Bose 301 Main / Stereo Speakers Reviews

Bose 301 Main / Stereo Speakers

14 ratings (13 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
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The Bose 301 : Same Smoke and Mirrors, Different Decade

Mar 24, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Flatness:
  • Imaging:
  • Overall Sound:

Pros:Remarkably average

Cons:Remarkably average

The Bottom Line: Own a minivan? Have 2.3 kids? Think King of Queens is funny? These might be your speakers.


A Little Background


There are some reading the title that must be thinking, “Nooooo! Surely he isn’t going to bash Bose!” and they would be wrong, to some degree. I am not here to bash, but I am certainly not going to bandwagon and sing the praises of the almighty Bose simply because everyone else seems to and the ads show happy successful business people enjoying Bose on a plane, on a train, in a boat, at home, even with green eggs and ham. I have known about Bose since the early eighties when my oldest brother got a set of 301s and seemed happy with them. I know plenty about their car audio, which is pedestrian at best and certainly not worthy of a “premium” designation much less price, but that is another rant.

Bose is an American company located in beautiful Framingham Mass, the site of my first real radio station internship back in high school. It was started in the mid sixties with the first legendary product emerging later that decade, the Bose 901. Since then they have done much to subtly try to change and industry. I say change, I don’t buy into the whole “revolutionary” wahoo, cause they aren’t and their presence hasn’t been. I want to make very clear I am not biased in this review. I have mild respect for some of the products, great respect for others and none for many of them. I believe as a company, ALL of their products are overpriced. I have said many times, you get what you pay for, unfortunately, I am of the opinion that although many of their products can be a fine addition to the home or office, there are similar if not better products available at the same price point or less.



The Product


The speakers themselves are fairly compact at about 15x10x10 (WHD). The ones I am reviewing happened to be the cherry finish and seemed solid enough, though they only weighed about ten pounds each. The vinyl work is also pretty good being on par with Energy, Infinity, or Polk. A hard knock on the box produces hollow clunk, but I’m willing to look past that for the “rich and full sound that envelopes the listener”. A quick jerk on the grille reveals a modest 8” woofer. There is a front mounted tweeter and one on the back of the unit as well. They are no longer the standard boxes we saw in the 90’s, they are a sort of free form design which was probably adopted as much of the industry as well as the public seem to have developed an affinity for anything that is not a box anymore.

The idea behind these speakers is to essentially fool your ears into thinking the soundstage is a lot more expansive than it is. This achieved through the rear facing tweets which, by bouncing the sound all over hells half acre makes it seem like you are more in the middle, almost like a very basic electronic delay in a front and rear only set up. How’s this little bit of smoke and mirrors actually work out? Let’s go there now….



Performance


How these speakers produce their “patented sound” is part of the problem in my opinion. Having a diffuse sound is fine, when using bipole rears in a 7.1 arrangement, but not so much for a stereo pair. Another reviewer described the sound as pleasant rather than accurate and I tend to agree with that. The overall character of the sound that these speakers produce almost regardless of the music being playback is too soft (character, not volume) and cushy. Having a discernible edge to some aspects of the music is a good thing and often the intention of the recording artist, whether that’s Linkin Park or Harry Connick Jr.

They are plenty accurate for the price, well, as much as paper tweeters can be. These speakers sound fine, but really, that’s about it. There’s simply is nothing magical, unique, memorable, revolutionary, and jaw dropping about these speakers. They are what they are. I’m sure my mom would like them. I’m sure my 5th Grade English teacher would appreciate them. I bet the librarian at the local public library would sport a smile. To the past owner of older Kilpsch, JBL, or Pioneer (yes, Pioneer used to make great speakers) it would probably be an insult, to a current or past owner of an ESL or planar it would most likely be offensive. And no, I am not comparing a $350 Bose to a $5000 electrostat, I am simply trying to point out that contrary to what the ads might suggest, no epiphany will take place once you hook these up.

The sound itself is smooth, soft, and comfy like sleeping on Santa’s belly, but there is no definitive high end, no force in the low end, and certainly no neutrality to speak of. They are mid heavy to say the least. I have read reviews that suggest the bass is room shaking, which is a grand over statement in my most humble opinion. The transition between the drivers is very good because it sounds like they are overlapping heavily. Lending to the midbass mud I am most un-ok with. The website actually states, “Enjoy cleaner and deeper performance in the lower notes, particularly at high volumes.” Hmmm, sure, except that it just doesn’t play out like that with the exception of light classical, “smooth jazz”, or light ambient music. They don’t like bass heavy music and shouldn’t be your choice if you are an acid-washed-jeans wearing headbanger. I couldn’t imagine using these in a home theater application, especially for the fronts, which the Bose site suggests would be a good idea.

After all this one might expect me to have a couple of reasonable alternatives to list giving a point of reference as well as something else for the potential buyer to consider in their search for appropriate speakers. Not to worry I do, but later on. Another thing Bose is notorious for is the smoke and mirrors behind the true nature of what they are selling. What I mean by that is specifications, there are none, anywhere, not even in the owners manuals.

Here’s the smoke and mirrors at work again. And everything I say here is applicable to any of their speakers or components, including the abomination that is the Wave radio. Bose seems to believe the effect is more important than the brass tacks, and who is surprised, if one were to base their decision on numbers alone, Bose would have died long ago. I have seen estimates on these speakers that run form 32Hz to 88Hz on the low end, but never more than 20kHz on the high end. Seem a bit shady? Seem like they are hiding something….like a 2” driver on 6ft. of PVC pipe? Yeah, me too, but it’s not the end of the world. Take a listen to these speakers and you’ll get it. You may not think they suck, and I don’t either, but again, not all that.

Missing the point? Me? Never. I am fully aware these speakers are intended to produce that enveloping and diffuse Bose sound, and that’s cool, I just don’t think it lives up to the hype. Before I close this out, let me give ya’ll some idea of the music that led to some of this review. It was a broad range indeed, including but not limited to, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Morcheeba, Deepsky, Sphongle, Cowboy Junkies, Mos Def, Pharcyde, and solo Paul Simon. Jeez how long is this tirade? Well, you’ve made it this far, it’s almost over.



Final Thoughts


OK, alternates. What might I recommend after all that? I would say that the Boston VRM50, Wharfedale 9.1, or even the Polk Monitor 40; some a little more, some a little less, but all good choices. My most serious recommendation would be to listen to these if you want to but listen to at least two other pairs of direct radiators before buying the Bose units. Think about the area you are in, is it a small den? A bedroom? There are some cases where heavily diffuse sound may make sense because of mounting limitations. If this is where you are at, give Mirage a go. Mirage has been around forever, but lately it seems is lowering themselves to big box status with some small omnipolars that come in a wide variety of finishes. This will give you the diffuse sound you are looking for from a name that quite frankly holds a lot more clout with me than Bose ever could. My parting shot is this, they aren’t bad speakers, but that doesn’t mean I’m saying they are good. My 1 (out of 5) for imaging is misleading, it says its only coming from one location, and it is, everywhere!


Recommend this product? No


Amount Paid (US$): 349

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