SPEAKERS BETTER THAN BOSE
We all know it. We get suckered every day by marketing. Whether it’s the difference between two distilled bottled waters or the local SEO that has a specific business show up when you search “best hamburger around me” from your mobile phone. We take the bait – hook, line, and sinker.
One great example of where a marketing campaign is responsible for a product’s success is Bose speakers. Bose has been building speakers for over 50 years. Their founder, Dr. Amar G. Bose started the company with a true passion, backed by sound science. In 1985 his student, Sherwin Greenblatt became president and Bose took marketing to a new level, leaving any resemblance to hi-end audio far behind. Today, Bose makes everything from Smart Home Speakers, to headphones to sunglasses with speakers built in them called “Bose Frames – Audio Sunglasses“.
Are Bose Speakers Worth It?
Although Bose speakers have never been crazy expensive by high-end audio standards, today, for most of their product line, they are at the upper end of the price spectrum for products such as wireless Bluetooth speakers and wireless headphones.
With over 50 years of success in the audio world, you would think that their Bose Soundbar 700 would be worth every bit of $800 or that if you wanted the ultimate experience in home theater, you would pay $4000 for the Bose Lifestyle 650… You would be WRONG!
You may hear a self-indulging, self-proclaimed audiophile say that the quality of speakers is subjective. We are not going to cover the upper echelon of high-end audio (we can save that for another day), but we will point out speaker systems that will all outperform their Bose counterpart for substantially less money.
We will cover the following categories:
- Wireless Earbuds that are better than Bose
- Bluetooth Speakers that are better than Bose
- Surround Sound Systems that are better than Bose
- 2 channel and 5.1 channel speaker systems that are better than Bose
Better Than Bose Wireless Earbuds
Wireless headphones are all the rage. The Bose Soundsport wireless headphones cost between $99 and $199 depending on which ones you choose. Truthfully, the Bose Soundsport is a wireless earbud – not a true set of wireless headphones. If you are interested in full headphones, you should check out our article Headphones Better than Beats. If wireless earbuds are more your taste, you will have to listen to the Koss BT190iK Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds.
Koss BT190iK Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds – $49.99
Koss invented the first set of headphones way back in 1958. They have been producing quality headphones ever since. When evaluating headphones, we look at not only the sound quality but the overall comfort level as well. It doesn’t matter how great the headphones (or earbuds) sound, if they fall out or are otherwise uncomfortable, you probably won’t like them.
We found that the Koss BT190’s found a great mix of comfort, usability and overall sound quality for about 1/2 of the price of the equivalent Bose earbuds.
We found the Koss wireless earbuds to be warm with a balanced frequency response. The bottom end was not quite as robust as some of the full, over-the-ear headphones we have tested, but didn’t leave us feeling like we were missing any of the music.
One random guy had this to say about the Koss Wireless Earbuds:
I purchased two of these. One set was for me and the other for my wife. My wife is notoriously picky about some things, headphones being one of them. I would say all things considered the only down side to these would be that they don’t hold a charge long. My wife charges hers every night, and that seems to work for her. The bottom line is that compared to several other wireless headsets (in the under 100.00 price range) these have been the best. We/she had purchased more expensive wireless headsets as well, but these have proven to be better than their costs suggests.
Earbuds are great for jogging or exercising while listening to your favorite jam. Many wireless earbuds (including our recommended Koss BT 190s) also include basic controls for advancing to the next song and adjusting the volume. If you are looking for a full set of headphones that are better than Bose (as opposed to earbuds), you may want to read our article headphones better than Beats for less money.
Better Than Bose Bluetooth Speaker
The Best Bluetooth Speaker?
The only Bluetooth Speaker that Bose produces worth even listening to is the SoundLink Revolve Bluetooth® speaker at $199. Here are TWO products that dominate the Bose Bluetooth wireless speaker offerings, both for less money.
