2004-08-22 04:18:39 UTC
The Bottom Line Audio equipment is a wonderful hobby featuring many
different approaches to the science of sound by many different speaker
manufacturers. Respect one another's preferences.
Original Review date = Feb. 14, 2004:
I guess from the beginning of time itself humanity has shown its
strengths and weaknesses sometimes with very little subtlety. Certainly
we are a breed of beings quite capable of love, compassion, honesty,
integrity, good-hearted humor, good will, bravery and self sacrifice.
Unfortunately this very same breed is quite comfortable at times with
hatred, greed, lying, sarcasm, snobbishness, cheating, ignorance,
prejudice, cowardice and selfishness.
So why should someone who writes audio and video reviews for EPINIONS
submit an article opening with a paragraph the likes of what you have
just read? Well, because I have written what I consider to be a very
passionate review on the most passionate speaker system I have ever
encountered since the day I fell in love with the audio hobby. The
speaker system I'm referring to is the legendary Bose 901. Unfortunately
as popular as this speaker was and is, it is also loathed and hated by
many audiophiles for several reasons. Also unfortunate is the amount of
outright abuse Bose audiophiles receive when voicing their love for Bose
You see, when the first reviews of the 901 went to press in 1968 they
were raves. Because of the raves and because the speakers were so
satisfyingly different from anything else at that time, the little Bose
Corporation enjoyed seemingly instant overnight success. The reviews were
all from magazines that had many audio manufacturers including Bose
sponsor their print. Bose did run small black and white ads in everyone
of them. Then along came the first negative review from supposedly an
unbiased Stereophile magazine issue. This seemingly courageous
publication supposedly relied less on advertising for its income freeing
the reviewers to write whatever they felt like writing on given pieces of
audio equipment. Unfortunately another negative reviewer voiced his
opinion on the 901 and Bose decided to pursuit the man in court.
The outcome of the trial was at first in favor of Bose but then the
court's decision was overturned later in favor of the reviewer's right to
his own opinion. Here, I agree with the court's judgement as I believe we
have the right to print exactly how we feel. The only problem I have with
the particular reviewer in question was that it was discovered that the
gentleman was involved in starting a new speaker co. which may have
thrown more incentive in his direction to speak very negatively about the
Well, sometimes success breeds hate and contempt and the Bose Corp. seems
to be a classic prime example...not entirely beyond their own fault. By
the late 70's the 901's were steamrolling along with enviable success
while high end audio dealers built up even more contempt with only a few
select high end stores carrying the Bose name. Bose incidentally started
marketing the 901 in the late 60's in high end fashion by carefully
selecting its authorized dealers using Fair Trade Laws to control or set
their product's prices. Even though Fair Trade Laws have been long since
repealed, they are now substituted by and replaced with "controlled
pricing" which basically accomplishes the same objective by not only Bose
but many respectable brands. That is..."Lower the price of our product
below our set price without our authorization and we'll drop you like a
Of course the benefits to the individual dealer is that no one will be
allowed to undersell him. Of course there are ways around this but I'll
save that for another topic.
Bose lawyers have been turned loose by Amar Bose to pursuit other
manufacturers that may possibly have infringed on the co.'s patents and
this fact has only added fuel to the fire. Battle lines were clearly
drawn between the high end and the highway discounters that sold Bose
speakers by the turn of the decade and by 1983 all high end publications
clearly ruled out any mention of the Bose 901 or any other Bose product
for that matter! Stereophile magazine which featured J Gordon Holt's
original negative review refused to even list the 901 as an acceptable
audiophile speaker. Yes, in 1983 if one were to walk into a specialized
high end store and mention the Bose 901 as a possible ultimate speaker
purchase then one was likely to find his or her way to the door rather
quickly with a merciless barrage of insults and sarcastic comments thrown
at them as I have myself unfortunately experienced.
Thus the art of Bose bashing became quite popular and easy in many
audiophile corners and has found its way big time onto opinion web sites
such as this one. Here it is the year 2004 and I still hear the same
comments as the ones I experienced in 1973 only with more intensity and
motorized by even more hatred and contempt!
