Horrific Confession and Question

While shopping for classical music in one of the mega retailers recently, I found myself quite carried away by whatever they were playing, finding the selection as well as the sound very pleasing. At the risk of never being allowed to post on this forum again, I am ashamed to admit that I discovered I was listening to BOSE mini speakers which were sticking out haphazardly from the ceiling. This leads me to wonder if background listening presents totally different challenges than focused, attentive listening. Against my audiophile background and judgement, I am wondering if I should install boomier "mid-fi" gear for multi room and entertaining guests when I renovate the house. Any thoughts?
You can get your ears "irrigated" at any competent doctor, clean out the gunk that's ruining your sense of hearing. Once done, you'll run screaming for the exits as soon as the Bose begins doing their thing
Hey, spending lots of money on speakers to entertain your guest is a nice gesture, and don't feel that you need audiophile gear for that purpose. Besides, it would be nice to let your guests taste the crap before you bring out the caviar. My only draw back to your idea is that the Bose speakers are expensive, and I was told (who knows if its true) that the drivers in those speakers cost Bose roughly $1. How can they charge up to $1500 for a set? My point to all this is: "its your house." Remember that.
Try the Gallo speakers. Small size, BIG sound, less money, more style!!
I think you are all missing his point.It is my personal opinion that as human beings we vary in our ability to handle multiple sensory input simultaneously. I have found personally that I enjoy just as much if not more than my reference system (30K all tube system)the sound of my cheap panasonic CD/clock radio playing in the background when I am focused on my work (reading, writing). In ophthalmology this phenomena is well documented in the literature whith regard to visual perception in the midst of competeing stimuli(auditory etc.) Ever wonder why you turn down your car radio when looking for a particular street in the dark? Certainly we all appreciate the value of a dark room in critical listening. I suspect that less resolute sound is less demanding on the sensorium as suggested. Just my opinion.
I agree with Petland, and would add that a person becomes more forgiving of the sound quality they experience cerebrally if the music jams. This occurs especially when your doing somethign else and groovin' at the same time. I was listening to U2's New York concert on my alarm/radio (no tuner on the big rig) while cleaning, and thought it was great. But, in the end, BOSE DOES suck. So does my radio.
I know I will be crusafied for this but I dont think Bose is that bad. Especially when compared to other mass market products. I think you can do a lot better for the money in a high end store but there good for what they are.
Petland has a point. I have music playing in my outside work office all the time. It sounds great in there even thought the system if bought new would be under $500. I figure if it sounded really good I would be constantly distracted and would get no work done. Also since it is cheap I hope it won't get stolen. I have tweeked the cheap system a little with decent interconnects and a inexpensive Monster power conditioner. For notes the cheap work system and "what I paid used" is: Boston Acoustic HD5v Speakers ($50); Electrobrand full function FM/AM mini receiver (Taiwan) ($20); Fisher AD-235 Single CD Player ($20); CD Player connected with MIT PC Squared Interconnects ($25). Speaker connected with standard 16 AWG speaker wire ($10 new). So that's my workplace system for the price of a boombox ($125 total).
Oh, the Monster power conditioner is a Stage 1 filtered HT400 that I paid $20 new on a clearance sale. So that makes the whole system $145. It sounds quite good considering.
Bottom line is that GOOD music is enjoyable almost anywhere. EVEN on a less than stellar system. After all, i always thought that we bought the gear to listen to the music, not the other way around : ) Sean >
Not sure why but the other side of the post is what I'm responding to. Lots of my purchases are stuff I've heard demoed while brousing.Sometimes for gear;sometimes for software.Good music is just good music ,so when I'm in the mood to let go a few bucks,I'm more receptive. AS far as finding that street in the dark-that's what I got married for.
From my experience, unless your guests are visiting with the purpose of listening to music it really does not matter what you are playing background music on. Over the last year or so I have put together a pretty expensive, great sounding two channel system that my wife and I enjoy almost daily. When we got visitors for the holidays, they were not too excited about sitting around and listening to it with us. It ended up being played at very low volumes (for our taste) and we just as well could have been playing a boom box from a discount store. Guests like to talk to each other, dance, eat or whatever. Unless you are entertaining a very small group of audiophiles or have correct seating for a lot of people I think background music could be played on just about anything. Unless your friends and family are diferent than ours, most won't even notice.
