Bose 901 Review
No Highs, No Lows, must be Bose has remained true
since 1968. No imaging either. Great to demonstrate
doppler effect though.
Bose did keep after Consumer Reports in the courts all
the way to the Supreme Court for 14 years a bad review.
For some reason they did not go after J. Gordon Holt for
his not so flattering review in Stereophile.
"Peter Sammon" > wrote in message
> In 1968, I took an old Philco record player and turned it into my first
> hifi record player by installing a Shure M3D stereo magnetic phono
> cartridge and then adding a preamp and low powered amp and sealing the
> entire deal by building these gigantic enclosures for a pair of Jensen
> cone 8" speakers that cost a grand total of $20/Pr. This was my
> introduction to stereo hifi and a new audionut had been born!
> This was also the year that the now famous Bose 901 DIRECT/REFLECTING
> speaker system graced the audio world with a courageous unorthodox
> Had it not been for Dr. Amar Bose and this speaker, who would have caused
> so many speaker designers to even give stereo imaging the slightest
> Believe it or not, I wasn't even aware of the design at that time. In
> it wasn't until 1972 when I was stationed in Alaska for the USAF that I
> took to picking up a few stereo magazines including CONSUMER GUIDE and
> STEREO REVIEW and then ventured into the local hifi shop in Fairbanks
> my first encounter with the 901 took place.
> When the salesman put on an album by a band called Chase, The 901's that
> were suspended from the ceiling immediately shook the room and the
> was awesome! Stereo everywhere yet I could distinctly identify each
> trumpet, guitar, percussion and voices with better separation than I had
> ever experienced! The amplifier driving the speakers at the time was none
> other than Bob Carver's creation...the Phase Linear 700. The love affair
> had begun and I purchased my first set of Bose 901's.
> In 1983 I upgraded to SERIES V and just recently to SERIES VI...the
> of this review. It is a solidly well built speaker system throughout!
> The Bose 901 SERIES VI features a 21" x 12" x 13" cabinet with curved
> fronts and two angled panels in the rear. The two angled panels each
> contain four 4 1/2" drivers while one single driver is placed toward the
> center of the front panel.
> Thus the reason for the model #...9 drivers total with 1 in front. The
> design is appropriately designated as direct/reflecting with 89% of the
> sound projected from the rear and the remaining 11% coming out of the
> front. This proportion was the finding of Dr. Bose's MIT team when
> various halls where LIVE PERFORMANCES were featured.
> The impedence is a solid 8 ohms across the musical spectrum and should
> prove to be a most stable load for whatever amplifier one chooses but
> choose wisely as this speaker is extremely picky about what drives it and
> I'm not referring to just power alone! It is quite conceivable that a
> 50 watt amp could sound better with the 901's than a competitive 200 watt
> The small drivers themselves boast heavy magnets and high quality voice
> coils as they must move an enormous amount of air. The multi chambered
> ACOUSTIC MATRIX enclosure vents the speaker in a most unusual way with
> speeds exceeding 60 mph! Three ports or jets protrude through the rear of
> the 901 enclosure.
> Because of the use of small full range drivers, an active equalizer which
> is absolutely essential to the system is used in place of the normal
> CROSSOVERS that introduce distortion no matter how well engineered. The
> EQ simply smooths out any bumps or irregularities in the system's power
> FREQUENCY RESPONSE specs are not ever offered by Bose because one of the
> founding principles was that they offer little or no value to the
> audiophile! Bose simply observed that great specs certainly did not
> coincide with equally great performance.
> The OWNER'S MANUAL is quite extensive and written in several languages.
> also gives special instructions for mounting the 901's on pedestals or
> hanging them from ceilings.
> The speakers are rated to handle amplifiers of 10 to 450 watts of clean
> power but do not induce amplifier clipping as this will kill any speaker
> regardless of the rating or how well it is made! DYNAMIC RANGE is rated
> 106db...well above the 90db capability of the best digital sources!
> The two finishes that are available are black ash and light walnut. I
> the light walnut for mine with dark brown indestructible grills that are
> absolutely seductive looking!
> Optional PS6 pedestals are available. Pedestals are also offered by
> and you could save some money but make sure they support your 901's
> properly. Two foot high end tables offer a sturdy and childproof support
> the speakers also.