You will notice when an EPINIONS reviewer writes a most positive review
on the 901 or any other Bose speaker he or she is likely to receive some
rather negative comments by other members almost immediately. Also, every
rave review will be answered shortly thereafter with an equally intense
negative review. There seems to be very little "middle of the road"
reaction to the Bose 901 and Bose speakers in general! Only one other
manufacturer has laid claim to this love/hate forum and that is Klipsch
with their horn loaded speaker systems. More than a very select group of
audio enthusiasts love the Klipsch approach but a tidal wave of so called
audio experts will find tremendous fault with the product.
Sorry for the lengthy introduction to "The Art Of Bose Bashing" but I
feel you need to know why things are the way they are and that a bit of
history education is important in order to understand why the Bose
bashing occurs in the first place!
The Art Itself
Here are some typical so called observations Bose bashers use against
1. Ignorance...Bose buyers are not aware of other high end brands because
Bose sells in general low to mid-fi audio stores where they cannot be
compared to ultimate quality transducers. Also because of this situation
and because they never read Stereophile Magazine, Bose lovers are not
aware of excellent high end amplifier brands like Belles, Creek Audio,
Krell, Parasound, Mark Levinson, Conrad Johnson, Musical Fidelity,
Plinius, Rotel and Audio Research. Bose owners are not educated in the
art of true sound reproduction!
2. Bose lovers are tone deaf or have just plain lost their hearing
3. Bose lovers are gullible. They believe blindly in Bose's aggressive
advertising and marketing. They follow like sheep while the biggest con
artists in the business...Bose itself takes a P.T. Barnum approach = "A
sucker is born every minute." Bose products are overpriced, overhyped,
over marketed while under manufactured with cheaply made outdated
materials like paper woofers and tweeters along with foam surrounds as
opposed to polypropylene or composite materials like Kevlar with rubber
4. Bose lovers are not attuned to or aware of audiophile listening
qualities such as deep well defined tight room shaking bass,
subleties/nuances in music, transient response [quick buildup and decay
of various musical sounds such as plucked strings], transparency,
accuracy, musical timbre, neutrality, proper soundstaging, discretion,
overtones, dynamic range and musically emotional involvement.
5. If a Bose owner really rants and raves about his/her purchase and
joyfully explains his/her happiness about it and how ultimately
satisfying the whole thing is then the person is one of the following:
a. in denial
b. a Bose dealer
C. a big fat liar
d. all of the above.
Recently I was accused of lying and being a Bose dealer by a fellow site
member and it really was kind of funny to me because I have sometimes
dreamed of becoming a Bose dealer but that is not going to happen and I
really am not well off anyway so I have no capital to even backup such an
idea! I probably would make a decent Bose salesman but have no intention
of getting involved with the hobby in that way. When I rave about a
product...that is exactly how I feel about the doggone thing and
certainly would not lie if I had been disappointed regardless of the
amount spent on the item. As a matter of fact there is soon to come forth
from yours truly a review about a used audio web site where I clearly did
get taken and am not proud of my two purchases from the vendor as I
ultimately received nothing in return for my hard earned cash!
As I stated earlier in the article, Bose is not without deserving of some
of the criticism the co. receives. Also, I would like to make it
extremely clear that not all criticisms of Bose speakers fall under "Bose
bashing". There are some really honest straightforward intelligent
negative observations by EPINIONS reviewers on Bose speakers. There were
a couple of reviews that I gave a VH rating even though I disagreed with
the assessment. But when someone tells me that they ran their regular
conventional speakers with the Bose 901's with the equalizer activated
and cannot understand why the sound is so bad...then I am liable to give
an NH rating to that review. The 901 e.q. will make conventional speakers
sound horrible at best and even with the 901's running simultaneously the
sound will be most incorrect! Also if someone theorizes how badly the 901
should sound without giving an actual accounting of at least a basic
audition, there too I am liable to give a low rating to that review.
You'd be surprised at how many Bose reviews here on EPINIONS actually
lack even the slightest hint of an honest listening evaluation.
Now as far as Bose deserving some criticism is concerned, I will explain
why they deserve what they get sometimes!
As Amar Bose built his co. around the flagship model 901 he realized the
need to expand his speaker line and within a decade from the 901's debut
the 301 , 501 and 601  models were born with clearly
superior sound to just about anything else in their respective price
classes. The Bose reputation for building quality transducers that went
beyond the norm grew! While the 301 was the new bookshelf champion the
other two models were award winning floorstanding designs that
represented good value.
