First I just need to clarify something so we’re all on the same page here. Bose speaker systems are entry-level… if you think they’re audiophile-quality or anything even close to it then you are severely misinformed. So why all the hype? Well the reason I think is simple: they have an aggressive marketing plan. Just think about it - how many TV commercials or popular magazine ads have you seen for Bose? Now think about how many of those things you’ve seen for any other speaker manufacturer. Anyway, to get on with the story, I’ve highlighted the two most blatant deficiencies of Bose speakers in my opinion.
Fatal Flaw #1: Full-Range Drivers
All of Bose’s home theatre systems utilize full-range drivers. This is probably already known by most or all of you, but full range speakers attempt to recreate frequencies across the entire audible spectrum (roughly 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz). Now most of the Bose home theatre systems do include a subwoofer, so maybe the other channels only have to produce frequencies as low as about 200 Hz, but this still leaves far too broad a frequency range for a single driver to effectively operate across. Quality speakers have a tweeter dedicated to producing crisp highs, along with a larger woofer and possibly a mid-range for generating lower frequencies. Bose’s insistence upon using only a subwoofer and a collection of 2.5″-diameter full-range drivers means that the high frequencies aren’t accurate and the mid-bass frequencies (roughly 200 Hz to 500 Hz) are seriously lacking.
Fatal Flaw #2: Cheap Materials
Bose uses paper cones for their speakers. Actually, I believe they call it something like “space-age paper”, whatever the hell that means. The bottom line is paper warps far too easily, resulting in inaccurate reproduction of sound, especially at high volumes. An easy way to observe this is to listen to a loud Michael Bay-esque explosion through both a Bose system and an actually decent one (explosions are an example of a complex sound effect containing low rumbling, high crackling, and pretty much every frequency in between). The decent system will sound noticeably cleaner and Bose will sound distorted or muddy - I promise. Most good speakers utilize some sort of high-tech plastic or composite material because they are more rigid and durable than paper, resulting in a more accurate sound.
Besides the driver cones being crappy, the cone surrounds are crappy too. They’re either thin foam or some type of fabric; I didn’t even bother researching to see what exactly it is because either way it’s second-rate material. Quality speakers have rubber surrounds or something comparable. Now I don’t think the surround material affects sound quality right out of the box (someone correct me here if I’m wrong though) but this really pays off when the speakers are several years old; rubber will hold up just fine whereas cheaper materials are more prone to deterioration over time.
Like I said in the intro, Bose builds entry-level home theatre equipment. But even if you’re on a budget (most of us probably are) there are plenty of alternatives. In fact there are a multitude of speaker manufacturers out there, and far more than you’ll see at Best Buy or even an audio/video catalog like Crutchfield. Some companies that offer quality home theatre systems that won’t break your wallet are: Infinity, Polk, Klipsch, Boston Acoustics, and DCM. And they are just a few of the fish in the sea of many, so there’s no reason to settle for a crappy system just because some housewife on a TV commercial says she’s amazed by the sound quality of her new Bose system.