Bose 901's with "highend ancillaries"??

I STILL see Bose 901's are available here and maybe new after umpteen years in existence and yet I have still never hear a pair (unless you count the occasional high school concert which used the professional version).

Has anyone ever used these with "highend" gear, and if so what was the result??

Just curious if there is actually something good about the speaker other than the marketing the Bose Corporation has done over the years as they have never been inexpensive and even now hold their value pretty well.

And while I ma sure one can do better for the $$$ etc etc I am only looking for comments on how they actually SOUND - strengths and weaknesses
Don't know about Bose specifically, but in general, I would say that all speakers, old/new, good/bad benefit when mated with higher quality gear upstream.

Digital sources and amp technology in particular has improved over the years. There are many good options, some more affordable than others, and its much easier to get really good sound these days than in years past if one just focuses on getting the right combo in place within their budget..
Well, if you look at the 901s technology, what do you see? I see a bunch of low-quality midrange drivers being driven waaaaay out of band using extreme EQ. IMHO, this is not a recipe for high-quality sound.

Don't get me wrong, they do sound "okay", but nothing that I'd want to live with day after day. Nonetheless, they are good "party" speakers and that is probably the best use for them...
Back in the 70's, my cousin had a pair that we listened to using some of the high-end brands from that era; Crown DC 300; C/M Labs preamp, and a Sony turntable (TTS-3000). Years later, I bought most of that system from him but replaced the speakers with a pair of large JBLs. I still remember that the Bose 901s had a pleasant, albeit limited sound. People put Bose down on most high-end forums, but I think they are fine for a non-audiophile, home theater system.
Here's a pretty decent review of them from Tone Audio.
They are better than Audiophiles want to give them credit for.
If they were all I had to listen music to I wouldn't cry over it.
Seems like a rasonable review.

I usually enjoy them when I hear them in well set up pro/public venues.

Like any speakers at the price point, they will have strengths and weaknesses that may fit some and not others.

Bragging rights with audiophiles will not be a benefit though for sure. Maybe with most others though who are way more plentiful.
My first speakers were Bose 901 Series 2. I liked them very much. I never paired them with anything more than a Pioneer receiver and 16 gauge speaker wire. I was happy. That is the bottom line isn't it? This high end hobby drives all of us crazy. I don't believe that "high end" would be attainable through the Bose however. The EQ is VERY unnatural in the way it forces the frequency range to accommodate drivers that were never meant to reproduce highs and lows.
I have heard them multiple times with a range of gear. They are not even close to being a high-end speaker. In fact, I would say they are some of the worst speakers I have ever heard in the context of audiophile products. Artificial highs, bloated bass and maybe a decent midrange (being kind). The design of the product is flawed from the start and no amount of tweaking/modification can bring them into an acceptable range of performance.
You'll probably find this thread to be of interest. My comments in it were as follows:
01-07-12: Almarg
01-07-12: Johnnyb53
There are other things I don't agree with. For example, Amar Bose arrived at an 11/89% ratio of direct-to-reflected sound based on his measurements of Boston's Symphony Hall. The thing is, Symphony Hall is one of the most reverberant concert venues in the world.
I would add that there are problems with the 11/89% ratio in at least two other respects:

1)A recording of a performance in a hall will already have captured both direct and reflected sound. And if the recording is well engineered, that will have been done in a reasonably proper ratio.

2)A given ratio of direct to reflected sound that is produced by the speakers and the listening room will be perceived completely differently than the same ratio would be perceived in a concert hall, because the delay times between direct and reflected sound arrivals are vastly different in the two cases.

Putting aside issues related to quality of implementation, the basic concept itself is fundamentally flawed IMO.

