Saturday, July 09, 2016

Review: Bose Companion 2 Series 3 Computer Speakers

Needed new speakers after getting rid of my perfectly good, still working, and very expensive bookshelf system. The receiver was a decade old and looked like it was close to needing to be replaced. And I really wanted less stuff. Total weight of the old sound system was around 70 lb and would have taken up a lot of room during a move. A 2.0 computer speaker system appeared to be 10 lb or less, took up half a Bankers Box.
Bose Companion 2 Series III Speakers: Out of the box
x1 - Bose Companion 2 Series III Computer Speakers

Paid: ~CA$ 125.00

Bose Companion 2 Series 3 Speakers Overview

The Bose Companion 2 Series 3 speakers came in a cardboard box with a taped closed top. Cutting open the seal and lifting the lids revealed a few pieces of literature, the audio cable, and the speakers enclosed in a plastic shell -- it was a clam shell style box that was only snap-shut so no tools were required to open it. Inside the shell were the two speakers and a small, cardboard box with the power adapter.

Setting the Bose Companion 2 speakers up was not much trouble due to the use of standardized or well terminated connections. In short, the power cable was plugged in, the left speaker was connected to the right, and I pushed in the audio cable. Routing the power cable under my desk probably took the most effort. Speaking of the power cable, I was under the impression that the power cable's AC adapter or wall wart would be a flat style with folding plug and not like the more common rectangular brick. What came in my package was the more standard rectangular block, and I was very happy because it would have been more difficult to plug the flat one in.

Something important to note: I did not use the audio cable provided because I had my old RCA cable from my old speaker system, and my sound card required the left/right cable for output. The choice was made to get a short RCA to 3.5 mm adapter to connect the old RCA cable to the Bose speakers.
Bose Companion 2 Series 3: Right Speaker
Design / Construction
From what I could tell, nothing felt flimsy and no major issues popped out at me. The power/signal cable looked to be permanently attached to the left speaker. I would have preferred for there to be a standard, removable cable for convenience. The Series 3 I bought used a single audio input for left and right speakers, but I think an older version used separate connectors -- I would have preferred them to be separate. However, many others probably would prefer the single input. Solved it with a simple adapter cable, so it wasn't a big issue.

These speakers did not appear to have removable grills, if that's of any concern -- I haven't tried prying them off  since nothing I read mentioned that they were removable. They were a consistent, boring black color on the outside which was fine with me. Dust will probably show up nicely though.

The only control switch I found was the volume button. No indicator lights lit up when the Bose Companion speakers were on. There was a power symbol marking at the lowest volume and I could feel resistance there, as well as hear a click, so I'm assuming that was a switch. I rarely mess with the treble and bass balance so the lack of controls was fine by me. The lack of an LED indicator was good and bad: good in that there was no bright, blue, distracting LED, and bad in that I didn't get affirmation that the speakers were actually on. My preference is to turn everything off at night or if I'm away. However, the electrical specs I've seen suggest that these speakers probably don't use much electricity anyway compared to my old system -- the old receiver alone used quite a bit of power just being turned on, doing nothing according to a watt meter.
Bose Companion 2 Series 3: What it's hooked up to
How was it?
Oh great, are they broken or did I mess something up?

That was my first thought when first powering these things on and getting no sound while playing something on my computer. No, my mistake, the volume knob was set too low. I turned the Bose Companion 2 speakers' knob to around the 1/3 mark and they came alive. Setting the volume to around 4/10 or a bit left of the middle roughly got me to where I liked it with my computer's volume settings around their old points.

How did they sound?

My first impression was one of wonder. The sound stage was big, volume was good, bass was audible, mids were okay, and the highs were there. They seemed to sound almost as good, maybe even better than my old speakers and the $300 headphones I had been using for the week prior.

That wonder faded a bit 30 minutes later. Just a bit. Not to say they were bad, I just started noticing some things that were missing compared to what I used to have. But remember, I was replacing a ~CA$ 700 receiver, bookshelf speaker, and subwoofer system. This was my sound system for almost a 10 years. The Bose Companion 2 Series III speakers were about CA$ 125. Ignoring a decade's worth of inflation, the Bose speakers were less than 1/5 of the price of the old system.

What became clear over time was that the bass seemed more boomy than with my old, ~$250 subwoofer. The 10" subwoofer sounded smooth and it didn't overpower any of the other frequencies. The mids and highs weren't as clear compared to my ~$200 bookshelf speakers -- did I mention that one of my old bookshelf speakers took up more space than both Bose speakers and probably weighed more? I believe my old speakers sounded warm with more emphasis on the mid-range. Things seemed less balanced and neutral with the new ones, maybe more biased towards the bass. Some of these issues probably could have been addressed by playing with an equalizer on my computer.

Part of what bugged me was that things were just different. I was listening to stuff I had heard a hundreds of times on my old sound system on something new.

Once I got over the initial excitement, then the grief and mourning, I really came to appreciate these Bose Companion 2 Series 3 speakers. No, they were not my old, $700 2.1 hi-fi sound system. They were, however, less than a fifth of the price, a fraction of the weight and volume, much easier to set up, and still sounded pretty good. Very impressed. This was my first ever Bose product and I was satisfied with what I got out of a relatively small package.

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