Let me chime in here and say that I neither work/ed for Bose and I am not a Bose basher--nor do I have a pair selling on eBay.
I bought the 901s used. They sounded terrible in the sellers, he had a 30 watt amp hooked up. They sounded much better with my 125 watt system. To make a long story short, the EQ needed to have the capacitors replaced. Once this happened, the speakers came alive. But their real impact did not come until I got them off the stools on to their pedestals and place correctly with no junk arround them. I thought my Cerwins had bass, these things knocked off the socks even off the JBL sub I had (it is gone). Then I thought, good on bass, weak elsewhere? Not a chance. These speakers reproduce every frequency with an amazing ease, clarity, and speed. Sure, they must be EQ'd correctly per the volume and per the CD that is playing. If you are not willing to fiddle, then these are not for you. But they totally surpass my other very high end stuff that I will leave nameless. I am glad I did not give up on them, they are bit more work than your box speaker, but then again, they do not sound like boxes when setup correctly. After hearing these at their optimal setup, I would not even trade them or sell them for a new set. Once you hear them for yourself, you become a believer.
Another perspective, and PLEASE take this seriously! I'm not interested in anything but highest quality music reproduction - as a professional, and classically trained musician, this is mandatory for me.
I've owned literally 100's of pieces of audio gear, some extremely expensive and esoteric examples. All great fun, but especially when it comes to choosing speakers, I have long known that, like pianos, say, they all sound different. Yes, in spite of all attempting to do the same thing, they all have a distinct sonic "footprint". In my experience, there will never be a "perfect" loudspeaker for all listeners, as tastes, budget, and ears are all different.
To write an objective review is an impossibility: by definition I will use my own biases, as does EVERYONE. Having been exposed to so much live music over the years may give me a slight advantage, who knows?
To all those silly people who indulge in Bose-bashing, let me say 'NONSENSE'! To those who like to indulge in the childish 'No highs no lows must be Bose' refrain, again nonsense! Unless my ears and testing equipment are lying to me, these speakers, PROPERLY EQUALIZED and PROPERLY LOCATED, are nothing short of astonishing, In terms of bass, their ability to produce fundamentals at 30Hz and below, with clean accuracy is simply marvelous. Unless you really need to feel a 15Hz fundamental, there will NEVER be a need for an outboard Subwoofer. Never. Period. For a smallish speaker, this is remarkable. Highs are equally well tended to, and with careful EQ and placement, your pets will be bothered even when you're not!
My listening tastes run the gamut from organ music at realistic volumes (I am an organist, and I know what to listen for), to techno and just about everything in between. These rather remarkable speakers will take anything that's dealt to them, bearing in mind the need for decent amplification - anything less than 50 Watts will run into problems if you enjoy realistic listening levels. Even massed vocals, one of the most severe tests, and the downfall of many speakers, are handled with ease and transparency.
Much has been written on the use of paper cones, and the necessity of using an Equalizer. For the former, I don't care what the materials used are, as long as the sounds are correct. Any criticism on this basis is simply puerile; the final sound is all that matters. I must admit I don't care for the fact that the foam surrounds will probably perish after 15 years or so, but since replacements are so easily available this isn't too much of an issue. (Try refurbishing the single speaker from an Ohm Walsh in comparison!!) The equalizer is another issue. Whilst on principle I don't like to introduce more electronics into the chain than necessary, this little box earns its keep, hands down. Listening without any equalization is an unpleasant experience, to say the least. (Bose bashers and others please note). I have experimented extensively with using second-party equalization, and I will go on record as saying that if you have the patience and the tools, you are not limited to the Bose equalizer. I am listening as I write to a thrilling version of Also Spracht Zarathustra, at neighbour-threatening levels, using a second-party equalizer - simply marvelous!
In sum, and you might think surprisingly, these are a very difficult speaker to recommend unequivocally. If the user is not prepared to take a very active part in careful placement and equalization, perhaps they're best left alone. I am utterly convinced that it is these facts alone that have contributed to so much of the nay-saying associated with the 901's.
Not for everyone, but definitely for me!