I think there is a huge allure to background music. I will never have a dedicated sound room because I use my system so much while doing other activities and pefer it in my living room. I use it when Im cooking, cleaning, drawing, or on the computer. I think the higher end system is always more enjoyable in any situation but agree it isnt as important while doing other things.
Bose delivers what the typical mass-market music listener desires, and that is mids, mid-bass, and more mids. They give the fans of popular music room filling mids and the chance to appreciate all the meaningful lyrics found on the pop charts [:(]. In the world of non-critical listening, it seems to me, many want to hear primarily vocals and mid-bass boom, and when that is heard easily and clearly they like it and say, "wow, aren't those Bose speakers something?" And, as a critical listener, you might be inclined to hold your nose and reply, "yes, they really are." [:)] This type speaker design fills the room with quantity, not quality, sounds. Perfect for shopping and I bet it would do well for your party background music as there is no "sweet spot," and can be done inexpensively. In comparison, I tried to design an ambient sound system in my veterinary clinic that would be high quality. In my waiting room I use PSB Alpha A/V's mounted up high like you see the Bose in a Gap. Unfortunately, you cannot hear music well [?] out of the PSB's when the volume is at an appropriately low level for a waiting room. (It sounds pretty good after hours, though.) As the goal is to provide some distraction with “background music” while waiting, I will probably change the waiting room speakers to something like a Bose. [:(] Yes, Bose is poo poo as far as critical listening goes, but it does what it does. This particular design is also beneficial for folks with certain types of hearing loss, so if you, out there, don’t take care of your ears, Bose might just be your label one day. Now, there's a thought! Take care, Charlie.
My confession is that I love my B&O 4000 System + 6000 Beolab speakers. I have these speakers in the masterbedroom and our two home offices they look great and deliver very satisfying background music for those environments. Of course it doesn't sound as good as my main audio system or even my home theater system, but it is great design and fits my objectives.
Just as a side note, I was shopping at Musicland in a mall before Christmas a few years ago, looking for new material. Background music playing, crowds making noise, cash registers going, you know, the works. I was about half way to the back when I heard something. Live music! Had to cock my head to figure out where it was coming from and walked that way, out of the store, around a corner and up a floor. It was a high school orchestra, playing Christmas songs and was able to cut thru all the din. I was genuinely surprised that it really is tough to fool your ears.
Danvet -- thank you for the description of your waiting room. What I have been thinking, much to my horror, is that boomy mid fi might actually, in a perverse, horrific way, "sound" (work?!) "better" in a multi room or background music application than more accurate high end. I will always go out of my way to trash the greedy Dr Bose and his pseudo scientific expertise, and I will keep my tubes and electrostatics for dedicated listening forever. But I have had difficulty getting my high end gear to sound right amidst background noise, guests, off axis etc. Given the technical and acoustic challenges of background music for entertaining, cleaning whatever, maybe we can explore an audiophile solution? Cello parametric equalizers to boost the mid bass with high end quality? LS35as in every corner of every room?
Funny Constantine, I experience a similar feeling every time I go to Tower records Classical section. I am overcome by the lush music and become weak in the knees(Really!). All through the piped music thru ceiling mounted Boses. Similar experience at a Best buy while browsing for CDs, I always find myself humming or bobbing or thumping with the music. They play thru Boses two! I was also horrified to admit to myself let alone ask on the Audigon!What you are experiencing is probably right time and right place away from home scenario. Or MAY BE BOSE SPEAKERS ARE MUSICAL. My friend has Bose speakers and at a party I always find myself grooving /dancing with the music. THERE I SAID IT.(P.S. I OWN PAIR OF DUNLAVY SC-V's)
Constantine, I should mention again that the PSB Alpha A/V's sound very good with the volume up to where you would have it for a party. The PSB Mites are supposed to be very good for their size, as well. I think all the little PSB's are 6 ohm. Or maybe you should get a few of those Maggie MMG's with a BIG amp and corner mount them somehow. I bet that would get their attention, huh? [:)] Good Luck. Charlie