Disclaimer: I have never heard a Bose speaker. I also have no desire to.
-- Al
I bought a pair back in the early 80s when I was stationed overseas. "Party" speaker is an excellent descriptor for the 901s. You can really go loud with them.
The amp was a Sansui B2101 with a Kenwood preamp and of course the source was all vinyl. At the time I enjoyed the heck out of those speakers. Very easy to listen to if you had space to set them up.
Years later the surrounds rotted so Bose sent me a new pair for not much money and my old speakers as trade in. I sold the new 901s without ever hooking them up and bought a pair of Paradigm large floorstand speakers. I have to say the Paradigms sounded much better. That is until my son blew the woofers on them. He wouldn't have been able to do that with the Bose.
The first question my non- audiophile friends ask is "Do you have Bose speakers?" My answer is always no and they just can't understand why. I must say I had a Bose system in a Corvette that I had a few years ago and it sounded like poo poo! Every one has a different taste in speakers so Bose must be doing something right!
"Bose must be doing something right!" 100% HYPE!
I've heard them as the pro 801's a few times and they do "OK".. I always thought if you could use it as a mid component, cross over to a bass bin at 180 or so, and crossover to a tweeter like the JBL glass job at 6500, you might have a decent pa speaker.
BTW the Bose bass pro unit sort of sucks very boomy and does nothing below 50.
Bose 901s were my first speaker purchase back in 1973. Thought they were pretty good and enjoyed them for many years. I kept these until 1996 which by then were stored away making room for higher end speakers as my system evolved. Since I was not using them I sold them. My current systems have speakers from MBL, Ascendo and Kharma but one day got the bug to find another pair of 901s just to mess around with. You have to go with either the series 1 or 2 as the surrounds are cloth and don't fall apart. Found a decent pair of series 1s and match them some vintage McIntosh electronics and once again enjoyed their sound. Are they as good as my other speakers. Of course not. But they are still very enjoyable to listen to and at only $120 quite a bargain. I had our audio group listen to them when we did a shoot out between JbL Lancer 66s, RTR 240 towers and bose 901s and they tied with the RTR for the best sound and everyone was amazed on hiw good they sounded. Yes they get a bad wrap, they are not nearly as bad as people say, match them vintage electronics and good stands, I use 4 pilar Sylan and Place them somewhat properly and enjoy the sound.
HAve never owned Bose nor been strongly inclined.

Had friends with them in their dorm rooms in college. They never impressed me there, but as mentioned I have heard some nice sounding 901 pro/commercial installs. The right room and some installation know how would seem to go a long way with those. Granted these are not venues for "critical" listening typically, so can't say how they might compare 1:1 with others for that.
Thanks for the responses!

I always felt they could not be as bad as many say - hype only goes so far and they are not inexpensive. In fact you could buy a pair of "highend" approved speakers like the Vandersteen 2C for what these cost new and not need the EQ device with the Vandies.

I MAY have to try a pair just to satisfy my curiosity ... though I am not sure I can drive them with 6w of tube power. Might have to break out my old Yamaha 2020 receiver!
You might want to check for any independent measurements that might be published for 901s showing impedance and phase angle curves, also efficiency, ie the measurements that typically determine whether a speaker will be an easy load to drive (for a low watt tube amp) or not. That will help determine how well the two might perform and sound and modest volume at least and how loud one might expect things to go before straining/clipping kicks in.

Off the cuff, I would expect decent but far from optimal results with just a few watts of tube power. Dynamics and volumes achievable will likely be limited and you might not hear the best the speakers are capable of, if that is a goal.

Is that the Yamaha cr2020? I love teh old yamaha receivers and thats one of the bigger ones. That should do quite nicely.

I'd be interested to know how the tube amp does as well in comparison. I'd expect some big differences between the two.
I MAY have to try a pair just to satisfy my curiosity ... though I am not sure I can drive them with 6w of tube power. Might have to break out my old Yamaha 2020 receiver!
Keep in mind that the deep bass boost provided by the 901's external equalizer will eat up a lot of your amplifier's power capability, if the music being listened to has significant content at low frequencies.

Based on a quick Google search, it appears that frequencies in the 30 to 40 Hz region are boosted by amounts between 12 db and 20 db or so, depending on the setting of the bass contour control, and perhaps also on the version of the 901. With lesser but still significant boosts being applied up to well over 100 Hz at the control's center position.

