Bose 901

Hi folks, what is your opinion about the Bose 901? Can it competes with the high end speakers which are frequently mentioned here, like Wilson, Thiel, Revel, B&W, etc.? Please try to be objective and try not to be driven by some prejudice towards the marque.
Wow, you sure picked the wrong place to ask that question! I would suggest searching the archives for Bose threads, and be prepared for some rather pointed responses. I have no particular prejudices against Bose but I will say they can't hold a candle to any of the brands you mention above.

No, they don't compete with any of the speakers you mentioned. Most consumers who aren't well versed in music reproduction think Bose and Cerwin Vega are the top of the heap, but they don't have a point of reference. I'd consider a pair if I got the 901's for $100 or less and used 'em in a workshop system along with a vintage receiver. What equipment would you use with the 901's? Music preference, room? If you're considering a pair of Bose due to budget restrictions we can make recommendations for better speakers in the same price range.
I owned a pair back in the 70's...loved the "wall of sound" and was very impressed that all that sound came from those two little speakers.

I had them matched with Sansui AU-717 Int. amp and TU-717 tuner along with a Thorens turntable.

I moved from the Bose to Dahlquist DQ-10's and it was a pretty big upgrade in sound quality although the Sansui amp could not cut the mustard with the DQ-10's.

So here is your answer I guess:

The Bose 901's can't even compete with the long gone moves on, I would to if I were you.

IMHO - A lot of the new $4000 "bargain" speakers don't compete with properly set-up, tweaked, and re-tweetered Dahlquist DQ-10's either, not to mention DQ-20i's or Dq-30's.

While technology does improve, a cone attached to a coil suspended inside a magnet isn't exactly high tech. Crossover design and construction still use the same exact elements. In general I think it's Marketing that marches on.

Drivers are lighter and stiffer but if you ask me, the most important speaker advancements have been in the understanding of time and phase issues - something which Bose designs not only have no concept of, but completely mangle. Bouncing a bunch of mid-range drivers into side and rear walls while listening to the ported end directly - I don't think so.... unless you're pretty sure your walls are properly timed and have flat frequency response :)

The Bose line NEVER measured up to better speakers of it's day. So it still doesn't measure up. What Bose had was an imagination unfettered by the actual performance of his designs, and the marketing savvy to convince a growingly affluent, yet unknowledgable, public of his imaginary prowess.

Just wait till you need to refoam all those little drivers, too. Loads of fun.

My first bad experience with stereo equipment came with an early pair of 901s when I was about 9-10 years old. My dad brought home a pair from his bar along with a new Sansui receiver. The 901s needed to have a special pre-amp or post amp? I can't remember, but it needed some other box to work right with most amps. I hooked them up straight from the speaker outs of the receiver and promptly fried it. After that we hooked it up with the proper additional box and ran it with a Fisher tube receiver. I remember thinking that it filled up the room with alot of sound but after about a month we went back to his old KLH Model 6 speakers that sounded more natural to my young ears.
They might be cool if you were trying to make a retro '80s room for historical purposes :) but like Hack said only if they were cheap.
I started this thread after reading a review about the 901's from an audiophile. He was very enthousiastic about the speakers, although he also has heard many other high end speakers from very respected manufacturers. He said nothing compares to the sound and musicality of stacked 901's, despite the age and oddness of the design etc., etc. (And he was not blowing weed at that moment).
It reminds me somehow of audiophiles who are saying that they've never heard better sound than that coming from stacked Quad 57's.
Only when a Yugo beats a Porsche in the 1/4 mile!
I have had direct experience with many Bose products, including two versions of the 901s and can confidently say that none of them were even close to my cuppa tea. The 901s were the only ones that were even remotely interesting, and that was because they can be quite serviceable for PA work. This is because they are relatively small, work optimally in high corner placement, and can be driven to insane SPLs with enough power. That being said, Klipsch La Scalas, frequently used for PA work back in the day, absolutely roach them.
Dazzdax - I think your friend would be more accurately defined as a Boseaphile.
Hey Dazzdax,

Well, they're not like apples and oranges, but rather like old apples and diamonds.

