Bose and the Audiophile: The Joy of Disdain

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Bose is the brand that audiophiles love to hate.  I don’t quite know why, but the mere mention of Bose seems to stir up some of the most aggressive and flippant responses in online publication and communities.  Let me pull some simple examples:

  • “To be brief…bose is crap. I dont know what your budget is and therefore cant make a reccomendation, other than DON’T buy bose.”
  • “Bose is a pathetic company….I feel bad for the people who think they are buying a good product for so much money.”
  • “People pay good money and get tinny, muddy sound where they can’t understand the dialog on the screen.”
  • “I’ve read SO many posts here of the guy- ‘I used to own Bose. I got Bose for my first real HT setup’ Usually followed by ‘And I finally realized how bad it sounds’ “
  • I wonder if Bose fans are brainwashed by propaganda into thinking that Bose sound is “good sound”…
  • I find Bose’s marketing strategy deceptive and the overall value of its products to be very poor.
  • If you are not concerned about sound quality though, then Bose is an intelligent choice
  • A friend lent me his Bose lifestyle 25 system. It sucked huge.
  • Buying Bose would be punishment for not doing research on the net.
  • Bose is like Justin Timberlake of the audio world.
  • Only people who buy them are the people that think there really cool because their buying more expensive things and they think bose is top of the line audio equipment. anyone that knows about audio can tell u that bose is CLEARLY not the top of the line.
I could spend a living on scraping the Internet and pulling Bose bashing quotes.  But why do audiophiles react like this?
On the one hand, I think it has something to do with non-audiophiles who have the impression that Bose represents the epitome of audio.  Audiophiles are funny that way.  So whatever a non-audiophile things certainly cannot have any merit because after all, what do they know?
On the other hand, many audiophiles resent the fact that Bose isn’t a peer-reviewed ecosystem.  They don’t submit their products into trade mags for reviews and independent measurements. To many audiophiles, that means that they have something to hide.
Audiophiles also resent Bose’s marketing, their proprietary interconnects, and feel that they are simply overpriced.
When I’ve often heard someone bashing Bose, I’ve asked the logical question, “Have you heard them and if you did, were they properly setup?”.  More often than not, the answer is, “no”.  And, if I go further and ask the question, “Is a YG Acoustics or Wilson speaker that sells for over $100k overpriced?”   How about a $10K speaker?
I have a very good friend who is both an engineer and die-hard audiophile.  He designs is own cables and speaks very highly of his pair of Bose 901s.  I’ve never heard them, so who am I to render an opinion either way.
It’s his opinion of the 901s that lends me to the point of my article.  Being an audiophile often degenerates into the gear. What gear you own and how much you spent on it becomes a status symbol in audiophile circles that somehow gives you instant credibility and authority.  And that makes me wonder about what’s happening to our hobby.
I don’t mind people having opinions—even incredibly strong opinions—about gear as long as they are talking about their own perspectives and likes.  The problem becomes when we audiophiles try and impose our own bias and bigotry upon others.  Isn’t the whole point of our hobby to get closer to the music?  If someone can thoroughly enjoy and become enraptured in music on a $25 transistor radio in the same way that another person can do so on a $15,000 system, then who is anyone to judge?
Personally speaking, I think that one thing audiophiles could do is nurture people into the hobby better.  There are different ways to guide people into better musical experiences.  Bashing other people’s gear and their tastes isn’t one of them.
While you won’t find any Bose-branded gear in my house nor do I have any plans to add any Bose gear in the future, there is one thing that I will miss if Audiophiles become a bit more polite about Bose—those great forum one-liners.  They do make for some fun reading.  “Bose is like the Justin Timberlake of the audio world” — I love it.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I've always liked the 901's, but their other speakers can really tire you out. Especially the Lifestyle series. With that exaggerated mid-bass, Bose is the posterchild of listening fatigue.

    • Almost everyone who listens to other really good speakers which do not cost any more then a Bose system will most certainly hear the difference. Most audiophiles say Bose speakers lack two things, deep bass and top end highs. They focus on the midrange and try and equalize small bass drivers to deliver bass they really can’t.
      I’ve had Bose system owners come and listen to the same content on a decent but no more expensive system and can’t believe how much they do not hear with the Bose. I kind of associate Bose with the quadraphonic era of sound. Where recordings played with spacial equalization to make sound be more non defined by listening position and more all around. Bose sort of focuses on this spacial trickery to make their systems sound bigger then they are. Unfortunately they suffer a lack of good frequency response and heavily equalize and tailor sound. Some find it pleasing, but if your anyone who knows what a artists album should sound like on a good system. You’ll realize Bose frequency response is all over the place.

    • Hi Chris, the Bose noise canceling headphones are quite good. I've tried Sennheiser noise canceling too but the Bose units are nice. Interestingly, their headphones seem to be regarded much better for their sound quality than their speakers. Personally, I like to have sound isolating in-ear-monitors, but the problem there is you lose a lot of ambient noise that's essential to be aware of your surroundings. For me, the pressure that's built up with the noise-cancelling waves produced by the noise-cancelling headphones bothers me after a while. For that reason alone, I've rarely used my Sennheiser noise canceling earphones and I've switched to in-ear monitors.

      If you're in the market and looking for a short list, I'd put Sennheiser and Bose on the short list but I think you'll find the Bose to be the best of the bunch with overall comfort and sound canceling quality.

  2. I’ve bought some Bose products, the Cinemate 2’s not for great musical reproduction. But more for TV sound and it was a package that I could use to make TV sound better. I would never recommend a Bose system to accurate music playback. Its just not their focus, sure a untrained ear may be happy with how it sounds which is perfectly alright. But to spend that kind of money on a Bose system, people should know they are buying a package for easy setup that doesn’t really focus on accurate sound but rather a pleasing sound that many think sounds OK. The sad part is that Bose demonstrates their products with tailored content that tends to make their speakers sound the best. People should really bring their own familiar content to listen with when deciding. Their headphones seem far more focused on accurate sound then their speaker systems. Although many audiophiles will still argue Bose spends way more on convincing you how great their products are. Then investing in quality engineering that makes great sound reproduction that sells themselves.

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