Pros: Great looks! Sturdily built. Well written Owner's Manual.
Cons: Constricted sound. IV-A major downhill slide for what was once a well respected model!
Original Review Date: November, 2002:
The Bose 601 has had a long and enviable history! Developed by Amar Bose's first rate engineering team in 1976, the first 601 graced the audio world with rave reviews from the toughest critics. There was one problem...the speaker was priced too close to the then flagship model 901 Series III. In 1979 the 601 Series II was introduced which gave the 601 a slimmer taller look. It actually was Bose's first tower design!
Here the Bose engineers went all out! The transducer stood at 32" high. Sold in pairs with each pair having a left and right model, the 601 Series II featured no less than five speakers mounted on top of the enclosure! An 8" woofer was surrounded by four 2 1/2" tweeters angled in slightly different directions to form what Bose patented as the "Free Space Array". A sixth driver...another 8" woofer was mounted on the lower front side of the enclsure and the two woofers were ported in an ingenious fashion giving the model powerful deep discrete bass! The four angled tweeters were crossed over at slightly different frequencies to eliminate abnormalities and unwanted resonances. The crossover network itself was very sophisticated.
The whole design worked amazingly well producing a wonderfully spacious but very coherent image. Soundstaging was first rate! The walnut cabinets were complimented by dark brown grills that were very aesthetically pleasing and priced sufficiently below the 901 Series IV...the Bose 601 Series II became many an audiophile's "Dream System".
Keeping with the same basic design, Bose introduced the Series III model in the late 80's along with the 901 Series VI. Like its top of the line brother, the 601-III now used a natural light walnut finish on the cabinets with two-tone [brown and beige] grills that gave quite a rather seductive appearance to the model! Even though my first impression was that the "Free Space Array" on top might have been compromised by a new surrounding sloped wall, it turned out that the system simply never sounded better! Many people who simply could not afford the flagship model 901-VI now had a great less expensive alternative with the Bose 601 Series III.
Please note at this point that Bose's first number in the actual model number is 6. This denotes six drivers. The 301 meant three drivers. The 901 meant nine drivers etc. etc. Keep this in mind as we now get into the subject of today's review...the Bose 601 Series IV.
It is with a most reluctant sad and heavy heart that I put forth to print a very negative review about a product line that was once considered to be at least one of the best ever available to the audio consumer...the Bose 601. I am reluctant because I have loved this speaker manufacturer for quite some time now but I must say what has to be said. Unfortunately I have two other floorstanding models by the manufacturer I have to deal with that are pretty much in the same boat and I will review them in the near future.
The Bose 601 Series IV Direct/Reflecting loudspeaker is the co.'s latest version of a highly sought after model #. Redesigned from top to bottom it has been given a rather dramatic facelift for the purpose of fitting into many a Home Theater arrangement. This fourth generation 601 has some interesting alterations none the least of which is its downsized appearance and total number of drivers...three!
The Bose 601 Series IV has the following features and specs:
Direct/Reflecting speaker technology
Stereo Everywhere speaker technology
Proprietary bass reproduction
Automatic protection circuitry
Syncom computer quality control
 6 1/2" woofers
 2" tweeter
Power Rating=compatible with receivers rated from 10 to 200 watts per channel
Finish Light Cherry or Graphite Gray
Dimensions: 32" H x 8" W x 14" D
Weight: 30 lbs. each
The Listening tests were conducted by myself along with my youngest son at the local Best Buy on several occasions throughout the summer months. A top Yamaha receiver was used as I myself was armed with my usual array of test CD's. Jazz and Classical types were used for most of the extensive audition. Our particular salon had the two speakers setup in a small 8' x 10' area with walls adjacent to the main wall for a room effect. The speakers were moved around by myself [to no avail!] for maximum effect but were placed one foot from rear and side walls for the most part. Also, the majority of the auditioning took place between the hours of 9PM and 10:30PM when the store was at its quietest and best for such a serious audition.
I noticed on one of my favorite samplers..."Atmospheres-Celtic Voices" that percussion had impact but sounded quite grainy with the cymbals smearing and the drums sounding more like tin cans. Plucked strings sounded less clear than I would expect from a 601 and deep bass was utterly lacking. On my other samplers, voices had a honk nasal quality while orchestras sounded constricted as if the music was being injected through a syringe to the listener! There was no spacious quality to the Soundstage despite the direct/reflecting design.
I simply shook my head and could not believe I was listening to a Bose! My son who normally gets pretty excited by good sound simply said..."Dad, I'll be over by the video games if you need me". No matter how many times I returned to the store, I simply experienced the same result. Now, I pulled this review a few months after its original EPINIONS debut due to the fact that I determined that Best Buy stores are not the best place to audition Bose speakers but then I noticed that the Bose 301 speakers sounded wonderful in the same situation...go figure as the two different models boast basically the same number of drivers...three! Of course the outstanding 301 is about half the price of its lousy big brother!
Nonetheless I have determined that the basic listenability of the Bose 601 SeriesIV is about zero as there are no subtleties and emotional involvement in the music. This will result in Listening Fatigue quicker than a jack rabbit chasing his mate on Easter Sunday! It is a lifeless speaker that usually sells between $500 and $600 for the mirror imaged pair. The fact that it uses red and black spring loaded speaker terminals doesn't bother me as much as the fact that although the model is very aesthetically pleasing...Bose has cut corners by downsizing the original number of drivers from six to three. Yet we are to believe that this is the best 601 ever????!!!!!
It wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that the new product just plain sounds like ^^**!!! and cannot hold a candle to its predecessors' quality sound reproduction! If Bose is to maintain a reputation as a state of the art speaker designer, then some drastic measures must be taken with their current line of floorstanders. Instead of offering you a free t-shirt with your expensive purchase and for your hard earned cash...why not try a novel idea? Bring back the "Free Space Array" and the lost Bose quality the co. once reveled in?!!
I could see a Bose 601 Series V with a slim cabinet like the Series IV but with two 6" woofers and four 2" tweeters using Acoustimass Technology for even better bass than the Series II and III models. Who else to make small speakers sound great but Bose? That's what one would think...right? The fact of the matter is that many other manufacturers like Paradigm, PSB, Spendor, Boston Acoustics and Sony are doing wondrous things with smaller drivers these days and if Bose continues along its current path then the others are going to leave them in the dust when it comes to making quality transducers at reasonable prices. Remember Bose, people's hard earned money has to make due a little further these days! We have no patience with lowered standards at equal or increased costs.
Bose 601 Series I,II and III...# of drivers=6
Design=Aesthetically pleasing larger cabinets
Bose 601 Series IV...# of drivers =3
Design=Aesthetically pleasing slimmer cabinet
Sound quality=Poor, constricted
Spaciouness=way down from predecessors
As you can see...the price did manage to hold but the sound DID NOT!!
In the normal process of a given speaker's evolution, improvements over the previous models are what is normally acceptable by the industry. In the case of the Bose 601, Series IV represents an outright downward plunge! It is a disgrace to the proud 601 heritage and an embarrassment to the Bose name!