i don't listen to background music, finding it irritating and disruptive of my concentration. i have had the experience, tho, of buying discs on the basis of what i hear on a record store's system. (FWIW, i try very hard not to buy anything from big boxes, supporting instead my local indie, usually twist & shout). can't tell you how many times i've brought such recordings home to play on my "real" system to find they sound like crap. not sure what that implies but suggest this: if ya wanna listen to crap, play it on crappy electronics/speakers, 'cuz nobody'll really care, much less discern its crappiness. i guess that's why so many pop grammy award winners really ought to be put in the muzak category
Danvetc is on to something. I have heard Bose in background situations and Pianos always sound pretty good. Right smack in the mids. Put on the Piano dentist office music and off you go.
I, too, have suffered from this disease in the Tower Records classical system, and felt deeply ashamed to look up and spot Bose mini speakers in the ceiling!! (Compare with Mark Levinson, Jadis and Martin Logans at home!) Can some of our more technically minded contributors suggest a solution to the different challenges of background music, entertaining guests over drinks and dinner etc. that won't betray everything we stand for or further enrich Dr. Bose?
I think one of the reasons you like the sound in the store is that it is from a multispeaker system. Its all around you no matter where you go.
I hate to admit it. Last year at an outdoor seafoodfest I wanted to hear where the live music was coming from. As i got closer I shrugged noticing a musician selling his CD's through a booth with Bose Omni directional speakers. I kept wondering what my Dunlavy 5's would sound like in these circumstances. I also wondered why I felt two inches tall
I would guess from some of the "True Confessions" above that for casual listening, which is what most people do, it isn't so important what you listen through so long as you are enjoying the music. So far as the Bose products go, I for one don't understand the animosity by Audiophiles against them. Maybe a little resentment that most people don’t acknowledge or care as much as we do at the well reproduced audio our systems make albeit at great expense? I would hope that other manufacturers of high-end gear might learn from their marketing methods. Funny thing is that I recently stopped in one of their retail "Showrooms" and they did a very credible presentation in a really well set-up small theater. They had blankets covering their jewel speakers and the subwoofer and the sound for home theater wasn't bad and would be satisfactory for my home theater listening which isn't near as critical as music to me. The presentation was quite theatrical itself. The young enthusiastic salesman (most high end dealers would benefit from having someone as good as he was) did a well choreographed point and gesture as the music was playing and finally, OLA, he swished the blankets off to reveal the tiny jewel speakers to the ooohs and ahhhhs by the 8 people listening to the demo with me. I was laughing inside and knew it was more the well set-up room than the system. Where the young salesman lost me (little did he know) was when he told me how Bose puts their profits back in R&D. I laughed out loud, couldn't help it. He asked me what was so funny but I didn't have the heart to burst his bubble so I told him how impressed I was but the price (3,700) for the system was a bit more than I was willing to pay right then. I would have to talk it over with my wife.
One reason many audiophiles bash Bose, I suspect, may be that one time or another they got burned by Bose -- I have. I had to work my tails off during the summer and save like Scrouge to afford (an amplifier and) a Bose satellite system about ten years ago which was almost 1K at the time (I know, I know). After a year of horrific experience with them, I finally found the light and realized what a rip-off they were. It was not really the sounding bad or missing frequency factor that got me. Rather, the rip-off part that leaves a long lasting impression. Ever since then, I have become a Bose basher. :) With regards to the enjoyable Bose at Tower Records, I too like what I hear. I second the opinion that it may be because of the multiple speaker setting. Multi-speakers, when placed right, can make ambient sound that is very impressive and pleasing for casual listening. At the same time, I suspect it has something to do with the joy of music shopping. Like going to some bad sounding concerts or live. Most good concerts do outshine any system by gazillion times. But, regardless of sound being natural or otherwise, some lives sound quite bad. Neverthelss, it is still more enjoyable for me to listen to a quartet, solos, or guitar riffs in live than from my audio. I think the occasion of going and being in a live concert adds dimesions that not only compensate for bad acoutic, screetching guitar, dry violin, etc., but also turn what could be a disastrous experience into a very enjoyable one. Well, nothing can cure the overamplified sound in a small bar, though...
When listening to radio, mostly as background, I prefer the "5 channel stereo" mode of my Denon AVR-5700. Although accurate imaging is lost I get a more pleasing ambience. This helps me to concentrate on something other than the sound of my stereo. When something interesting attracts my attention I will switch to stereo. I have also noticed that the 5 channel set up works well at low volumes for ambient party music.