> The bottom of each 901 speaker reveals a circular cutaway that surrounds
> the two heavy duty knurled nut speaker terminals that hold speaker wire
> like no other arrangement I know of. It is very secure and should make
> a lifetime of good connection to quality OFC speaker wire. This wire is
> available from Kimber Kable and AR but for my money MIRASONIC.COM has the
> best stuff at super low prices that can truly make an audible difference.
> There is no substitute for controlled well defined bass and clear mids
> highs. Good wire can accomplish that! It's been proven.
> After patching the 901 EQ into my TAPE MONITOR circuit on my humble
> Parasound integrated amplifier with the supplied patch chords and then
> carefully setting up the speakers in my living room I was able to listen
> my vast collection of CD's into the wee hours of the morning night after
> night as I simply could not get enough of the beautiful sound the
> project! A new TAPE MONITOR is provided on the EQ to replace your old
> Adjust the MID BASS and MID TREBLE slider controls moderately for room
> source compensation.
> DO NOT MIX AND MATCH WRONG EQ's FROM VARIOUS SERIES MODELS AS THE SOUND
> WILL BE INCORRECT AND DO NOT USE WITH OTHER CONVENTIONAL UNEQUALIZED
> SPEAKERS FOR HOME THEATER!!!!
> 901 EQ AND SPEAKER SERIES COMPATABILITY:
> SERIES I and II...ACOUSTIC SUSPENSION design from 1968-1976
> SERIES III and IV...ACOUSTIC MATRIX design from 1976-1983
> SERIES V and VI...ACOUSTIC MATRIX design from 1983-Present day
> Do not deviate from these guidelines as 901's are available in used
> condition over the internet. Undoubtedly as you read this review, someone
> is selling a SERIES IV 901 with a SERIES VI EQ or a SERIES II EQ with a
> SERIES III speaker and will result in total dissatisfaction with the
> product on the buyer's end.
> Also beware of the phony 901 look alike LDL 749 speakers that were
> manufactured from 1970 to 1974 without EQ's but did not equal the 901
> quality sound. I almost purchased one of these systems back then but
> thankfully did not but beware as they can easily be peddled as 901's.
> do resemble the Bose to a great degree. I think someone from the original
> Bose/MIT group jumped ship to make these imposters.
> As for the subject of speaker placement I can only suggest that you
> experiment a bit and rid yourself of any normal distance you would keep
> between conventional LEFT and RIGHT STEREO speakers as the 901 is
> but conventional itself! I really do believe that the LOVE and HATE stems
> from the fact that the 901 sound can change drastically in the lower
> frequencies when not setup properly! Alas, I have found the 901's to
> best on 18" high pedestals and out 18" from the REAR wall along the SHORT
> wall of my listening room as compared to the LONGER wall. I think this is
> better than hanging the speakers from the ceiling where the bass tends to
> get lost. Experiment...experiment...this is the key!
> Because of the angled rear panels, the "middle sound" will be quite
> and stable eliminating the typical "sweet spot" rules. You can separate
> these speakers miles apart from each other and in fact should do so
> reason to get great stereo separation!
> By doing so, you'll not only widen the fantastic soundstage but also
> eliminate any possibility of losing left and right channel detail. Don't
> worry, you will not have a "hole in the middle" effect. This way also
> you to move the 901's closer to the adjacent walls. Just keep the wall
> behind the speakers relatively free of drapes and teddy bears.
> Hanging the 901's from ceilings more than ten feet from the ground is not
> recommended as the sound may get obscured a bit and imaging along with
> bass lost. In other words, if you have a ceiling like the Sistine Chapel,
> forget it!
> The sound of the 901 SERIES VI is really special and downright seductive!
> Regardless of the many genres of music that have been played thru my
> the SOUNDSTAGING is such that never have I experienced a wider higher
> portrayal of various performances with equally impressive depth! You can
> literally point to every instrument in the orchestra or follow a soloist
> he or she moves about the stage in front of you [e.g. Tony Clarke-"The
> Entertainer" as he as he moves to and fro banging his tambourine...it's
> really something to behold!]
> The break-in period for the 901-VI went very nicely with the drivers
> seated after six months. Be careful not to push them too hard at first
> do not introduce amplifier clipping. By the way, this break-in period
> applies to owners of older 901 models that have had their foam surrounds
> replaced [Simply Speakers on EBAY has a wondertful kit for under $50].
