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Bose Companion 20 - Sound Quality and Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Bose Companion 20 3

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Bose is incredibly secretive about its audio technology (a strategy which wins as many enemies as fans) so no raw specs are provided. In fairness wattage is often as misleading as it is informative, but we are told the 20s do use a brand new driver along with proprietary electronics and amplification. Bose's long standing 'TrueSpace' digital signal processing tech is also thrown in to expand the acoustic range and widen the perceived soundstage. Marketing buzzwords aside, does it work?

In short yes, and then some. Bose typically describes its sound as 'rich'. Detractors say this equates to indistinct and muddy and there are certainly products where this is true, but the Companion 20s are a delight oozing drive and detail. Most surprising is the volume. Despite their small size and 2.0 arrangement the 20s will not just fill a room, but an entire floor before hitting maximum volume. They will also vibrate your windows.

Bose Companion 20

Purists will miss the ability to tweak bass and treble settings as Bose retains an Apple-esque vice control over its products, but the sound signature is very well balanced. If anything the 20s are slightly bass heavy, a remarkable achievement given they obviously have no dedicated bass unit. That said they don't lack detail and classical music aficionados will be just as satisfied as bass heads. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, we have no idea how regularly Bose will refresh the Companion 20 to fend off rival products in future, but right now they are outstanding.

Of course this wouldn't be a TrustedReviews Bose test if we didn't have a few caveats. As mentioned, some treble and bass control would be welcome, particularly for those that may want to peg back the bass a little. In addition, while we are big fans of the pod control, a separate remote control, such as on the Teufel C 300 Wireless, would have been a welcome alternative and – for the price – an inbuilt wireless audio solution would've been nice. But, with the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 costing around £400, these are hardly overpriced for a basic 2.0 speaker set.

Bose Companion 20 2

Of course, there is no doubt £200 is a lot to pay for a 2.0 setup with some 4.1 and even 5.1 systems available for less. But that said the Companion 20 isn't so much about price comparison as product comparison. Not everyone desires or has the space for 4.1/5.1 or even 2.1 setups, but they crave high quality audio. In this respect Bose has come up with a real winner and the standard two year warranty offers some compensation against the initial outlay.

Verdict

While Bose products have fallen foul of us in the past, the Companion 20 has knocked our socks off. The sheer volume and drive produced by these 2.0 speakers is astonishing and bass, if anything, is fractionally more prominent than it would be in a typical 2.1 arrangement. As always Bose has slapped on a premium price, but the Companion 20 can go head to head with iPod docks twice the price and connect to your phone/MP3 player and computer simultaneously. If your wallet is deep and your space limited you can't go wrong.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Usability 10
  • Value 7

crazyze

August 24, 2011, 10:43 pm

Interesting review and by coincidence today I was actually for a pair of top end speakers for my macbook pro.

One thing I notice is the speakers rely on the computer DAC. Surely to get the most out of these speakers it will require a separate DAC?

The B&W and Teufel Concept B which comes both come with separate DACs in one form or another must sound better than the Bose by quite a margin?

I would love the B&W, but £400 is way out of my range. The Bose look great, but I fear further investment may be required to get the most out of them....

starling

August 25, 2011, 12:50 am

Thanks for the review. I've been on the look out for a decent pair of speakers for my iMac and these may be answer. I also wouldn't mind connecting them to my TV when watching movies - to help improve the sound. You didn't happen to try them connected to a TV did you?

Carl Abudephane

August 25, 2011, 2:22 am

As above, I'd like to know about using these via an external DAC, such as the new Musical Fidelity V-Dac, or the HRT Streamer II. Both of those retail for around £199, and I'm pretty sure both of them are way, way superior to the DAC's that come 'included' with the B&W or others. Whether that means the resulting £400 package(with these Bose speakers)will be better by far than the B&W etc is another matter, but I think that if these Bose speakers are this good then yes, I think it will be markedly better. The two DAC's mentioned are both asynchronous units as well - a big feature for those interested in the ultimate audio quality possible at this level.
So, is it simple to plug these speakers into one of these Dac's, to bypass bog-standard computer DAC? Are you able to try this out?

PaulW

August 25, 2011, 2:13 pm

Hmm! Thanks for review, but still far too expensive, and lack of control over bass / treble is unacceptable at £200! Think I'll stick with my £99 Acoustic Energy Aego M System!

Ed

August 25, 2011, 2:21 pm

It is very unlikely these would sound as good as the B&Ws regardless of what DAC you used. They are simply a different class of speaker. You'd have to be looking at a much higher quality of speaker for the investment in a £200 DAC to be worthwhile, especially as you can get a pretty nice boost in quality simply going for a reasonable dedicated sound card costing £50 or so.

It's the same as with headphones and mp3 players. You're nearly always better off spending the money on the headphones to improve sound quality rather than amps or better-sounding mp3 players, up to a certain point. For headphones that point is around £200. For speakers it's much higher.

Ed

August 25, 2011, 2:26 pm

Sorry, clicked 'post' too early - meant to say that for speakers that tipping point probably is around £200 but it depends on the size and class of speaker. For desktop speakers £200 is about right but again it's all relative - spend £50 to get a proper sound card, not £200. In contrast for a proper Hi-fi setup £200 is entry level.

crazyze

August 25, 2011, 4:03 pm

The problem is its not quite so easy to upgrade the sound card on a laptop ;) - I guess it would still be worth putting the sound through a 'cheap' DAC before going through to the Bose speakers.