Seriously, there was nothing wrong with your question, but as Jond said you might have asked in the wrong place. Folks here are pretty sure they know what they like and there is likely a consensus (as you have been seeing) that Bose 901s aren't what they like.

Having said that, I can relate to why some people might be interested in Bose 901s. They were popular in the 1970s and probably played a lot of loud music at a lot of fun bars and good parties. As you are finding though, most of the audiophiles here don't think 901s represented a good design for serious hifi. My guess is that if you found a pair in good condition on eBay for a price that made sense you might enjoy them, but they won't be an introduction to high end hifi, or even current midfi.

In any event, we defintitely shouldn't lump Quad 57s in anywhere near the pile we place the Bose on. Quad 57s, as I predict you will soon see from posts on this thread and other posts on Agon, are often regarded as "nearly as good as it gets". They can be old and finicky, but if they have been well preserved or correctly updated they can be outstanding. Generally they are considered to not play real loud without breaking and they are not the last word in the deep bass department, but they can provide glorious sound, especially in the midrange. In Wayne's 57s you will get decent volume, bass, and very good reliablity along with everything else Quad 57s are famous for. So, if you want a deluxe pair look into Wayne Picquet's refurbed Quad 57s. On the other hand, we are now talking about $2-3k or more vs. maybe a couple hundred $ for the Bose 901.

The moral of the story is vintage gear can be truly great or just vintage. If you hang around on Agon for a while you'll find that almost every peice of equipment has it's supporters and detractractors. Interestingly, you hit on one with among the highest number of detractors and another with among the highest number of supports.

I think you'll find Agon is a HUGELY benefical source of information and opinions. How useful the info is often depends on how much you can share in the way of your requirements and then how thick your skin is - hang in there and Agoners will point you in some good directions.
At $1,400 MSRP the 901s represent an excellent choice for any number of non-audiophile music lovers. If all you want is a speaker that fills the room with sound, is not terribly large, isn't demanding about setup, has good apparent bass and isn't insanely expensive, then the 901 fits the bill. Is it as good a speaker as comparable priced NHT, Paradigm or Energy products? No, but any of those speakers would start you down the path towards system matching, finding the best cable(s) and dealing with speaker/room interactions. That's great if that's what you want to do, but if all you really want is to sit down and listen to music, then the Bose 901 is an honest and viable product.

Another advantage of Bose speakers is that if anything breaks, now or even in the distant future, Bose will still be in business to deal with your problem. Only a small handful of audiophile oriented companies can say that (and Dalhquist ain't one of them).
Subscribe to the Audiogon Bluebook. At the prices that they are going for you might try them I ran a pair that were given to me for some years until I embraced this hobby. While I was still using them my first tweak was to upgrade interconnects and speaker cables. By the standards I then had, they did improve quite a bit.

They could even be a deal at $500.00, equalizer included.
Bought a pair in the early 80s when I was stationed overseas. 901s were THE speaker to own for military overseas. I enjoyed many hours of listening with them. And when the foam rotted Bose replaced the speakers with latest version for nominal fee. I sold the replacements without listening to them and bought a pair of Paradigms. The first thing I noticed was that certain cds (poorly engineered one) sounded terrible where as with the 901s they sounded fine.
I don't miss them but I've learned that finding equipment that doesn't make listening to many of my favorite cds a painful experience is what I'm after.
I remember this phenomenon during the 70's myself as that was when I started down the road with my first high end system of decent separates....A friend of mine heard my system and he was bound and determined that he would have one he went out and bought a big Radio Shack receiver and Bose 901's...Then he invited me down for a listen and cranked up a Heart album....since we were both dairy farmers my only response to that wall of sound was Holy Cow...After that session I understood why I could never own a pair of 901's unless I went from the Dairy business to the Bar business...