> I love it when people say that the 901's can't go deep. Just checkout the
> opening low pedal note in the movie "2001-A Space Oddysey" and see if it
> doesn't rattle every window and loose floor board in the house! Or
> Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" at the four minute mark. Just MIDRANGE
> speakers, huh? No, what's happening is that the ACOUSTIC MATRIX enclosure
> is moving huge amounts of air! That's what gives you bass...not just the
> physical size of the driver. Why do you think many top notch speaker
> systems like Win Burhoe's SILENT SPEAKERS or the Spendors use such small
> drivers and are still able to produce such deep notes? It's because the
> cabinets have special sophisticated chambers that create significant air
> speeds. Also the drivers have powerful motors in their voice coil and
> magnet assemblies.
> All other systems seem to be fat sounding in the bass...even the biggest
> most expensive ones! Forget about subwoofering the 901 as it is not
> necessary in the right room! Put your wallet away and be happy with the
> fact that you own a fantastic 40Hz gut puncher!
> Telarc's CD of "Carmina Burana" is so dynamic with the voices and
> bringing forth massive but clear emotional sound thru the 901's. Midrange
> and high notes are crystal clear thru the speakers when they are truly
> present. That brings me to another point...that the 901's only reproduce
> what's in the recording itself and very little of anything else! BUT YOU
> GOTTA LISTEN TO THEM FOR YOURSELF. YOU MAY NOT AGREE WITH MY FINDINGS AS
> THE 901 IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.
> The EQ is silent with no perceived extraneous noise. The only noise that
> will be revealed is amplifier hiss or such sound in an analog mastered
> recording. Some digital recordings even have modulation noise and you
> recognize such flawed CD's immediately!
> The speaker has an uncanny ability to reveal eveything! Beware as this is
> certainly a double edged sword for the Bose. I have one CD of Barry
> Greatest Hits that on the song..."You're The First, The Last, My
> Everything" where this older recording used a poor microphone for Barry's
> voice that can sound downright harsh! Yet the orchestra behind him is
> nicely portrayed. You will certainly stay up late the first night
> out all of your library to see what's good and what isn't.
> I'm not kidding when I tell you that the 901 can distinguish between a
> MIC or a bad one. You can even hear "poof!" sounds from microphones that
> were not properly screened and windproofed! Just listen to a variety of
> radio broadcasts or checkout the "Buddy Holly Collection" CD of
> recordings and listen for yourself.
> That is how revealing the 901 is. I dare say that many of you will not
> the speaker because of this very fact. The quality of your amplifier and
> player will also be unveiled for whatever it is. Use good quality power
> the 901 likes heaps of it! Yes, it can play quite loudly but sounds
> wonderful at a whisper.
> That high current Onkyo/Integra stereo only receiver should be wonderful
> with the 901's! I'm not so sure about some other massed produced brands.
> Certainly super audiophile expensive MONO BLOCKS will be at their best
> If you listen to JAZZ 88 in the Newark, NJ area you will hear non smeared
> percussion and wonderful vocalists with plenty of plucked basses and
> sweet highs all naturally portrayed thru the 901's. The cymbals are so
> natural! TRANSIENT RESPONSE is exemplary! I love the fact that I can hear
> kickdrum change tone or every subtlety and overtone on various recorded
> music. The simple striking of a trianglular bell can raise the hairs on
> Accuracy of musical timbre is important and with the Bose you get plenty
> it. You haven't heard the Beatles until you've heard "Sgt Peppers" played
> thru the Bose 901! There is a rather nice CD entitled "Atmospheres-Celtic
> Voices" featuring ambient waterfall sounds along with various seductive
> strings, tom toms, woodwinds and basses. This Irish music CD is worth
> seeking out as it reveals changes in the stringed bass's tones and
> subtleties that can be a very useful tool for speaker evaluation! You can
> probably pick it up for around $8 or less! The 901 sounds wonderful with
> this recording!
> But don't just take my word for it...listen for yourself! You may or may
> not agree. That is how controversial this speaker is! Speaker auditioning
> should be fun and pleasant so don't let snotty proprietors and extremely
> opinionated sales people stand in your way. Some of the hatred stems from
> the fact that Bose seems to pursuit competitors in court quite often and
> also even went after a negative reviewer...and that's not right. We are
> free to print how we feel about a product and should have no fear of
> But as a maker of great speakers I think Bose does very well indeed and
> their customer support is unbelievable! I have had some nice chats with
> both Bose field and customer service reps.
> Look, my feeling is that a truly great speaker can involve you in the
> performance so well as to summon all your emotions as I have felt many
> tears in my eyes when listening to beautiful music thru the speakers.