Bose sells alot of product and while it may not be the absolute best performing, nor even a particularly good value, Bose is a popular choice for many people. I also believe it is an appropriate choice for most of the consumers who purchase them. As I see it there are two types of audio consumers in this world -- those who buy 18" x 15" x 30" 150 lb. monobloc amps attached by short lengths of $5,000 cables suspended above the floor to coffin sized speakers and those who buyers who want something that "sounds good", doesn't take up too much space and looks nice. I don't believe either group can lay claim to loving or enjoying music more than the other. If we audiophile want the average listener to respect our choices, then we must do them the honor by respecting theirs.
Go with your gut. Personally I don't care for Bose. My best advise is, if you can't here the difference then don't buy it. What does your main system consist of? Will it integrate with bose?
onhwy61: as is usually the case, your post is well-written, tho i find your reasoning and conclusion somewhat disturbing. first, the so-called "audiophile community" is not close to being as monolithic as you describe. witness this site. witness the disagreements, often heated, more often super-heated. second, bose has the market share it enjoys because it is a master of marketing, not because its products are now any "better" in any sense than those you might buy at much lower prices. bose began by marketing to the folks who read "audio" and "stereo review" (sadly, i'm old enough to remember when it was called "hifi review," and i had a subscription). do you recall that there was a whole quasi-hippie subculture back in the early to mid-70's that sold macrome nets that allowed you to hang your pentagonal bose boxes from the ceiling? ( coincidentally, i met dr. omar bose around 1979-80, when i worked for the ftc and enforced the old "audio output rule". his company ran a national ad that was blatantly violative of the rule, which was pulled after i made my usual big brother threats.) when bose was "outed" by the likes of j. gordan holt, it switched its marketing to a wider audiance, still playing on dr. bose's "connections" to mit (the univ., not the dreaded wire). later it went "direct" with ads in "parade" and "readers digest," etc. now, bose has its own stores in damn near every shopping center of note in the usa. it has well-trained salesfolk, as is perfectly described by tubegroover. bose is a marketing paradigm that is likely emulated in the "practical" exercises required of mba candidates from wharton to stanford. that ought not make it any more admirable than a political candidate who runs on the looks of his wife and carefully selected soundbites that have nothing whatever to do with important political issues. i'm sorry, onhwy61, but i simply cannot agree that we must "honor" bose because it is the predominant choice of the great unwashed any more than we should honor those scoudrels in congress who got there, to paraphrase h.l. menkin, 'cause noone's ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the american voter.
Cornfedboy, let me clarify. I do not mean that we as audiophiles should respect or honor Bose (the person or the company), but instead the consumers who purchase Bose. These people are not dumb, they're motivated people who are trying to satisfy their perceived needs. Have these people made the "right" descision? I believe that each individual Bose buyer is the only person who can correctly answer that question. I suspect most will answer affirmatively.
I think Constantin is on to something with his suggestion of parametric equalizers--does anybody remember the Fletcher-Munson loudness curves? The "Loudness" button that used to be standard equipment, which boosted bass and treble at low volumes to compensate for the ear's roll-off of sensitivity? It worked. I suspect that the Bose system you heard, and the other background systems that seem to sound good, have boosted bass and treble. You might not want it in your pristine listening room, but it works in a distracting environment where your hearing is effectively hampered. Y'know, if I may question orthodoxy for a moment, sometimes I feel that we, with our rejection of tone controls and equalization, are kind of like the old joke of the foolish person who screws in a light bulb by having several associates rotate the ladder while he holds the bulb. Instead of accepting a little extra circuitry in the amp to facilitate flat response, we tune the *room* ;>) Of course, my preamp with two knobs does look kinda cool...
Try Playing The Who Who Are You ( or Ella if thats your thing) at realistic sould levels on the Bose ..... Then play them on a real audio system , any decent seperates with $ 1,200.00 & up loudspeakers. If you dont hear the difference... get a nice Yamaha mini system for $ 500.00
I think that just because Bose lies in there advertisment or have a huge markup because of reasearch and development doesnt mean it is a bad product. They may abuse there mark up but no more then any other mass market auddio product. I also think that most people would be suprised on how much of a mark up our high end gear has. All product are guilty of this regardless of weather it is a pair of $200 Nike shoes or a high end amplifier.