They can rock the house but arn't considered high end.
Depends on what you want. I don't need pin point imaging. I need LOUD rock that wont clip and distort. I haven't listened to them in about 25 years but they were the ones that I wanted and couldn't afford. I tried the 501's but they never worked for rock. The 901's sure did though.
They were classic PX speakers. Some of you will know what I mean.
Dang Scott, It's been 30 years since I heard these at the PX in Kadena. Flashbacks are scary

Dazzdax, Your question sent me down memory lane. 1972-74 and sitting in the barracks in Furth, Germany drinking "Rad" beer and rocking out on the Who, Golden Earring, Black Sabbath, Curtis Mayfield (and suffering thru the Chilites and the Jackson 5). Sitting in on weekend long hands of Spades, the music never stopped and the guys that had the 901's were top of the heap. My setup were 501's driven by a Pioneer SX 9000 with a Gerrard Zero 100 turntable, and an Akai R to R. 19 years old and Life was good. Dave
Most audiophiles are not familiar with the original Bose 901s. Every subsequent version of the 901 has been a step down. And other Bose speakers are, from the audiophile viewpoint, inferior from the get-go. (The tiny cubes do have some merit for inconspicuous background music). This is why Bose is the whipping boy of Audiogon.

In the right room, with something like a rough brick wall to bounce the sound off, and a very powerful amplifier to cope with the drastic low end boost, and the right kind of large soundstage music, they can sound great. But these are too many restrictions. Besides, the original version is long gone...only the shape remains.
Eldartford, you are right about the brick wall come to think of it. I always heard these in the Barracks which were block walls. I was in Korea drinking Ginseng wine and popping Tilidons (morphine). What a freaking mess I was and at least half of my company. I was a helicopter mechanic. I was on flight status at fort Campbell KY. I got shipped to Korea and I am watching all of these helicopters flying around and going poof in the air and fall to the ground. I said to this guy, "what is going on here". He said," You don't want to be on flight status over here, everyone is all f-ed up". What a great army we had back then :-)
I'm not a bose adept either. I was rather curious if there is some positive aspect regarding the 901's sound. To me musicality is more important than let's say accuracy or a good pin point imaging (where is pin point imaging good for by the way: a grand piano doesn't sound as if it is coming from a point source. It sounds rather big and a bit diffuse). I'm sure the 901 also sounds diffuse and "not" pin point. But do you think the 901 sounds "musical"?
Dazzdax...The 901 did have one of its drivers facing the listener, and the imaging was not as bad as you might suspect. The earlier time of arrival of sound from the front speaker probably made it dominant with regard to imaging.
Dazzdax, My 901 three series were very musical, their rolled-off top end made early cd's sound much better than they were. They had fair-good bass response and the huge wall of sound was a plus for the types of music I enjoyed in those days...Rock and roll!

Life was one big party and the 901's were great party speakers IMO. The only speakers I've owned (and still do own) that were better party speakers...My 9 year old VMPS Supertowers!

I have four of the MKVI. Wanna buy? Like stated already, they are good for the $$$. Only if conditions are favorable. They need room as 87% of sound hitting you is reflected. Not for the bookshelf. Hanging them from the ceiling reduces the bass response. The highs seem distored and the lows were out of control at high volumes. I listen to Lamb Of God, Godsmack, Metallica, etc, mostly and like to get it loud without it sounding like something is being stressed beyond...I just got some Klipsch R7s. Seem much better so far...Like I said the Bose can sound wonderful for certain applications, but not for mine. BTW...mine are in excellent shape. Two are just broken in and the other two with only 1 hour use.
Got to agree with the early-901 nostalgia. Bought a pair late in my Navy days, around '76 I think it was, with some sort of receiver and a used AR "on/off-switch-only" turntable. Was married to a professional violinist for seven years after that, and we were just in heaven (listening-wise, not marital-wise!) listening to Rabin, Heifitz, Oistrakh, Guarneri and Julliard Quartets, etc. The 901s sure sounded mighty fine to us back then, and to our professional musician friends as well! Sometimes wish, in the immortal words of Bob Seger, that I didn't know now what I didn't know then.
I had the same experience with the 601's and a Pioneer receiver
I was a student at MIT when Amar Bose (a professor there) introduced the 901. My audiophile friends and I agreed then (and still do) that the direct/reflecting idea is basically flawed, because both the direct and reflected sound of the instruments/vocalist at the original venue have already been recorded on the source medium (CD, tape, record) so the introduction of additional reflections just serves to add another layer of "acoustics" that were not on the source material, and can only "muddy" the reproduced performance.