I use to sell bose products. However, after spending years in the audio business and owning a pair of 901's for a short period of time I can honestly say the speakers had to go. Other than having the capacity to play extremely loud I thought the speakers sounded just awful. Because everything about these speakers sounded unnatural especially the bass and the highs. Of course like everyone else that’s been overseas in the military you either had a set of bose , jbl, or klipsch. And I will say that the bose 901's was by far the worst in that bunch. Especially for the amount of money you spent on them. For those who think the 901's are the greatest things since slice bread I highly recommend you listen to a pair of snell loudspeakers, and if you want something closer to home listen to a good pair of JBl's not the cheap ones.
I have used 901's since 1982. Are there other speakers I like, sure there are. I do however still like the 901's and still using them today. I have to agree they do restrict you when building a surround sound or home theater system because of the Active EQ, but that's only if you are using a Receiver and happen to be using a tape monitor loop. If you are using separates there's not a problem. I even use them in my home theater setup which is posted on http://community.webshots.com/user/maddmaster
I have found the same as others have said about these speakers. If they are not setup exactly to manufactures spec's (distance measurements) they will sound like crap. Many people really do not the space in their rooms to set these up to spec. There will still be those that don't like the sound quality, but that may be caused by they're looking for an overly bright sounding speaker. The 901's give a spacious nice sound quality. The EQ can be adjusted to make changes to me your taste. Another important note is power handling. Bose recommends a minimum os 10 wpc. Maybe so but you will never hear what these speakers are capable of with a low wattage system. They are power eaters. I use an old Carver Power Amp (M1.5) which is rated 300 wpc rms and they can eat it for lunch. The do get loud before that happens, but it's as if the 901's are saying give me more, more power. I used to sell them retail. I had been told about their ability to handle large amounts of power so I decided to test test that theory. I connected disconnected speaker wires from the board and plugged them directly into a 120V 20A wall outlet. All I can say is WOW, what a rush (scared the S__T out of me). Talk about loud and moving air. I do not recommend you try this and I don't plan on doing it again either. The speaker took it and never blinked. When reconnected it to the receiver it continued performing just like right out of the box.
With all things, technology changes and the 901's as much as I have loved them have really fallen into the vintage class. I plan to replace them soon. I was going to replace them about 15 yrs ago but Bose offered be a deal I could not refuse. My series IV driver cones were coming a part. When I called Bose to order a few new drivers they offered me a trade up to the series VI for just under $500, EQ included.
Well, here goes. Thought I would jump in here and put my 2 cents in about the Magnificent sounding Bose 901 series 1(original) through series V. I have been into audio since I was seven. I've had so much stuff, built so much stuff, auditioned so much stuff it's unbelievable! First things first! How the so called audiophiles can put this and other fine speakers down is just Wrong! Everyone hears things in their own way and I respect the different opinions of all the reviews here, as long as they are fair and objective. The Bose 901 does a very good job of reproducing music. No, I don't it's the best at any price. I don't think any speaker is. All of them have flaws. I auditioned the B & W Nautilus and it sounded very good, but not perfect, I've owned Mcintosh Xrt-20's, Klipschorns, B & O, Carver Amazings, Magneplanars and several other fine speakers. All sounded good, all had flaws. Drove to Memphis once to hear the Legacy Focus and Whisper. Very dissapointing! The Bose 901, when set up properly and USING the equalizer can provide a really nice audio experience. Having at least 250 watts a channel is better, good clean equipment to push them will be rewarding.
In the 70's the Super Bose System was introduced, this consisted of 4 901's hooked in parallel along with the Bose 1801 power amplifier. This produced 400 watts a side at a 4 ohm load, thus each speaker was getting 200 watts. It sounded very good, but with the efficiency of the early 901's lacking because of the 18 db boost of the EQ,, this was not enought power. With the Ported design, efficiency is better. As for the cheap paper cones, there is a reason for this. If you can't figure it out, then maybe you are not a true audiophile after all. If you notice, the paper is very thin, it needs to be this way. Because of the extreme bass boost, the enertia of the cone has to be controlled, thus reducing overshoot. Same principle that makes Lowther such a fine speaker. The 901 produce accurate bass if set up properly, a lot of other speakers introduce bass on the heavy side. The highs are adequate. You can only hear 17khz or so anyway. If you are in the market for some speakers, listen to a pair properly set up, and let your ears camp out with your favorite music. After all, listening to music is personal and tuned to one's own taste, not a track race of opinions.
Kudos, Amar Bose, you did alright! Happiness to all! Audio ole timer.