A boost of 12 db would in effect reduce your 6 watt amplifier to a 0.375 watt amplifier on notes in the corresponding frequency range, while a 20 db boost would in effect reduce it to a 0.06 watt amplifier on notes in the corresponding frequency range.

-- Al
Good point by al (as usual).
They sound like pure garbage .
901's are the perfect club speaker. You can run a ridiculous amount of current through them before they break up. We would run 1 Bryston 4B per speaker (usually 6-8 per venue) for ear drum shattering spl's. They would handle mids and uppers well but required sub support in most clubs.
I have heard them many times in a home system and it just doesn't compete with what is available.
Also note if you are looking for a pair you must have the equalizer. Seen many for sale without one. Also the equalizes for the different series are not comparable across all the different series if 901s produced.over the years.
Bose 901 series 1 and 2 equalizers are comparable, series 3 and are comparable with each other, and series 5 and 6 are compatible. Do some research on this, it's very interesting. And as mentioned above a good powerful amp goes a long way to improve their sound.
I agree with the review by Jeff Dorgay. I also agree with the statement by Schubert. I sold them, I have installed many a pair of 901s throughout the years, and, I have owned them. I always suspended them from the ceiling (taking them to another level, imo). Always in a nice sized room, with solid floor, and, wall construction, especially the reflective wall behind them. How many speakers can you connect to a 120 V wall outlet, and still work and sound fine after. This was a common thing we did, as per Bose, to show the indestructibility of them. They were always paired with high end equipment at the time, such as Mac, Crown, Marantz, AR, Citation, Dynaco, SAE, CM Labs, etc. My favorite amp/pre combo was an Ampzilla, with an SP6. Anyone who never heard a pair, "properly set up", would be very surprised.
Also note if you are looking for a pair you must have the equalizer. Seen many for sale without one. Also the equalizes for the different series are not comparable across all the different series if 901s produced.over the years.
Bose 901 series 1 and 2 equalizers are comparable, series 3 and are comparable with each other, and series 5 and 6 are compatible. Do some research on this, it's very interesting. And as mentioned above a good powerful amp goes a long way to improve their sound.
Yes all good installs I have heard are suspend from ceiling which makes for a useful alternative for some in some rooms.
I have heard these 901's with very.. very high priced McIntosh gear and they did sound "amazing" BUT.. they don't sound very good at all with cheap and mid-priced gear!

If I had the ""money"" to buy the "right gear" I would keep my 901's as my "Reference speakers"!!.. MAYBE that's why "Tone Audio" kept their "reviewed pair of 901's" BECAUSE they found out how good they sounded with "very high priced gear"!!..!!...!!...!!... BUT.. "THEY" are not going tell you all how good they sounded with "REFERENCE GEAR" because that would start a WAR on all these forums !! ...
I cant imagine how they would sound much better with high end gear. i heard them on mid fi and all i got out of it is a bunch of so so midrange, lousy high end and fat bass with no details. would be neat to hear some refitted with good drivers tho.
While no longer considered "high end", Bose 901 speakers are really quite good. Very forgiving and of course they do sound better with good source components and good electronics. I still have a pair, but haven't set them up in the past year or so. They are very accurate in terms of timbre and offer a distant, back of the hall perspective. When they were first introduced (1968?), AR practically owned the speaker market, with something over 50% market share. The original 901, with no where near the quality of sound of the current series, basically buried AR. I sold a lot of 901s back in their heyday. It is important to put this into perspective. No speaker from that era can compete with today's better speakers. But here we are talking about speakers that are still in production today. I could be mistaken, but think these are Klipschorns are the only speakers that can make that claim.
I don't think audiophiles ever considered 901's a high end speaker. J.Gordon Holt trashed them in his Stereophile review when they were introduced. I saw/heard them in two stores in the Santa Clara Valley in 1971---in the "best" room at Pacific Stereo (N. California's leading Hi-Fi chain in the late 60's/70's) in Mountain View, where you could compare them with the AR-3a and JBL L100 (which I did), and in an early true high-end shop, Sound Systems in Palo Alto, where I heard them against speakers from some new company named Infinity (which I also did).