Few products dont lie or try to pusuade through specs in advertisement. Just open up to any high fi ad. I think watts is a bogus spec because every company measures it differently, it doesnt dictate quality, and is more dependent on the ohms of your speakers then the amplifier yet every company uses it. High end or not. At one time the FCC considered making it illegal to use this spec in advertising (I think) yet every high end company pushes this spec in reveiws and advertising.

Marketing is the most important part of a business and who can blame a cmpany for being great at it. We are all seceptable to it. How many times will you read an ad for a product you are interested in? Its unfortunate they lie but all companies do it. Isnt a hot women in a car commercial lying? Thay are trying to get you to relate that car with status and sex. Different but still a lie. Unfortunately it works but who is to blame? The company or the ignorant and influentual consumer. Im not saying its right but I try to take respnsibility for my own actions. If I get ripprd off I blame myself for not researching it.

I think Onkwy is right in that we should respect other people choice in Bose and also agree that if asked most people would be happy with their purchase. They are designed more to impress with the wow factor of intial listening like a new tv with the bightness turned up but thats what some people want. Its unfortunate that they dont know how to listen or that they dont understand the difference between intial impresion and living with it but ignorance is bliss.

So what if the bass and treble are exagerated. I make purchase based on what sounds the best. Not neutrality or what sounds like a live concert. I feel they are one in the same for myself but would recommend to anyone to buy what sounds best to them. Our high end systems dont need a boost in the bass or treble but I have mine cranked up in my car. If anything it makes cheap systems sound more like our high end systems.

Thank god everyone doesnt like the same thing. It would make product buying easier but I like the variety. I like that being an audiophile is unique.