Nice marketing ploy, but lousy audio!

I have a pair of used 901V's hanging from the ceiling of my garage. Powered by a $1.00 (+ $11 S&H) eBay 35 watt JVC JR-S201 receiver, driven through leftover 10-guage solid-core electrical wiring as speaker cable.

Best garage system I've ever heard. Cheap 'n' easy, out of the way, zero hassles, just 990 sq. ft of tunes. Good bass, adequate treble anywhere in the garage.

Yeah, I suppose I'll lose 'em to the dreaded foam rot. They look good so far, though. We'll see how they take repeated -20F temperatures.

The best-sounding roller skating rinks I've been in have used 901's, too, but they had about twenty times the peak wattage driving 'em. If I put two watts average into 'em, I'd be surprised.

As a primary sound source in the living room? You can do better. They might be good as surround speakers, though.
Camino, the garage is a perfect place for your 901s. Actually, I always thought that any kind of public address environment (churches, music stores) was a great use for them. So if you love your 901s then don't let them die. Get new surrounds put on those drivers and they'll live for another 50 years! BTW, the new neoprene surrounds (not available at the time 901s were manufactured) are not susceptable to temperature extremes and rot. Shouldn't cost more than 5 bucks a driver. Well worth it IMO
Detail Thats what Bose lacks. Thats why you can listen to a pore quatity sorce material and it sounds okay. As soon as you put a great detailed speaker like B&W in the system you can hear the recording. good or bad. I like knowing I'm getting everything out of the recording, even the flaws. I can hear fingers on strings and hear the breath of the artist when inhale. on a great recording it can be magic. I hope this helps you. If your still in to old speakers. Give the AR3A's a listen. This was the rival to the Bose back then. Note. I bought the AR3A in 1974 Okinawa Japan USAF Don
Multiple drivers designed to replicate any portion of the audio band in a single box in ANY speaker design, not just Bose, just smear the harmonic content of the signal they're fed. This just screws up the timbre and is funadamentally inaccurate.

Plain and simple. The Emperor has no clothes.
Stevecham...Not true. Closely spaced drivers behave like one big driver except at very close range. The best example is the line array configuration, which may include a dozen drivers.
I heard a demo of the 901 system when I was near Boston in the summer - hats off to the guys from Bose who really know how to make their stuff sound good in their demo rooms. I wanted to see how they demonstrated the product and how they had set up their room - it was very impressive indeed.

That said, there was a lot of information missing and no, it won't compete with the original brands mentioned. **Provided they are set up at least half as well as the buys from Bose do it**

Obviously if you buy the 901 and take it home to set up in your living room on your own, things may be very different.
If you want to hear music in your home in lieu of a brand of speaker, one needs to think about this in speaker selection. It is a question more profound than one might imagine. I listen to all kinds of live music from Ravi Shankar to Michael Burks' Blues. That's the point isn't it, to attempt to replicate live music in ones home? ALL speakers sound different in your home than they do in the showroom - Duh! The 901's work for me because I don't "hear" the speaker. I want to hear the music I hear at live performances. The 901's cover the spectrum of all types of music the best that I have yet to come across in my 30 years of critical listening. Good luck and don't cave to your ego or peer pressure. Go to live performances, close your eyes and concentrate on the sounds you hear. Then go to as may audio stores as you can and do the same thing while listening to various speakers. It would help if you have a recording of your most recent outing, and a live recording would be better yet. Mike