In both stores the 901's sounded just as Gordon described them---a big amorphous blob of sound. Terrible, just terrible. The AR-3a was a pretty withdrawn, distant sounding speaker, yet considerably better than the Bose. The JBL L100 was the opposite of the AR, being very forward and brash. Still, not as bad sounding as the 901. At Sound Systems, even the $139 Infinity 1001 (the lowest priced model in Infinity's 1971 line up) was a far better speaker than the Bose. And Infinity's 2000A (at $299 each, close to the $500/pr Bose) absolutely mopped the floor with the Bose. Then there was the Infinity Servo-Static, at $2000 (which would also buy a brand new family sedan) not a fair comparison. But it did show me how good a speaker could sound. Being a young starving musician, I bought the 1001's, for about half the price of the 901's.
Unlike the most on this forum, I'm not an audiophile nor have I heard true reference sound systems (I don't live in North America or Europe). But I do have 20 years old 901 vi. So I'm not getting into if they are audiophile quality or not. But they definitely improved and responded very well with higher quality components. I started using them with HK 80 watt receiver with ordinary CD players and cables. They sounded just good enough then (to me). But since 2012 I've been adding some very good quality components to my audio system ( my amp now is Pass XA 30.5, and Cary preamp). Ive also added a sunfire subwoofer and some good quality interconnects. Very recently I've changed my source to Sony HAP Z1 ES. At each new addition the sound has improved substantially. Clarity in mid range and higher frequencies are far far better then with my old components. I was not getting good improvement in the bass ( hence the addition of subwoofer). Simpler music (jazz, chamber music, simple rock and Indian traditional ) sound amazing. However there's not much of improvement in the complex music. My next change is definitely the pair of speakers, I'm looking at used silverline, Devore, coincident , or the Tannoy prestige line. I'll be buying them without audition. Your Suggestions are welcomed. Thanks

If you can find them, I commend your attention to the many reviews of 901 speakers that praised them when they were first introduced. Do you remember Bert Whyte of Audio Magazine? He was and is held in very high esteem in the audiophile community and his review of 901s comes to mind as a good benchmark for the reception of the product at that time. While your assessment is certainly interesting, the preponderance of contemporary opinion and the undeniable market penetration of the product in the vastly larger buyer community of that day belie it.
So now you know why TONE AUDIO kept their reviewed pair BOSE 901 SERIES 6 MK2's.........REFERENCE GEAR + THE "LATEST" 901's = AMAZING!...TO THEIR EARS ONLY!!
I'm not the first to say that the basic premise of the 901 is fatally flawed. Bose determined that the sound reaching the audiences ears in a concert hall was 11% direct from the stage and 89% after reflecting off the walls, floor, and ceiling of the hall. So the 901 imitates that ratio with one forward facing driver and eight rear firing. Yeah, but a recording of a performance in a concert hall already contains the direct and reflected sound reaching the recording microphones, from different directions and at different times. It's more than a little simplistic to think you can simulate the 11%/89% concert hall direct/reflected ratio through two speakers playing recordings made in the type of room you're trying to simulate. You're actually doubling the direct/reflected effect with the 901, you see? You would need to make a recording in an anechoic chamber, one mic for the direct sound and multiples for the reflected. Then play the recordings on a system that mirror images the recording mics---one speaker facing the listener and eight firing from the sides, back, and ceiling.

And what about a recording made in a studio? Here, the direct/reflected premise is more than meaningless, it's completely wrong! Is it any wonder that the 901 does not, in fact can not,image?

Then there is the matter of trying to reproduce bass through 4-1/2" drivers! Not to mention high frequencies!! Nope, sorry---can not be done. One listen to a 901 will confirm that.
Which is why those with "high end" Bose systems point the front of the speaker at the wall.
Probable why pro installs from ceilings with a LOT of open space behind can sound pretty good if done well to take venue acoustics into account.

Its hard to have that much space behind speakers in most homes and still get the overall acoustics right.