At this point, Bose was fighting the trend of 4 channel reproduction and
eventually home theater configurations as the co. simply felt why add the
extra channels for ambient [rear] reproduction when their own speakers
accomplished basically the same task quite naturally with their
direct/reflecting stereo design? Although the co. fought the trend for
sometime they finally decided to give in with the introduction of their
AV slimmed down 501 and 601 Series IV models along with their Acoustimass
systems which involved little cubes [sats] and bass modules. The
Acoustimass systems were great but something went wrong with the models
501 and 601.
The 501's popularity was slipping after its original Series I
lowboy/fatboy design seemed to disappear overnight and then reappear just
as quickly with a facelift in Series II during the late 70's. The
Acoustic Suspension principle was dropped in favor of a ported bass
design but the public just did not react favorably to the new designs and
dealers found it tough to peddle as the price was just too close to the
outstanding 601 Series II model. The model vanished into the night! Then
out of nowhere in the mid 90's Bose introduced Series III and ultimately
Series IV around 2000 which gave the 501 a complete makeover with a new
seductive slim look but unfortunately the drivers were downsized and so
was the sound!
The 601 was an enormously popular model especially Series II and III
[1979-1997] which featured several Bose patents including the "Free Space
Array". This configuration boasted an 8" woofer mounted on top of the
rather large enclosure surrounded by no less than four 2 1/2" angled
tweeters crossed over at slightly different frequencies to eliminate
abnormalities and distortion. A second 8" woofer was mounted further down
the front of the cabinet and the two woofers were ported in an ingenious
fashion that allowed the 601 Series II and III to reproduce bass
frequencies all the way down to 27 hz without ever sounding heavy yet
able to literally shake the very foundations beyond belief! The overall
sound was smooth, natural and involving and unlike the flagship model
901, the clever design allowed the versatile 601 speaker to be placed in
just about any size room with equally great results.
Then along came 601 Series IV that actually appeared to be quite
seductive looking with its new slimmed down look but obviously could not
hold a candle to its predecessors because of the reduction of drivers and
elimination of the "Free Space Array". The sound was noticebly inferior
to what Bose lovers had come to expect from the co.
Now, I figured if anyone could make smaller speakers sound great it would
be Amar Bose but here clearly there was a distinct reduction in quality
in order to cut costs and in my view represents the co.'s saddest moment
in the art of speaker building. I guess the fact that my employer at that
time had also "downsized" eliminating mine and thousands of others' jobs
did not help my frame of mind when I auditioned the model and I was left
with tears in my eyes after the depressing encounter with the 601 Series
Perhaps some of you wonderful people have not ever encountered a Bose 601
Series II or III speaker but if you find a friend who owns a pair compare
them to the Series IV model and you are liable to be sick to your
stomach! By direct comparison, the sound itself from the Series IV is so
constricted as if it was being squeezed through a tube in toothpaste-like
fashion. Just looking at the units side by side also tells you that the
predecessors were superior builds! Why couldn't Bose just downsize the
physical size of the drivers while keeping with the wonderful "Free Space
Array" configuration? I can picture a 601 model with two quality 6"
woofers and four smaller tweeters in a slimmer tower design that could
actually improve upon the predecessors' quality. Many manufacturers today
are making surprisingly wonderful sounding transducers with small woofers
that have the unique ability to rattle windows when the music calls for
If that wasn't bad enough, a new 701 model was introduced at higher
expense to the consumer with very little advantage over the 601 model
sonically speaking! To make matters worse, the 901 was dropped by many
highway discounters and with the berth of Best Buy stores featuring the
Bose 701 as the most expensive Bose speaker many Bose lovers perceived
the new floorstander as the top of the line 901's replacement. People
were simply unaware that the co. was still offering the 901 through the
internet and in local Bose Stores.
Thus many Bose admirers became disenchanted with the co.'s perceived
descent into mediocrity. Fortunately the smaller bookshelf 301 model
continued to improve with each new series with the current Series V being
the most outstanding yet. Also, it is my understanding that Bose has made
significant improvements in its newer 601 and 701 models but I cannot
confirm this as of yet. Hopefully I'll have a chance to audition the
newer breed soon. I really do not expect much.