We have listened to a TON of the most popular Bluetooth speakers out there. What we look for in the best Bluetooth speaker is weighted by the following list:
- Sound Quality
- Overall Value
Meaning, you can have the “best sounding” Bluetooth speaker, but if you can’t take it outside… it doesn’t make the list. If you meet the minimum standards, then we weight each attribute in the above order.
Although we take sound quality very seriously, we understand that no wireless Bluetooth speaker is ever going to sound like a true home stereo that is appropriately matched and set up.
We look at the listenability from real-world situations, such as sitting around a pool or a campfire or at a barbecue or in a bedroom.
The Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM starting at $100
After listening to literally to hundreds of candidates (yes including the JBL Bluetooth Speaker) The Ultimate Ears MegaBoom was the overall best for 2019. The MEGABOOM has a solid bottom end, an unusual ability to fill a room with sound and is built like a tank. It is definitely one of the loudest Bluetooth speakers we have tested. There are other superior Bluetooth speakers in absolute terms, but for the money, it is impossible to beat the MEGABOOM.
Although they claim that you can drop them in a swimming pool, I wouldn’t recommend it. If the little rubber seal isn’t doing its job perfectly doing its job, you may run into issues. But for light rain and spills, it’s great. The speaker also claims to be “drop proof” whatever that means. We have dropped our demo units quite a few times and they still work well.
There are slight price variations of the price of the MEGABOOM depending on exactly which model you choose.
You can pick up the MEGABOOM, brand new, for as little as $100. They have different colors and a couple of slight model differentiation’s, but you will still be buying the best Bluetooth speaker for the money.
Ease of connectivity was sometimes an issue when attempting to connect your phone via Bluetooth in a traditional manner but was 100% successful when using their app.
A few notable features of the Megaboom are:
- You can link multiple Megabooms together (super cool feature)
- Long battery life
- Loud with good bass
- Built like a tank
Better Than Bose Surround Sound
Bose offers a wide variety of home theater equipment, from their Bose Soundbar 700 for $800 to their full Acoustimass systems running upwards of $4,000. We will pick a handful of head-to-head product comparisons that are of higher quality and actually sound better than Bose.
Since many of the Bose Home Theater systems include the amplifier/processor, we have listed the direct comparisons using A/V receivers and surround sound speakers.
Better Than Bose Audio/Video Receivers
The A/V Receiver is the center of your surround sound system. Since the spectrum of surround sound can be very wide, we will pick a one A/V receiver at the higher end and one in the middle range. Both of which are perfectly capable of being better than their Bose counterpart.
Cambridge Audio CXR120 – $1,200
At the higher end, we strongly recommend the Cambridge Audio CXR120 120W AV Receiver which will not only give you a serious surround sound system, but will also do a very solid job of reproducing music. Although seeming a little expensive right at $1,200 – it is still a fraction of the Bose sound systems. Once this is purchased, you simply need to add the speakers.
Cambridge Audio has always provided good sounding audio equipment with great value. Their A/V surround sound receiver has proven to live up to that tradition.
It is MUCH harder to get the audio right as opposed to actual surround sound. Think about it, most people know what a saxophone sounds like and can tell if it’s not being reproduced correctly. Most people are not quite sure what it sounds like for a train to derail or other common sound effects that make up a movie experience. This allows certain mediocre surround systems to sound impressive when first listing to them, but disappoint during extended listening sessions or movies where their flaws become more glaring. The Cambridge A/V receiver may not have quite the bells and whistles of other competitively priced Surround Sound Receivers, but will ultimately sound better. You can be a music lover and enjoy the Cambridge Audio being used as the heart and soul of your system.
The Cambridge A/V receiver provides all of the necessary video connections and processing abilities while producing lifelike sound quality for both audio and video.
The Basic Features of the Cambridge Audio CXR 120
- 120 watts RMS per channel
- 7 HDMI in, 2 out with support for 3D TV / 4K
- Oversize low flux toroidal transformer and discrete amplifiers
- Network music playback 24-bit/192kHz studio master quality
- Auto speaker setup and color OSD for simple installation in any room
Denon AVR-S940 Surround Sound Receiver – $499
At a lower price point, to beat out the Bose surround sound products we recommend the Denon AVR-S940 Receiver at under $500. It is packed with features and is head and shoulders better than Bose for both music and video.
