, but the sound quality is nearly the same as Bose... They both pitch their revolutionary speaker systems et al. but in reality if you have shitty ecoustics in your living room, ANY sound system you put in will sound the like. We placed three tapestries in our LR and it did little to bring down the eco we were getting... So next time - perhaps some vibration absorbing paint will be necessary... Although I think we'd have to steal the formula from the Navy... :rolleyes:

Capa84
01-22-2007, 01:33 PM
Acoustimass review, and all you need to know about Blose:
http://www.intellexual.net/bose.html

RogueRacer
01-22-2007, 03:22 PM
Make sure to get some Monster Cable to go with the Bose gear! ;)

Carnac the Magnificent!
01-22-2007, 03:49 PM
I'm a big fan of Paradigm speakers. Paradigm is a Canadian company that designs and builds everything for their speakers, including the drivers. They have access to Canada's NRC acoustics engineering labs, and have taken full advantage of it. The result is competitively priced speakers that sound fantastic.

A set of Paradigm speakers equivalently priced to a Bose system will sound way, way better.



I was dining at a restaurant somewhere up in NYC about 10 years ago, and complimented the waiter on the incredible speakers. Couldn't read the logo on them, but he did: Paradigm. Incredible high and middle ranges.

Gorsnak
01-22-2007, 05:11 PM
Make sure to get some Monster Cable to go with the Bose gear! ;)
Oh, don't even get me started. Saw a 3' hdmi cable for $150 the other day and it was all I could do not to track down a sales guy and chew him out loudly in front of the whole store for that kind of bullshit.

I've been in the rather awkward position of installing Bose Acoustimass a couple times (for a while my boss had a deal with a sort of installation referral agency, we'd get called out to install something someone had bought at a big box store). What do you say when someone asks you to confirm that the system they just shelled out the big bucks for is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you think it's crap? I usually just said "I'm sure you'll be happy with it."

scotandrsn
01-22-2007, 05:26 PM
I contracted at Bose when the Acoustimass speakers were first introduced, over 15 years ago.

Amar Bose rejects mid-range drivers at the cellular level. He thinks you can get equally good response out of any sized speaker if it's designed right. Their flagship 901 speakers are 9 drivers, 1 facing forware, and 8 facing the back wall to make use of its acoustic properties to magnify the sound.

I worked in the A/V department, who created all the demos. They acknowledged that a good portion of their job was to fill in the great hole in the midrange of that system. Their chief sound engineer at the time, the guy responsible for optimizing the marketability of the sound of all Bose product, didn't even like the sound of Bose speakers. He thought they were too "cold".

It was an open secret amongst everyone below top management that if it wasn't for their marketing allowing them to charge big bucks, they would have gone out of business years ago.

Chefguy
01-22-2007, 08:50 PM
To echo what's already been said, Bose just ain't worth the money. They put out an OK product priced as an audiophile product. My main speakers are CV!'s I bought fifteen years ago and have never disappointed me as I've upgraded other equipment in my system. I recently bought the Super Audio CD of Dark Side of the Moon and was so blown away by the sound quality I just sat and listened to it all the way through. That with my "ancient" main speakers and five-year-old (forget the brand, sorry) surround speakers.

Yeah, some of the oldies are still good units. We have a pair of Klipsch rear speakers that work pretty well with the NHT towers in front on the home audio setup. I still miss my CV! D-7 monitors, though.

Sam Stone
01-23-2007, 10:09 PM
B&O person here: My wife and I have a B&O soundscape in our living room and we love it. The guy who installed it for us did say that the warranty and upgrades are worth the money, but the sound quality is nearly the same as Bose... They both pitch their revolutionary speaker systems et al. but in reality if you have shitty ecoustics in your living room, ANY sound system you put in will sound the like. We placed three tapestries in our LR and it did little to bring down the eco we were getting... So next time - perhaps some vibration absorbing paint will be necessary... Although I think we'd have to steal the formula from the Navy... :rolleyes:
Vibration absorbing paint won't do much. What you want are acoustic panels, typically made of 1" thick dense rigid insulation with a cloth covering over it. These guys (http://www.realtraps.com/products.htm) make some decent inexpensive ones.

Things like carpet and tapestries will absorb some of the high frequencies, but they are lousy in the midrange and below. The result is a room that can sound 'boomy'. The thicker, denser panels are good at absorbing broad spectrum sound, and really on stop being effective at the lowest bass frequencies.

If you are interested in good sound quality, here's the cheapest, most effective thing you can do - buy a couple of 2 X 4 fabric covered panels, and put them at the 'first reflection points' on your walls. The first reflection point carries a lot of sound energy, which bounces off the walls and heads for your ears. But since it is traveling a little further than the sound that came directly from the speaker, it arrives somewhat out of phase. This destroys imaging, can cause comb filtering effects, and make your equipment sound muddy. By absorbing energy at the first reflection point, you minimize this effect.

You can find the first reflection point by having someone put a mirror flat on the wall. With you seated in your normal listening position, have the person slide the mirror along the wall until you can see your speaker in it. That's the first reflection point. Cover it up. If you don't have acoustic panels, you could try putting a soft chair there, or a wall hanging, or whatever you've got that might absorb or diffuse the reflection. Do the same for your other speaker. There are also first reflection points on the floor and ceiling and back wall. The floor usually has carpet on it, which helps. Typically you can't do much with the ceiling. But speakers are designed to minimize the amount of energy that goes out vertically, so the important reflection points are the ones on the wall.

A lot of home theaters built by people who know what they are doing typically have the entire back wall covered with acoustic panel material, and then the lower 48" of the side walls also covered. This results in a fairly 'dead' room with excellent imaging, but with the top half of the room 'live' so the ambient sounds from the surround speakers sound natural - which is exactly what you want for 5.1 surround sound. That's the way I built mine, and it sounds great. If you do it yourself, it's not expensive. All the acoustic material for my theater was under $300.

They market themselves perfectly. If you want to hear a BOSE speaker you can go to a BOSE store and get an excellent demo of the speakers by a very well informed BOSE sale person. Not always as easy with big box stores. You just hope they have them hooked up correctly and wonder if they sound as good in your living room as they do in the middle of a huge retail space.


They won't. Bose is very smart about how they demo their speakers - they use a 'near field' demo environment, with the speakers very close to your ears. Near field means the only sound you hear is coming straight out of the speakers, and not reflecting off of other surfaces. This allows them to precisely engineer their demo CDs to sound the best - they equalize them to help flatten the otherwise horrible frequency response of their speakers, and control the imaging to really 'wow' you. The other advantage of these demo kiosks is that it keeps Bose products away from the other speakers so you can't do an A/B comparison.

But when you get them home and set them up in a typical listening environment, they won't sound anything like they did in the demo.

Liberal
01-23-2007, 10:20 PM
That should be prosecutable fraud, in my opinion.

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