Remember too that when Bose started out they were a small manufacturer
not unlike many high end companies of today with basic ads in selected
magazines and relying on word of mouth. Also, today you have literally
hundreds of speaker crafters to choose from as compared to considerably
less back in the 60's and 70's. Yes, Bose's current competition is
definitely fierce! This fact only adds to the perceived mediocrity.
Here are some current raps against Bose that DO NOT necessarily indicate
to me inferior quality:
1. Bose never publishes Frequency Response Specifications.
2. Bose does not replace model #'s often.
3. Bose still uses paper woofers and foam surrounds as opposed to the
newer "space age" materials other manufacturers use. They sound too
different from conventional speakers.
4. Bose relies too much on older rave reviews.
5. Bose is lying about its 901 model boasting full range drivers as such
a driver does not really exist!
6. Bose speakers require too much space in one's listening room in order
to successfully optimize the reflected sound.
7. Bose speakers are setup in noisy malls with very little attention to
8. Bose never talks about using expensive esoteric audiophile speaker
cables with their 901 model and suggests that regular 16 ga. or 18 ga.
zip cord is good enough!
9. Bose Stores are setup in malls in Radio Shack-like fashion where the
901 is sold with incentives such as a free gas grill. How can this
speaker maker be taken seriously as a manufacturer of high end speakers?
10. Bose sales persons are offered tremendous spiffs [monetary incentives
or commissions if you will] when they sell Bose speakers and that is the
real reason for the 901's success!
In reference to #1, Frequency Response specs can be deceiving as the
listening room itself must be considered and different rooms will make a
given model sound different itself depending on speaker placement, room
dimensions and acoustic properties. Aside from this fact, Bose was built
on the premise that such specifications are meaningless in the final
analysis. High end pros should know better than anyone else about this!
As for the full range driver rap, I'd say that I prefer the small driver
with equalization approach as opposed to woofers, tweeters and crossovers
that introduce their own distortions and often sound like woofers
tweeters and crossovers. Remember the object of the game is to make the
speakers disappear leaving the listener engulfed in the performance
itself! Martin Logan Sequels, B&W 801's and other large speakers from
Boston and Magnepan along with Dahlquist and Vandersteen have this unique
ability but personally where I think the Bose 901's win out is in their
fantastic tight bass response that makes the others seem a bit
The use of good quality oxygen free copper speaker wire can provide
optimum hookup to one's amplifier and result in superior definition. This
whole audiophile cable vs. 16 ga. zip cord thing originated from Julian
Hirsch's Stereo Review magazine article in the mid 80's about early
esoteric audiophile cables not really outperforming thick lamp cord sold
at the local hardware store and further fueled fire between Stereo Review
and Stereophile magazine followers. Hirsch simply observed that many
esoteric cables were expensive rip-offs and that 16 ga. zip cord was fine
at a much lower cost. However he did mention a 1 db improvement in
extreme ends of the audible spectrum with the esoteric stuff but was of
the opinion that the improvement was not audible and here is where I and
many others disagree with the well respected reviewer!
It has been demonstrated to me first hand by John Rutan the famed
proprietor of the well known Audio Connection store in Verona, New Jersey
what excellent wire from Kimber Kable can do. One does not have to spend
tons of money on this cable to receive sonically pleasing dividends.
Incidentally while on the subject do not get the wrong impression that I
hate high end stores. Nothing can be further from the truth. It's just
that I do find that more than a select few get snobbish when you tell
them that you are a Bose owner. John's store on the other hand takes a
different approach! Although he does not consider the 901 to be an
ultimately most accurate speaker system and that he and I disagree
respectfully on this matter, he would be perfectly happy to offer you an
amplifier along with honestly good speaker cables at more than reasonable
prices to help you improve your Bose experience. For this I and many
fellow Bose lovers are truly grateful to him and his wonderfully patient
and passionate staff! I'll definitely have more for you on this in
Listen, we all hear differently for whatever reasons. although no one
person's hearing may be perfect in itself, we all have our own
preferences and ideas about what sounds the best and I find this to be
very interestingly beautiful!