Here is the full product description:
The Denon AVR-S940H features: Dolby Atmos, DTS: x and DTS virtual: x, plus the latest video technologies such as Dolby Vision, HDR, HLG and 4K video upscaling. 8 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs. HDCP 2. 2 support on all ports. The front-panel USB offers convenient audio playback of MP3, WAV, FLAC, ALAC and DSD (2. 8/5. 6MHz) files. Stream popular music services like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, and more with built-in HEOS technology, and control the AVR with Alexa voice compatibility. With the award-winning Denon setup assistant, the Denon AVR-S940H is just as easy to set up as it is to enjoy.
The Denon will have more bells and whistles and more options than the Cambridge and makes a good showing at its price point.
Speakers That Are Better Than Bose
Now we are referring to Bose home speakers. These could be a secondary accompaniment to the surround sound system as listed above or as stand-alone, two-channel audio.
There are as many levels of high-end home audio speakers as there are layers of an onion. In most cases, it’s not hard to find a speaker that is better than Bose for less money. Understand that we are looking for true high fidelity sound and are not expecting to have these competitors compete with our current main speaker, the Sonus Faber Nova IIs. Please keep in mind, we are not directly comparing speaker models but speaker brands.
Below we list two speaker manufacturers that are both… you guessed it… Better than Bose.
Both options are inexpensive speakers that provide a ton of value and superior performance to any Bose speaker on the market.
Paradigm speakers are an excellent value when referring to speakers under $1,000 per pair. The overall sound signature of the Paradigm speakers is dynamic, with a solid bottom end. Here is a recent review of the Paradigm 200B’s which talk about the incredible bass from a small speaker. If the speakers are positioned correctly in the listening area, they can image quite well and have a rich, full-bodied sound.
The inexpensive Paradigms have shown to make excellent speakers for a surround sound system also. The Paradigm subwoofers also provide a powerful but well controlled bottom end for both audio and video.
For many people, especially if you primarily are using your system for watching movies, smaller speakers on stands work well for front speakers. If you mostly listen to music, you may want to opt for the floor standing speakers as they will sound more cohesive; with the subwoofer only taking on the bottom octave.
The Paradigm Monitor Series has been an outstanding value in hi-fi for years. They may not have a piano gloss finish, but they do provide a very accurate and dynamic sound for the money. Using the SE Atom’s and the Monitor SE 2000C for the center channel and the Paradigm Monitor Sub 10 makes an awesome little surround sound system and will blog ANY Bose system out of the water.
The Paradigm Premier Series speakers range in price from $399 – $999 and are a little more refined and will take slightly higher volume levels. If you jam loudly to groups like Rush, Tool, or Rage Against the Machine, these may be more suited for you.
Full Surround Speaker Systems
If you are looking for a direct comparison to a Bose surround system, look at the Paradigm Cinema 5.1 system. At under $700 for everything (even includes a decent little subwoofer), it is pretty hard to beat.
Although the Cinema 5.1 is an excellent example of a good all-in-one surround sound speaker system, we would recommend spending a little bit more and stepping up to a minimum the Monitor Series for the main speakers and center channel, and opt for the Cinema Sub and the Atom for the rear surrounds.
Monitor Audio Speakers
Monitor Audio offers a wide variety of inexpensive speakers that are far superior to Bose. With over 40 years of speaker building under their belt, they build good sounding speakers that are not very expensive.
Many of the Monitor Audio speakers start at under $300 per pair and can be mixed and matched to build out a very nice surround sound system while performing quite well for audio as well.
The Monitor Audio Gold Series Speakers
Although Dr. Amar G. Bose was a genuinely inspired, brilliant inventor, and well respected for his early work, the company that we call Bose today is not of the same caliber. Just remember… Bose made a ton of money selling a clock radio that mounted under your cabinets for $500+ called the Bose Wave System.