Bose Home Theater System Review
You can hardly walk into a high street electronics store these days without bumping into countless ‘one box’ systems that provide a DVD player, surround amplifier, subwoofer and speaker collection in one package.
Costing anything from $150 to more than 10 times that amount, the concept of convenience is the same throughout but the quality and features can vary wildly.
You can’t argue that they are a hassle-free way of getting a home theater system, but finding an all-rounder that’s equally good with DVD playback and sound reproduction is harder.
This inexpensive Bose package goes for a fairly radical designer appearance to try and make it stand out from the crowd of other similar products.
The HT-EVIOO’s DVD receiver unit has an unconventional appearance that does away with the usual angular lines in favour of rounded corners. It’s sporty and wouldn’t look out of place in a small modern living room.
This design is matched by the five satellite speakers – they could almost be vintage tobacco tins were it not for the silver paint job and grey grilles. The satellites are identical, except for the bigger, horizontally-mounted centre speaker.
Meanwhile the passive subwoofer departs from the integrated look with its sharper edges. However, at 180mm wide (and 322mm high), it is slim enough to hide from view if necessary.
The main unit’s front panel display is a blue backlit LCD with black characters. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to read clearly. It has three brightness settings but even with the lowest, it’s quite luminescent and distracting during night-time use. There is also a pulsating power indicator light that, if it weren’t for the matching blue hue, would resemble the menacing HAL9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Connectivity is fair for a basic all-in-one. There is an optical input for an external digital audio source, such as a games console or digital TV receiver. A pair of phonos provide an analogue stereo line in, ideal for routing VCR or TV sound through the Bose’s surround speakers. Video output is provided by a Scart, which can be switched between composite or RGB (recommended).
The single remote control keeps most things suitably laid out – with less-used keys under a sliding flap. However, some of the labelling is obscure: ‘MOST’ anyone?
Everything you need is provided in the box, except an optical lead for connecting to peripheral devices and a Scart lead for the TV. The supplied speaker wires are long enough to spread around a large room (even if the power output won’t exactly fill it with sound) and the onscreen menu is straightforward.The customisable TV ‘wallpaper’ is a sweet idea and the screen saver will reassure plasma owners. Although the built-in radio tuner is not DAB (digital) compatible, there is a longwave band for old-school Radio 4 devotees.
Support for most recorded CD and DVD formats is provided, but the system’s basic spec doesn’t stretch to including multichannel music formats like DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD. The disc drive is reasonably fast, but it’s also noisy and behind it, making even more din, is a fan to stop the amplifier components overheating.
Along with standard Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound decoding and amplification is Dolby Pro Logic II for making a more immersive soundfield out of basic sources such as radio and TV programmes or CDs.
You can choose dedicated Cinema or Music modes for Pro Logic II, which are fine, or play with the various DSP (digital signal processing) options – though these don’t add much to the experience and are best left alone.
This system does not show a very high level of detail during DVD video playback, but movement is silky and edges are clean and natural, as is the colour palette.
However, the picture has a slightly below average contrast level. This is less obvious in a sundrenched epic like Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West but a dusky movie like Matrix Reloaded can disappear into shadow. It’s probably not best to hook this up to an older plasma or LCD TV where black levels are poor, as you might not see much of anything.
The system’s power output is limited and the satellites sound muddy at times. You will need to crank up to around 40 on the volume’s scale of 50 to get any sense of epic room-filling noise.
Sadly, at these levels the satellites start to distort with a teeth-grating raspy quality, especially during ‘DTS-tastic’ scenes like the car chase in The Bourne Identity.
The lower mid-range drop off is pretty steep, too, leaving the passive sub with a big workload. During The Matrix Reloaded you can even hear some of the rear surround effects being taken on by the sub, spoiling the definition between channels. Dialogue clarity is pretty good, though, thanks to the slightly larger centre channel speaker.
While the system is okay for movies that are not too action-packed, CD replay can suffer the same problems as multichannel movies, with too much bass having to pour out of the sub, leaving some very wispy sibilant sounds spurting from the small satellites. The Pro Logic II options for CD music and other two-channel sources are effective but hampered, of course, by the speaker weaknesses.
This compact system is no trouble to get up and running, it’s interesting to look at and boasts a decent (but not stunning) picture quality for the price.
However, the front panel display is distractingly bright, the innards are noisy and, worst of all, the sound is insubstantial rather than deep.
If your movie fare consists wholly of dialogue-heavy romantic comedies – and you’re not too bothered about CD playback quality either – then this might be the system for you .