on January 10, 2010
I hooked up the acoustimass speakers to Harman Kardon AVR 154 receiver. If you are into audio, you will know that although this receiver is not very powerful, the sound quality it delivers is excellent.
Purpose: My purpose in purchasing this system was two folds: Music and movies.
Setup: Setting up this system is a breeze. All cables are color coded and there's plenty of it (20 ft for the front speakers and 50 ft for the rear or surround speakers). All you have to remember is that all the cables first go into the module, and then one single cable (actually a set of 5 joined together) are connected to the receiver. I think this system was up and running within 20 minutes of me unpacking it.
What's included: You will get 4 cube array (vertical) speakers, one center speaker (identical to the cube arrays, just horizontal) and one BOSE module which houses all the connections and the sub woofer.
Sound Test: I own an IPOD touch and a PS3. I do own a cable box, but that is not ideal to check a $60 AIWA system, let alone a BOSE 5.1 speaker set. I connected my IPOD using an RCA cable and my PS3 using an optical cable.
IPOD: This was an analogue audio test, and I knew that this system will not perform its best with this setup, but since this is how I listen to music, I had to perform this test. The bass was great. It sounded balanced and did not over power the other aspects of the song. The instruments sounded nice, if not great, and the initial impression was one of utter satisfaction with the sound quality. However, once I started playing a song where vocals were the focal point, the system really disappointed me. The voice of the artist was just not crisp or clear. When the bass module was allowed to contribute, the sound quality was decent, but a song where the bass module had very little to do, the system sounded almost like a boombox, which was really disappointing.
PS3: I tested this system with Dark Knight's Blu Ray disc. I wanted Matrix, but Blockbuster didn't have it at time. I am sure a DVD would have done the trick, but since I own a Blu-Ray player, I thought it would be a great test. In the beginning when the Joker started killing all his compatriots during the Bank Heist, the system astounded me. Not only could you hear the sound, but feel it. Every gunshot, every bang was distinct, crisp and clear. It was like being in a theatre and I almost forgave BOSE for not giving me my vocals during the IPOD test. But then I heard the dialogue, and I ran into the same exact problem. You had to turn the volume up to hear the dialogue, but then it was too loud during the action sequences. I even tried turning the bass way down, but then for some unknown reason whatever clarity the dialogues had, disappeared. Then I tried playing an MP4 file from my PS3, which had the exact same problem. For some reason, this system has trouble with treble or highs. I know nothing about audio, but I know what sounds good, and for the amount of money I paid, this was not good.
Troubleshooting: The room where I had placed the BOSE system is not very big. It is around 12x20 feet and I had placed three speakers on the tv stand and 2 right on the wall behind my sofa. I played for hours with changing the direction of the cube speakers individually and together. I also tried different sound settings (DOLBY, DTS, NEO etc) but the vocals and dialogues were just not there. In the end I just packed up the system and returned it.
Conclusion: The system is barely ok for the movies, and horrible for music. I actually went to some independently owned audio stores and heard some other speakers. Before I bought BOSE, I hadn't even heard of companies like Mirage, Paradigm and KEF. I always assumed that BOSE was the best, but after buying the system realized that BOSE is the only one saying it. Even CNET doesn't have an expert review of this "excellent" system. I ended up buying KEF 2005.3 5.1 speaker system and couldn't be happier with it. The vocals are crystal clear, sound is crisp, and dialogues are powerful. The bass is great and does not interfere.
IMHO, please go and listen for yourself to other systems before you buy BOSE. Ask the dealer if its at all possible to play BOSE and another comparable system next to each other. Try listening to the speakers without the bass module or the subwoofer. Take your favourite CD, IPOD or a DVD with you and listen to the system at low, medium and high volumes. Don't let the salesperson blast the manufacturer's CD or DVD in your face while you are standing 2 feet away from the speakers. It's just like singing in the shower, everyone sounds good.
In the end, BOSE was really disappointing for a system that claims to be the best. I did some research and found out that BOSE sued Consumer Reports and eventually lost because Consumer Reports criticized one of its systems. Also the lack of expert reviews on the BOSE systems should be a clue that there is something fishy. To me BOSE is all marketing and not a good bang for your buck.
Also go the AVS forums or any other audio video forums and read about BOSE and other speaker systems. You will be shocked as I was. And if you are a BOSE owner, and in love with the sound quality, I am very happy for you. I just couldn't spend that much money and not be happy with my system.