on March 6, 2014
Read the review before rating "unhelpful"
In the late 60s, bose wowed The world with the 901 speaker, they were simply the best fidelity at the time. In the 80s, the world was stunned by the tiny wonder known as the wave radio. In the 90s it was the teeny acoustimass surround systems. Fast forward to today, bose has only one thing going for it... BRAND LOYALTY.
When it came time to put speakers in my new house, I thought "bose are great, right?" But before blindly ordering a bunch of speakers online, I decided to audition a variety of speakers to make an educated decision. I went to the big box store and listened to the "push button" display, wow, the most expensive speaker happend to be the worst sounding. Lack of timbre, no treble, and no bass, mostly a "midrange" type sound, definitely not a full sounding system, think clock radio-esque. Then I clicked to a comparatively priced set of klipsch speakers and wow, where was the music all along?
Refusing to believe my ears I ventured out to find a higher end home theatre store in the rich side of town, I figured maybe the big box store just had it wired wrong. Same exact speakers, same exact result, wow what a disappointment. Once again, klipsch speakers were far superior, and the even more expensive bose 791 speakers were far outperformed by a cheaper set of Bowers&wilkins in walls. The sales representative even admitted to me that they really only had bose to attract customers into the store, where they then could direct them to better (and often cheaper) speakers with far superior fidelity. The bottom line is this, if your an old school "Bose head" you owe it to yourself to actually put your ears up and objectively compare them to other speakers on the market, your money will go further and the quality will be better with other brands available today.
If this were, say, a <$200 pair of speakers I may have ranked them with 3 stars, but at ~$300 this is a joke.
Unfortunately, if you are an old school bose head, you may have been so insulted by my review that you immediately scrolled down and clicked the "this review was not helpful" button, I only intend to help, I am a passionate audiophile with years of live sound and related industry experience.
Bottom line = Go compare for yourself.
Ps I love bose's noise canceling headphones, I'm not anti-bose.
on June 14, 2010
Below is my initial review of these speakers. It's still basically true, but as the frustration with the initial install has faded, my estimation of the speakers has risen (a little). What seemed a thin and limited sound at the time now seems very clean. Just with very little bass compared to some other speakers. When things break on install, you do have to wonder, "who's fault was it, really...". I'll just say that the other speakers I bought at the same time had a much heavier set of clips...
I am extremely disappointed with these speakers. If you read the product description carefully, you are basically getting a pair of smallish 2.5 in drivers / speakers which are only capable of a thin, limited sound. All the rest ("Virtually Invisible", "Articulated Array configuration", "Stereo Everywhere", "proprietary ported enclosure" etc.) is great marketing, but it does little to improve the sound of the speakers and a lot to increase the cost. There is no Bose waveguide technology here, for example (don't be fooled by the big plastic box hanging off the side). Limited bass? Try zero bass.
To make matters worse, the unusual design made these speakers harder to install (I have a lath and plaster ceiling), while the "virtually invisible" design translates into "make a perfect cut because there is no margin for error". Finally, part of the mechanism designed to hold the speakers in place simply snapped off while I was tightening it.
In contrast, I bought a pair of Polk Audio speakers at the same time for 1/3 the price, they were a breeze to install, and they sound great. I walk from one room to another and cringe when I go from listening to the Polk Audios to the Bose.
I waited almost two years to write a review on these speakers. During that time I've been telling myself I could EQ the speakers better, or they have somehow not been set up right. Well, I've tried all sorts of different things with these speakers, and my experience with them hasn't been what I had hoped it would be.
As a hobby I do whole-house audio/video installs. I’m not an expert, but I’ve messed with different sounds, different budgets, and I’m always trying to improve what I’ve done in the past. Bear with my review and understand that I am limited to what I can buy… I don’t have stuff that’s the best, I have stuff I can afford. Only in a few cases have I been given the opportunity to do installs with JBL Studio series type equipment.
When I installed these in January 2012, I was setting up my own second home theater. My budget in both situations wasn't great, but I was able to make a good sound in my first home. I selected the Bose as a change from my last setup. Prior, I had run the JBL LC1 center channel and the built-in Polk RC85i for my front channels. The LC1 was a gift, and the RC85i’s are a really cheap built-in solution. The solution sounded pretty good for a guy with a small budget. This time, I wanted a flush center channel for a really clean look, and I wanted super clear voices and sound effects for viewing movies. Bose was supposed to be the best right?