> Telarc's "Rite Of Spring" has a tympani gut puncher at around the ten
> minute mark that can make your heart jump out and if you hold a tissue
> one of the 901's ports it will fly out of your hand! Yet the orchestra
> sounds so sweet as to make you cry or stand up and exclaim...BRAVO!...as
> does on CBS MASTERWORKS' "Nutcracker" w/Michael Tilson Thomas conducting
> the New Phiharmonia Orch.
> There are many bigger more expensive models costing well over $5000 a
> but I don't really consider some of these Gigantors to be appropriate for
> the average listening room. We don't have auditoriums for listening areas
> do we?
> Well the 901's have served me well in some of my rooms over the past
> years and can sound great in rooms big or small if the acoustics are
> correct for them. If your listening room is smaller than average and full
> of curtains then look elsewhere for your special transducer. In larger
> rooms with solid walls or undraped windows the Bose 901 SERIES VI will be
> at its best! The fact that their current price is still within reason for
> such great performance at $1500 is a credit to Bose. The USA engineered
> speaker is now being crafted in Canada which lays claim to such fine
> outfits like Mirage, PSB and Paradigm.
> Although the system is not always setup properly in malls and generally
> available through high end dealers, don't let that fact stop you from
> seeking the speaker out. My advice is to find someone locally who owns a
> SERIES III thru VI system and ask for an audition in the home where they
> reside. There is simply no substitute for auditioning the 901's in an
> actual home! You can also go online at BOSE.COM to place an order and use
> 12 month payment plan that makes it so much easier on your pocketbook.
> A Special Note To 901 Owners And Perspective Buyers:
> Do not be discouraged or put off by those who feel this speaker system is
> overrated or hyped up. Trust your own ears! No amount of poetic flowery
> descriptive double talk can truly make a given speaker system sound
> Neither can impressive manufacturer's specifications! Listen for
> Compare the speakers to the best of the best like the B&W NAUTILUS 801's
> and 802's but also the biggest most expensive Tannoys, Martin Logans,
> Definitives, JBL's, Allisons, Bostons, Polks, Legacy's or any other brand
> you can think of as I have and see if you agree with my findings. Isn't
> most interesting that some of these lovely sounding models cost up to ten
> times the price of the 901 or more! I did compare my Bose to these
> speakers! While I did so, the high end salesman tried to tell me what was
> wrong with them [like most of us audiophiles he was very opinionated]! I
> simply smiled as my 901's outperformed these great speakers on every
> CD used for this audition!
> What a great audition but the salesman knew he had lost his battle! Who
> needs someone telling us what we should be hearing while auditioning
> speakers or any piece of audio gear? It is our decision. We know what to
> listen for! Just beware of this little trick when you decide to bring a
> system into a high end store. They don't like Bose!
> This silliness began in 1971 when J Gordon Holt gave the original Bose
> a somewhat negative review. He did however bring up some good points but
> was off the mark on the 901's sounding "fat" in the bass as they are
> anything but that! However, the battle lines were drawn. This review
> sparked the "Love/Hate" of the Bose 901 speaker system and you can link
> the entire review from my profile page. Just so you have an idea of where
> Mr. Holt is at...he loves the sound of the B&W 801. I thought that this
> rather ironic as this model [although great] has been tagged by myself
> others as a bit overwhelming and "fat sounding" in the bass
> frequencies...again...room acoustics like it or not will affect various
> speaker models more than we sometimes are willing to admit!
> With the proper amplifier and room your reaction may very well be like
> this..."I may be living in a different world from everyone else but if
> so...DO NOT wake me up! I'm having too much fun listening to music the
> it was meant to be heard with this heavenly speaker!" With the wrong amp
> and improper room you will probably feel that you've been ripped off and
> Bose is full of nothing but hype.
> I recommend the speakers highly with the condition that you fully
> them in the right situation but be aware of the fact that many of you
> find yourselves wondering why you even bothered to give the beasts a
> listen! For those of you in this situation I highly recommend the
> Vandersteen 1C speakers at a slightly lower price. The Vandersteens are
> wonderful sounding in just about any room you can think of and are
> available at fine high end stores like John Rutan's Audio Connection of
> Verona, NJ [see the link on my profile page].
> Bose states that the 901-VI was engineered by passionate music lovers.
> fact is so highly obvious once you give the speaker a listen in an
> appropriate setup [and the Bose Store may very well not be the best!]. It
> seems like no other speaker system delivers powerful accuracy quite like
> this one!
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