To each his own.
Why do so many people hold it against a company that they're a marketing machine? It undoubtedly drives the cost up, since there are costs associated with extensive marketing, and it also undoubtedly drives the price that can be gotten for the product up because people now desire the product. But is seems like many people hold it against a company and their products because they're successful at marketing. If Bose products cost 1/2 as much, would they be any better or worse a product? It would cause those of us who understand how much better you can get for the same money a lot less angst, but it wouldn't change the performance of the product. People who buy the product apparently are well serviced, happy with their purchase, and have bought from a company that is going to be around for a long time - seems like, overall, it's not something to hold against the company.
As to the "mystery" of why sound can be so inviting in a public environment (Tower?). It reminds me of the feeling of anticipation I get when approaching the doors of a concert hall and hearing the sound check, or musicians tuning, there is a little adrenaline rush. In retail environments sound is usually up high and seems a bit distant, in much the same way. The size of the store is also a factor. Usually at least 10 - 100 times the size of most listening rooms. When you enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday evenings there is often a quartet playing near the lounge. The sound is everywhere, but difficult to locate. It must be similar to the sound at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. Seeking out the source of the music is an exhilarating feeling, not to mention the effect and magic of large spaces. Though far from equal, there is a similarity when hearing music in some retail stores. * cLondon, check out a Denon receiver with 5 channel stereo mode and Gallo speakers, they are small, sleekly designed and knock the Bose systems out. The 5 channel mode basically gives you the same sound from 5 speakers, (different from Pro-logic). I also have a friend who has a very good stereo system and a B & O wall mounted system as well. It is overpriced, but served his need for an unobtrusive but decent sound system for entertaning guests and for casual listening. In his very tight living space it was a stylish solution. The road to discovering what good sound is can begin for some people on a Bose system, because if they they are willing to spend some money towards a good sound sound system, (even if they may not know what good sound is yet), sometimes, given a few years they will be curious about some much better sounding gear they will hear somewhere and want to get it for themselves, beginning a more serious interest in HiFi.
It's not the fact that the speakers are well marketed. Rolexes, Mercedes, and Absolut vodka are well marketed but I have no problem with that. What's offensive is that the aggressive marketing of BOSE speakers is disguised with pseudo scientific bullshit while ramming mediocre (at best) products down the throats of the undereducated public. It's not that they're aggressive marketers, it's that they're pretentious and full of shit. Cornfedboy, you hit the spot. An even more disturbing question -- is success in politics and business inversely related to integrity and the truth?
I agree with Cwlondon and Cornfedboy about lack of truth in marketing. As to your question: I have some friends who are very successful in business. One is an entreprenuer, one a screenwriter/producer, one a consultant/farmer. I have known them for 65 years collectively, and not once in all their endeavors did I see them screw anyone. This does not mean they are woosey little do gooders, it means that their success lied in their integrity and quality of their work. Many people want success at any price, some prefer to earn it. Sooner or later a good leader emerges in politics, let's hope he or she doesn't get killed this time.
One of the reasons people buy Bose is the hype created by its marketing, and Bose is a mediocre brand in terms of performance. I think many would agree to the two facts. Bashing Bose is not equivalent to bashing people who buy it. In fact, I have not seen anyone of Bose bashers here bashing people who buy Bose -- somebody, please, show me otherwise. I am not bashing people who buy Bose, nor would I call them stupid for the lack of time and interest to research and buying the hype. If high end audio industry were bloated with overprofiteering, that would be a legitimate reason for somebody who feel got ripped off to blast it. If you feel otherwise in terms of whether or not you got ripped off, that will be compeltely acceptable by me. However, I do feel such activities as bashing or complaining for a legitimate reason is consumers' right to protect themselves and is an only channel to expedite, along with boycotting the products at personal level, what one sees as common good for consumers. When the sentiment spreads against a product or a company, it becomes a consumer movement materialized in mass boycotting. Of course, so called Bose bashers are inconsequential because they are minority in number. Nevertheless, how many participates in such is inconsequential in terms of the legitimacy of the cause. Even bashing is not a negative activity when there is a legitimate reason. Nor does it arise from envy. Money or price is one of main objects in the evaluation of products. When some products offer little value comparing to the price they charge, or when they juggle with words to create marketing niche by adding imaginary values, some may call it scam.
I wonder if tables were turned around and if thsi post would now be responded by the non-audiophiles(Bose buyers) who would they bash? for example Krell or us audiophiles? I bet they would consider outright stupid to buy 23K monoblocks or 15K speakers even after the fact of thier acknowledgement of the sound qulaity!! To them they have done the right thing buying a good sounding,compact, and highly respected (in thier circle)speaker/stereo system.
Regardless of the market space, everyone wants to believe their purchase is the "good buy." It is obviously true in audio as that perspective certainly persists here and in the more mundane segments of the consumer market. Who spends several hundred, much less thousands, of dollars and immediately proclaims, "Yep, this stuff is crap. That's why I bought it"? So, arguments about "turning the tables", while maybe true, really don't provide much insight. Trying to boil things down and remove the emotion (of which there is much), it seems Bose generates much animosity and anxiety in this crowd largely because we believe ourselves to be well educated about audio. That education says Bose stretches the accuracy of their claims to consumers to the breaking point. Our "knowledge" also tells us that Bose's products offer a poor value for the money.

