If you look back over the years Bose has had a tough time on TrustedReviews and has never received a recommended award. The reasons are generally twofold; they tend to be overpriced and yet underperform sonically. Well now we have a Bose product we like, a lot.
The Bose Companion 20 is something all too rare from the company: a new product. The famed Bose SoundDock Portable, for example, was released way back in 2007 and yet it remains largely unchanged while many of the competition is refreshed every 12-18 months. Bose may well choose to keep the Companion 20 unchanged for many moons, but as it stands we benefit from the company's latest technical innovations and as such, in August 2011, it is a joy.
As the name hints (but doesn't fully explain), the Companion 20 is a 2.0 speaker system, the familiar pitch being: there is no need for a separate sub woofer. Given the task at hand the speakers are fairly compact measuring just 219 x 119 x 89mm and weighing 1.13Kg each. They also couldn't be simpler with no bass or treble adjustment and all operations confined to a simple 'control pod' that houses a touch sensitive power/mute button, second auxiliary input and headphone jack.
All told first impressions are positive. Build quality is excellent. The metal front grill and rear look good while Bose has steered away from the dreaded piano black to use more dust phobic matt finishes on the top of the speakers and around the control pod. The touch sensitive response of the pod's surface (the entire metal top) is also excellent instantly turning the speakers on or off, a status illustrated by a white power indicator. The volume ring also oozes quality, feeling smooth but with a slight sense of inertia.
As well as useful for being easy to reach, having a separate pod is a good idea because any wear and tear on the volume ring means it can be easily replaced. By contrast controls on desktop speakers often are the first things to go and can be incredibly difficult to fix.
A further smart idea is the Companion 20's automatic standby. Most desktop speakers remain permanently on, but the 20s will automatically go into standby if there is no audio signal after two hours. This energy saving feature can be toggled on or off by pressing the touch sensitive control pod for approximately six seconds which results in a high to low two tone chime. This chime is reversed when the feature is toggled back on by repeating the steps.
Enough of the superficialities though, the real interest lies in how they perform...