Bose speakers: you can do a lot better for a lot less

 Week of May 30, 2004

 Q: I want to purchase small speakers like the Bose Acoustimass 10. These speakers can be mounted on the wall so I like them better than the one on the stands.

The sound from the Bose speakers is good to me, but they cost about $1,000. Are there other companies that make good small speakers, but not as expensive?

Hien Doan, Minneapolis, MN

A: This is a bit of a loaded question, as you will see by performing a search under “Bose” at the speaker message board at

Speaker sound is subjective and everyone should buy what appeals to them. There are certainly many Bose Acoustimass owners who are very happy with the way they sound.

There are some Bose products I like, such as their Wave Radio and Acoustic Wave music system. I think their floorstanding and bookshelf-sized speakers are OK, if not my favorites, and as a pilot I have used their Noise Canceling aviation headsets and found them to work very well.

That said, I personally am not a fan of the Acoustimass systems. I think you can spend much less and get better sound quality, and if spending $1,000 I think you can obtain dramatically better sound quality.

My opinion may be a bit of a surprise to many. If you hear the Acoustimass in stores, it likely will sound very dramatic, and “good” to your ears. But did you actually compare it to other speakers on equal footing? Chances are you heard the speakers in a special Bose-only display on the end cap of an island in a big-box store, or in a dedicated Bose listening area with other speakers absent for direct comparison. You also may have heard them using Bose-provided demo material, rather than your own.

To effectively compare speakers, you should use the same demo material with each make and model of speaker, preferably using CDs and DVDs you own and are familiar with. By using your own demo material you eliminate a large variable, and because you will know the music and movies well, differences between speakers will be easy to hear. It is also better to hear them in an open area, rather than surrounded by speakers at close range in a purpose-built display.

An alternative for much less money is the Polk RM6700 system with the PSW202 subwoofer. I have seen this system selling for $599 including the subwoofer, which
is now free with Polk purchases over $499. The speakers are a little bigger than the Acoustimass cubes, but once they are mounted on the wall the difference in size is inconsequential. The larger woofer and dedicated tweeter of the Polk system will reproduce more of the audible range of sound than the small Bose cubes, and I believe it sounds far better at a fraction of the cost. To my ears the JBL SCS series and Klipsch Synergy Quintet sound better as well, and they sell for even less than the Polk RM6700.

At higher price points, check out small speaker offerings from Polk, Paradigm, Canton, and PSB. If you can use a bookshelf-sized speaker mounted on the wall, check out the Axiom Audio Epic Midi system at For $1,107 delivered, it is the best value I have seen in a home theater speaker system, providing true high-end sound quality at a very reasonable price.

Again, this is just my personal opinion- but you asked!   Happy speaker shopping. And if you compare and like the Acoustimass the best, buy them and enjoy them.

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