But point taken that at the level we are talking about, the speaker type will probably influence more than DAC. It's just getting that little bit extra out of them....

PoisonJam

August 31, 2011, 2:56 am

Meant to reply to this ages ago!

So now I'm really stuck between Bose + £50 sound card or B&W MM1s?! I prefer the look of the MM1s but that obviously isn't enough on its own.

Thoughts? Worth the extra when I'd prefer not to spend it, though I can afford it.

krencey

July 25, 2012, 7:25 pm

Hi there,

I really appreciate TR reviewing these. I honestly believe BOSE has got a little winner here. May I kindly ask, if anyone has heard them and compared these to the Teufel Concept B 200 USB Speakers, your opinion would be very appreciated.

I always feel very sorry when the reviewer doesn't put the sound into context of similarly priced competition. I know U guys do not have all speakers available at the same time, however it would be nice if a reviewer of the other pair could jump in and compare and contrast, if his/her "audio memory" still works well.

A horizontal comparison is not the only lacking element here though. It would be appreciated to compare with BOSE's own higher/lower end models to see the benefits one gets by upgrading. For e.g. what are these like to the Companion 2 or 3?

I know Ed thinks highly of B&W MM1s, however, despite the price difference, these produce a brighter image, as compared to MM1s darker. The base is in fact quite similar sounding, but MM1s sounded a tad bit plasticky to my ears and at top volume seems as "shouting" to my ears, when Companion 20s sounded less "scraming".

A good point made in the comments above is the sound source and DAC used. I listened to these on X-fi Elite Pro and noticed they respond nicely to equalization, where MM1s did not.

To my Ears MM1s produce a sound similar to Zeppelin Air, which to my ears sounds dark with muffled sound, esp at high volume.

If there is one request I would like to make, it would be if similar products could be reviewed by one person, or a small team of people reviewing together and such a person would have the ability to contextualize the review, compare and contrast similar products and, this might be most important, be an audiophile and have good ears.

Btw, nice review and keep up the great work guys.

Jeet

November 2, 2012, 8:56 am

Hi friends,

I have recently bought these speakers for my Mac Book Pro.....and they sound great..There is a great vitality and clarity in the sound and they are enough for my 350 sq feet room...

I originally wanted to buy Bose Music Monitor Speakers but I was told its not available and on the Bose website too its out of stock....Comp 20 speakers come 10k bucks cheaper than music monitor and were the only option for me as I wanted easy to carry speakers....companion 5 sounded great but came with a huge bass module..

Now one thing I am not sure about is whether these speakers are magnetically shielded or not because Bose India website shows them as magnetically shielded but on the other hand customer care people sent me a comparison chart when I inquired for Music monitor according to which these speakers are not magnetically shielded!!!
I don't understand how they can be so reckless in providing information...
anyways I hope some of you would be able to shed more light as to how important it is to have magnetically shielded speakers.....thanks in advance!!!

Denus

April 7, 2013, 11:11 pm

The Companion 20 speakers don't have magnetic shielding. This feature was meant to stop interference to the old CRT monitor screens. Thereby, the magnets of the Bose speakers won't be able to harm your hard disk data or whatever you're afraid of.

onton

April 10, 2013, 1:07 am

I liked the sound and the build quality. A little bit overpriced but to me - worth it. But issues begin when you need a support from bose. E.g. you broke your external control pod. You know what's wrong with it and you're ready to buy a new one yourself. But nope - spend half what your speakers cost and few weeks of your time to replace it. First you spend half a day to find contact details on bose site. Then you wait for a few days for them to confirm that you cannot buy a control pod replacement yourself and have to ask their local representative. Then you find out that your local service center would charge you $60 just to look at what's wrong. And then perhaps they will request a replacement from the company. And then you will wait for it to get delivered. And then you pay again for the part, the shipment and the service. Product - good, service - bad :(

Ruwantha

April 29, 2013, 12:48 pm

I have owned Bose Companion 20 for almost 2 months now, coupled with my Dell XPS one 27. I must say they really produce good quality rich sound. Good volume at negligible distortion even at high volume settings.
I must say these are not for bass freaks, nor are they for music producers who look for something to replace studio monitors... These are for normal music lovers with good taste for rich quality music....
One more thing! Does not matter what speakers you use if your sound card is crappy the end result is only as good as the weakest component in your loop.... I tried this with my asus K53 laptop and it sounds nothing like when I plug it to Dell XPS one 27, or to my direct music modules....
Yes they are slightly pricy.. but you won't repent on your money.
I have not yet required customer support so cant comment on that!

CBC

January 2, 2014, 10:49 pm

I have connected the 20's to my 42" Vizio HDTV. My choice was primarily for aesthetics, but their sound is better than the TV speakers. Has anyone else tried this???
My connection is with a male 1/8" into the speaker with the yellow and white 3/8" into the TV (cord is from Radio Shack). However, I had to change my TV output to Analog.

Is there a better way to make the connection???

Thanks! CBC

bkubie

November 23, 2015, 3:24 am

The real scoop on these speakers is that they produce a very crisp sound. I tried these out before the Companion 5's and there's a huge difference. Idk what they're talking about saying 'too bassy probably.' No, that's incorrect...The bass is very low-key with these speakers, you won't feel much at all. These speakers were meant for spoken word aka, 'treble.' Bottom line, these speakers are for clarity, not bass.

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