A friend of mine that I really do miss these days because we were victims
of a major corporate downsizing back in 1997...Dennis used to constantly
tell me about his admiration for JBL speakers. I explained my personal
dislike for them because of their overly bassy sound in the early 70's
but his excitement about the newer models with their Titanium tweeters
caused me to check the beasts out and indeed in many cases I found them
to be very accurate and pleasing transducers. Of course, there were a few
models that I most assuredly did not care for and one in particular that
I reviewed for this site.
But because of Dennis's excitement and passion for the benevolent
manufacturer, I became aware of the newer JBL sound that was clearly
superior to the old one. By the way, he and I both agree with the use of
paper woofers as opposed to polypropylene used by companies like
Infinity. Again, I find Infinity's polypropylene woofered loudspeakers to
be overly bassy with high coloration but I do hope to audition the newer
Bose has treated their foam woofer surrounds with a material and this
seems to have aided in the fight against rotting. I'm not so sure about
going to rubber or Kevlar surrounds although they are wonderful for many
high end brands because the Bose drivers are so successfully powerful and
well made with massive magnets and excellent voice coils that these
designs may not appreciably make a difference anyway in Bose's case. Do
you want to tamper with success?
As for Bose not changing and replacing model numbers often I feel that
this indeed is a huge plus for the co. as successful designs need to
slowly evolve as Matthew Polk has stated in the past. All too many
manufacturer model numbers change annually and old models are gone before
any real benefits can be reaped. Also, it is generally smart to keep a
well respected model in the line that people can easily identify and seek
out! Do you hear me Sony?!!
Speaking of Polk, the co. may very well be headed for some bashing itself
by audiophiles as Polk speakers used to be sold strictly in high end
stores but now are sold at highway discounters. I guess you could call it
Polk poking?!! All too many times when a manufacturer does this it is
perceived as a descent into mediocrity.
I do not care for tags such as low or mid fi. Keep an open mind when
audio shopping. Don't be fooled into thinking that high quality only
exists in high end shops but also do not think that low quality only
dwells in the highway malls! Do not think for one second that a high end
proprietor cannot save you money or satisfy your budget because believe
me he can! Conversely, don't feel that a department store won't steal
your hard earned cash.
The speaker buyer has a great field in front of him or her. There are
plenty of goodies to choose from! Audio shopping should be fun and a most
pleasing experience but try not to let store atmosphere affect your final
choice. This way you will widen the goal posts and kick the game winning
Look, I don't care much for politics getting involved with audio
equipment reviews or any other matter. I do not like to play that game!
Recently, some comments have been made about politics being involved with
more than one reviewer of the well respected Stereophile publication but
aside from that I do recommend picking up their guide to good sound just
as a reference and not as the Bible truth. I do respect Mr. Holt although
he certainly opened up a can of worms back in 1971. He did at least do us
a great service by bringing up the 901's sensitivity to different rooms
and room placement in general. Stereophile does list some great speakers
that you cannot audition at department stores. Just keep in mind that
there are many other speakers to choose from of equal or better quality
not listed in the publication and I defy anyone to tell me differently!
Also, do not be afraid of speaker brands that are unfamiliar to you.
Afterall, this is how excellent companies like Bose, AR, Advent, Polk and
Definitive started out!
As for Bose 901 owners being ignorant of expensive high end brands and
models I would tell you this...Think about it...I mean really...do you
honestly feel that a person willing to spend about $1500 on a speaker
system would not at the very least be somewhat knowledgeable about some
of its competition? Of course we are going to see what else is out there!
#1 on my Bose Basher list is really presumptuous is it not?
As a matter of fact I would like all future Bose bashers to save us the
song and dance in their reviews and perhaps just make the degrading
remark by referencing my Bose Basher List! Instead of wasting everyone's
time and space plus your own precious time that you could use to actually
offer a constructive evaluation, just refer everyone to #1 or #5 or
whatever # from my list and spare everyone the devious cleverness of your
Do note that most Bose bashers rate Bose products low to bring down the
overall rating without even mentioning details of an actual listening
test or audition. How can anyone write a believable review without
actually giving detailed listening evaluation is beyond me! Some bashers
are actually just repeating what they heard from their audiophile
friends. Generalizations, theories, cleverness and sarcasm seem to be the
proud trademarks of the lowly common Bose basher.