Pointing the front o the wall might be a better option. Dunno. Never heard a home Bose audition good enough to get my interest. In general, I find Bose stuff cheaply made and overpriced, a cash cow for Bose. 901s not so bad in teh right situation maybe. You never know what will work best in each unqiue case/installation. Money spent alone won't do it.
Most audiophiles will dismiss these as garbage, along with all horn speakers and other brands / technologies not blessed by the gurus of mainstream high end.

In fact, I have heard speakers at far higher price ranges do more damage to the music, and sound far more offensive to me. The 901s can be fun to listen to, and I'd rather listen to them than many "approved" speakers. I find the colorations and distortions of an award winning single driver speaker at many tens of thousands of dollars much more offensive than 901's, as one of the many examples I could bring up.
I saw a pair of tiny Totem Arros going for over $2K at a local dealer yesterday.

Yowsa! weren't these almost half that price not so long ago?

Granted they are good sounding speakers for their diminutive size but they are TINY!!!!

I like the sound of the Arros but the price for that tiny package no matter how good really struck me.

I'll stick to buying used online whenever I can I suppose.
I also saw a sizeable rack of new issue old title records there mostly in the $30-$40 range and higher, and a lot of new entry level turntables at various more reasonable price points I thought. I guess if you buy the expensive records you get to buy a turntable for a fairly reasonable cost. Kinda like buying a cheap cellphone and the expensive services that go with it. The whole thing kinda made me sick that this is what B&M "high end" audio has come to.
I was never that impressed with some have mentioned...bloated bass and virtually no treble extension...some prefer this type of "dark" sound...personally I wouldn't bother with them on the used market...much better products to be had...the EQ design another major flaw
Kartikeyp I have heard all those you mentioned except for the silver lines. Imo the tannoy prestige is the one to go for. Close second for me would be the devores and a distant third the coincidents. Coincident has a different presentation, more detailed and lean which I find isn't emotionally engaging. Ymmv
Thanks Analogluvr. Surprised to hear that coincident are lean. But your feedback will be a great help as I am looking at more musical and involving sound. Good to hear you are enjoying Tannoys. Actually out of all the above mentioned speakers, Tannoy is the only brand available in my country. But they are yet to introduce the Prestige series here. I have requested audition for Tannoy DC 10 Ti with a local dealer. I've heard DC 10 Ti sound would be pretty close to prestige series. Although it doesn't have driver with Alnico magnet. Will keep you posted on my experience.
I owned a pair of Series I back in the day and a couple of years ago I bought a new pair of Series VI to play with. Without a long and lengthy explanation, they are not very good at all. The Series Is were much better than the new series, so they have gone downhill from their origins. As much as I wanted to like them, they just don't even do one thing well anymore. I cannot recommend them at all, for any use.

09-04-15: Mapman
I also saw a sizeable rack of new issue old title records there mostly in the $30-$40 range and higher, and a lot of new entry level turntables at various more reasonable price points I thought. I guess if you buy the expensive records you get to buy a turntable for a fairly reasonable cost.
That has always been the predominant business model for hi-fi, photography, and other markets where the makers discovered that the ongoing money's in the software.

An early example was when Eastman Kodak went from making state-of-the-art cameras to Bakelite-cased Brownies with a plastic fixed-focus lens. They wanted to get cameras in the maximum number of hands because, once there, they needed a steady supply of film and processing.

We think of the $30-40 premium audiophile pressings as the expensive records, and they are a bit higher than average, but if you run the figures through an inflation calculator, $30 for an LP today is equivalent to $4.20 in 1967, just slightly on the high side when I bought 'em for about $3.50-4.00.

Today the LPs are the luxurious purchase over cheap and lossy-compressed crappy downloads. It seems like people have figured turntables are "about $100" for the last 40 years with no adjustment for inflation. Plus the hardware is competing with flatscreen TVs, cable bills, smartphone bills, Beats headphones, smart phones, computers, game consoles, Blu-ray players, surround sound HT systems, and many other forms of on-demand portable entertainment that didn't exist 40 years ago.