As an FYI - in both setups I ran Polk R65i speakers for my surround (in ceiling above seating area) and the BIC America PL-200 for my sub (awesome).
The Bose sound:
One thing I knew about Bose going into this - they don't do much with mid-bass. Look at their Acoustimass systems.. small 2.5" drivers and a big sub. Bose likes a sound with lots of clear highs and lots of booming lows. To me, they appeal to the person that jumps in their car and turns up the treble and bass to the max. I don't mean that to be offensive, but I think that's a pretty accurate statement. It appeals to the masses.
These speakers are no different, they basically offer the same dual 2.5" drivers in a hidden/concealed package.
What you'll get:
After installing a pair of these for my front channels and a single speaker for my center channel (yes, I had one extra that ended up on eBay), I had a really clean look. I painted the grills to match the walls. One thing is true, these speakers do become virtually invisible.
In theater applications, I got a sound with great highs, vibrant explosions, surreal gunshots, but sub-par voices. I had to EQ the center channel to be able to hear the dialogue at all. You typically shouldn't have to do this with a good center, but in the defense of Bose, they don't advertise this as a center. Some would argue the center is the biggest element of a home theater (I agree), so this speaker is not a good choice for a center channel. I made it work, and it sounds as good as my JBL LC1 from my old setup.
Using these as front channels wasn't a bad decision. To be fair, you're not going to get a tower speaker sound out of an in-wall speaker. For being completely tucked into 4" of wall, these do a fairly good job in the front. Again, great highs and no mid-bass. My sub picks up the low-end, so with these speakers I have a huge frequency gap around 200Hz. Do you really notice it much in movie sound? No, not really, but it may sound "tinny" to someone with a good ear.
Not a great choice for music, as these speakers offer no mid-bass. These speakers cause large frequency gaps. If you don't have a sub, don't purchase these speakers. Let me repeat that… If you don’t have a sub, don’t purchase these speakers. If you have a good sub, it will help conceal the lack of mid-bass, but remember the sub should only be doing stuff around 80Hz and below. I've tried everything with these speakers and I can't get a good stereo sound at all. My Polk RC85i's were able to blow these away with music, at half the price. Again, with a built-in speaker, you're not going to get a tower speaker sound.
I recently did an install with another built-in center, the Yamaha NSIW960. It was a bit of a pain because I had to modify the wall studs, which were 16” apart. The speaker is wider, so I had to remove a ton of drywall and cut out the studs to make a “box” that would accommodate the speaker. After it was done, I came to the conclusion that it was not only the best built-in center I’ve ever heard, but a really good center in general.
It’s not rocket science if you’ve done built-ins before. As others have said, there isn’t much tolerance for a bad cut. Use the templates and be careful. Also keep in mind these speakers have giant plastic boxes attached to them for acoustics and baffling. When you put them into a wall, they will need to run parallel to the studs. If you try to fit them in between the 16” studs of an exterior wall, they won’t fit. Also do yourself a favor and stuff insulation in the ceiling/wall if its not already there (some interior walls/ceilings won’t have it). I also take the extra step of sealing all built-in speakers into the wall using clear silicone.
After having these for a couple of years, I’m not thrilled. The speakers are over-rated, and they aren’t worth the price tag. I’m okay with them to the point that I’m not going to tear them out of the wall. They offer a typical Bose sound with really bright high frequencies that may appeal to the masses, but not to any sort of audiophile. I wouldn’t recommend this as a center channel. As I said, for front channel speakers, you won’t get a tower speaker sound out of these dual 2.5” drivers.
So, what are they good for? Possibly built-in front channels, or built-in surrounds. I would definitely use these as surrounds but I don’t want to spend the money, my Polk RC65i’s are doing the job okay. If you’re a huge Bose fan and you like the Bose sound, these won’t surprise you too much, just be aware of the potential drawbacks. If you have specific questions, leave a comment and I’ll try my best to answer.
on October 30, 2008
These were a husbandly-compromise, as my wife was adamant about not having a big bass unit in the newly refurbished living room. They're not quite as great as advertised, especially on the bass, but they do have as small a profile as you could want, especially if you paint the grills (and you get a choice of round or rectangular) the same color as the wall. The only objection is that although I used the Bose mounting plates before sheetrocking, they do not lie absolutely flush with the wall. However, the sound is pretty good, all things considered.