It isn't fair, though, to say their products are total junk. Sorry, didn't mean to get everyone so wound up! Calm down while I explain.

A conversation yesterday with a co-worker was quite enlightening. Originally from South Africa, this well spoken gentleman has resided in the US for several years. Our lunch time conversation turned to music and he bragged on his room mates "top of the line Bose system." Politely I said there are far better audio systems available for the money. Initially indicating a belief in the marketing hype, he questioned what made me such an expert, suggesting that "everyone knows Bose is the best." The others at the table, having had the misfortune of sitting through many soliloquies on the subject while feigning interest, advised our friend of my "expertise."

Unlike similar exchanges where the other party becomes defensive, this one became quite enlightening instead. Not having any ego or money involved because it wasn't his system per se, my friend inquired into what made a "good audio system." My three minute explanation of soundstage, imaging, etc. was well received. He readily agreed that the Bose system did none of the things I described.

His explanation, equally appreciated, was that the Bose system filled a different set of needs. It was a well known brand, so was impressive to friends and "the ladies." It was "nice furniture". It played music at appropriate volumes and "filled the room" with sound. Given that set of requirement it was probably well worth the price of admission. The goal was not to accurately produce music; of all the needs being satisfied accurate reproduction was last on the list. So, for him Bose was fine equipment well suited to the task.

Admittedly, I cannot say the same for my system. Few people I know have heard of the manufacturers. Most do not fully appreciate its capabilities. It's terribly furniture and the speakers alone take over the room. Does that make it less than Bose? Depends on your perspective and what need is being fulfilled, doesn't it?

Will now encourage others to buy Bose? Not likely! Instead, I will arm myself with this new knowledge and ask "what is important" when someone asks me for suggestions about audio gear.
I think Danvetc on 1-3 was on the money. And I think people's brains process the strong mids type of sound very easily -- thus, it's good background music. Unlike many people, it seems, I don't particularly like hi fidelity music as background music. It's too distracting, it doesn't stay in the background. If there's some real definition and authority in the bass, or bell-like clarity and crisp transients in the highs, I tend to stop what I'm doing and listen. My foreground becomes background -- not so good.
Many great responses especially Cogito and Fpeel. I think that you are right in that the person buying into Bose is buying into the hype.
I also agree with the knowedge we have we do know they are mediacore. They do well against the products that are in the same store but would never hold up against a inexpensive pair of Paradigms.
I used to have a Krell system with Revel speakers. Enjoyed it for home theatre, but now have Bose in every room which I enjoy much, much more for music, especially when I am relaxing to classical.
Charles, I am speachless....which is probably a good thing.
Here is an interesting experiment you may want to try if you have the tools to do it...

In professional PA, many devices are used to shape sound. Get an Equalizer (Almost any will do, 10 band is fine), and stick it in your audiophile system. Boost the midd-bas and mids, cut some of the low bass and the highs. Now play your system at low volume... Sounds a lot more like background music.

If you want to really get the full effect, get a sonic maximizer and a compressor. Stick the sonic maximizer behind the EQ and turn it to the max setting, then set the compressor so it is always compressing except on the lowest music levels; if you have a song with a fade at the end, set the combination so you only hear about 3-4 seconds of a 15 second fade.

Turn the system way down and use as background music... You too shall be amazed at how 'pleaseant and backgroundy' the music sounds... I use two cheap Sony 300-disc players in combo with this to do non-stop background music for parties; according to guests it sounds 'great' on everything from cheap outside Inifity, to B&W to Vienna Acoustics.

If you ask me... It sounds 'sweet' but is unusable for criticl listening. As background music, it is great.

(PS: I have a small FM transmitter hooked up to this setup as well, and just tune radios throughout the house and yeard to the same signal... Even coming out of a $9 clock radio it sounds decent... :)