Reviewed by:tvb6597 (Audio Enthusiast)
Review Date March 12, 2010
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Value Rating 4 of 5
Used product for More than 1 year
Well I am not here to bash Bose or the “Boseos” out there who think that Bose has engineered the greatest speakers ever manufactured. I have used the AM5 system for over 10 years and I have to say that I have been satisfied with my experience. I am more of a 2-channel enthusiast because of my fondness for music, and owning these speakers has been a pleasant experience. However, here are some things to consider before buying into the Bose mystique.
On ebay I have seen different sets of Bose Model 501X speakers (as AM5′s were called upon introduction in 1987 before the term “Acoustimass” was coined) and the frequency response listed on the back panel of the “bass module” was listed as 48-20,000 Hz. However, AM5′s suffer from some noticeable roll-off…as you can probably tell when watching a movie or listening to rap/hip-hop/top 40 that the “mid-bass” only goes down to about 48 Hz and there are some gaps in the overall depth of sound. I have used these speakers with a few different receivers…the best had to be my analog Kenwood KR-V8040, then a Kenwood KR-V7060 and then with a Pioneer VSX-D710S Dolby Digital receiver. Overall I have been satisfied with my purchase, as I got my AM5 speakers on Ebay for $90.00. I don’t think I would feel great spending the full $359 for them as they are listed on Bose’ website, but I have been content for the most part considering these pack a punch for such small drivers. Musically they are dynamic and fill my large (15 X 25 foot) family room with warm sound. Some of that is probably from my Kenwood KR-X1000 THX receiver with left over power to spare. Complements on these speakers are study construction and a lifetime of problem-free performance. The four 20′ sections of 18 AWG wire came in handy for placement as well.
I have to give it to the guys up on the Mountain in Massachusetts…not too badly done. Upon inspection and removal of the side panel on the module there was a decent quality MDF enclosure with more than enough glue to survive massive temperature shifts and a good drop from 3-4 feet. The 6″ woofers couldn’t have cost more than $15 bucks a piece with semi-stout paper cones and foam-rubber surrounds. The same goes for the 2.5″ paper cone “mid-range” speakers found in the satellites. If Bose speakers were so “elite” as they claim in all their mass magazine and TV ads, I honestly expected better driver materials.
The most impressive part of this system is the crossover itself, armed with an arsenal to handle a hefty 4 ohm load. It is crystal clear and really hits some frequencies really well. Since lower resistance can carry more current you need quite an amp to drive these speakers to hear the difference from your traditional mid-fi home audio competitors. The crossover is packed with capacitors, resistors, inducers and glass fuses for overdrive protection. Frequencies above 150 Hz, as best I can measure, go to the satellite cubes, which blast a room full of mid-range “reflected” sound to give you the “lifelike listening experience” Bose describes in detail. Below 150 Hz “harmonics” are synthesized by the crossover and go to the low frequency drivers, which act like “pistons” to push and pull air into and out of the module, which creates pressure waves to resemble “bass.” What you are actually hearing are “pitches” below 150 Hz that your ears perceive as bass, even though they are not actually producing these frequencies. When your brain hears the mid-to high frequencies, most people’s brains compensate and “fill in” the missing bottom half with the perceived low frequencies. These are simply “overtones,” and not actual deep bass, which accounts for the psycho acoustic perceptions of the brain by filling in the low missing portion of the sound spectrum. The AM5, 6 10, 15 and 16 operates on a non-linear electrical system (Bose’s specialty), which is why Bose doesn’t release the actual frequency response and sensitivity of their HT and stereo speakers (including the 901). Now, their PA system and Pro sound products are a totally different story…
Bose knows this, and they have taken steps to “research” how to make small speakers sound big. The bass module almost acts as a resonance chamber, and the “pitches” it produces resembles deep bass, even though it is simply an exaggeration of mid range frequencies. Bose understands the way the brain perceives sound, and they claim to be more “dynamic” by doing so. They were one (not THE) first companies to produce cutting edge products, including the “small speakers/big sound” concept. Come on…you can’t change the laws of physics. However, something had to give to create this illusion. The Bose Corporation simply knows where and how to spend its money. They are great marketers and even better business people. The “direct/reflecting” technology is a marketing technique…since the cubes produce the same frequencies due to the crossover being in the module, you can turn them wherever you want and you won’t notice a huge difference. Pair that with the four 20′ speaker wires provided and a small speaker package that is aesthetically pleasing and sounds “pretty good most of the time” and you have roughly 80% of the market for audio buyers in your pocket. Bose understands the market and knows how to give people what they want. They spend the money they make well and make good investments. Isn’t that the secret to any good business?
The fact of the matter is that in most cases, Bose speakers satisfy because they are form over function…the fact that they can blend in to your decor satisfies most people’s need for a speaker system in their home. On average most people will pay to sacrifice sound quality for the pure, white “unobtrusive” upscale look and long sections of speaker wire that come with them for ease of placement rather than the best quality sound. For the audio enthusiast, I would look into the competition. Companies like Paradigm, Klipsch, B & W and JBL offer competitive products at reasonable prices, especially online. People who have paid top dollar for Bose AM-10′s and claim to have the best HT setup did not shop around to do an A-B listening comparison. You will find that they are missing some fundamentals compared to other speakers.
If primary music is your taste, then I would give these speakers a try at a reasonable price. Otherwise, if you are into home theater, I would shop around before I spent my tax return or hard-earned cash on AM-10′s or a Lifestyle system. If you want “real” sound for movies and a good sound stage for imaging, check out a real powered sub and some tower/satellite speakers with a flat frequency response and listen to them side by side and compare to a Bose system when watching. If the Bose still wins…then I would go with what you like best. Listen for yourself, and then decide.
In almost every store you go into, the salespeople will try to sell you Bose. Ask around, listen, and you’ll be surprised about what you discover. Bose created efficient speakers for the average listener…that is the market they strive to reach. “Different” Sound Through Research…that doesn’t mean that it’s better.
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