Is BOSE Home Theatre Worth the Big Bucks ?

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?

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.

I just replaced a pair of Bose 301’s with Polk Audio speakers (RTi8’s), 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.
Infinity’s HT systems - link.

If you’re going to spend that level of money, I would go with B&W. Much better value for the money. These 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.

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.)

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.

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.

Great information and insight in this thread! Thanks, people. And thanks, Ralph, for raising the question.

This guy in a white van offered to sell me these speakers…

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.

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 to go with my new Polks. :smiley: Cost the same as the bose, too.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

I’ll add another vote for Polk. I’ve always liked their stuff.

I’ll throw in Cambridge Soundworks 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.

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:

Acoustimass review, and all you need to know about Blose: