In this review: an in depth comparison of Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 THX, Logitech Z-2300 THX, Bose Soundock, Bose Companion 3's, Bose Companion 5's and Altec Lansing t-612
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'd like to offer a review somewhat different than what you've read before. It's a long one so if you're looking for something quick, you may want to stop here. Otherwise hopefully you'll enjoy the perspective. My thanks go out to those who let us know who you are and what you do in your review, and how you use the system, it really makes a difference. It's important to know the story behind why someone is buying something and what they are looking to do, otherwise you get mismatched needs and solutions. My story begins during the first month of 2008, when I got myself into a bit of a speaker craze while searching for a sound solution for every room of my house. Three years ago I put my life's music collection in digital format on iTunes to the tune of over 5000 songs with perhaps the widest array of music than anyone else I know: Jazz, Hip-hop, R&B, trip hop, electronica, techno, country, audio books, Tony Robbins, metal, rock, dub, enigma type stuff, lounge, new-aje, world music, caribbean, Latin and on the list goes. So, when I say I've tested these speakers over a wide variety of music, you can take my word for it.
My demographic: Male, business owner (custom Italian leather journals, guest books and photo albums: see epica . com ) and hip-hop dancer choreographer, 30 years old, Southern California. Creative, very into pleasing the senses.
After growing up with stereo systems that catered to more bass than clarity, my initial goal was to discover what would be the most clear, best, space filling rich sound I could in each room of the house while still being incredibly aesthetically pleasing and unobtrusive at the best price. I wanted to turn up the volume and be amazed at what I heard without any distortion and I wanted to be thrilled at the lowest volumes as well. I wanted to feel like I was there, to have a music experience every time I turned something on. The best price part went out the door rather quickly.
So here's what I did: Apple sells a device called an Airport Express that among other things such as being a wireless router, also allows you to stream iTunes music to it wirelessly. All you have to do is plug in a stereo mini plug to one end and an audio source to another. Give it a name like living room and it appears in iTunes. you can have several of these devices all over the house. In the past I have always hooked up big stereos or shelf systems to it for sound but now in the age of tiny computer speakers and iPod doc systems, I've realized you can connect anything to it and have taken the experience to a whole new level. There are now 4 airport expresses in the house in different rooms along with an apple TV which also features this Airtunes feature in the living room, bedroom, second bedroom, kitchen and hallway... yes the hallway.
After having spent hours in the Apple Store and Best Buy listening to different sound docks and speakers with my iPhone and collection of music, I just decided to purchase and used every single unit that caught my interest with the decision that those which didn't give me everything I was looking for, I'd just return. (The manufacturers must love me.) Because what can you really tell about a speaker or sound system in a 30,000 foot warehouse with sound and people all around you? Are you kidding? Nothing. You've really got to setup these systems in your environment.
It's also important that you test your purchase in different places and positions all throughout your house. You won't believe the difference in sound from having say, a SounDock in your bathroom vs. a bedroom. Move the subwoofer around, adjust the bass on it, move the speakers, be creative. you'll surprise yourself.
Finally, a word about Bose. Of all the sound companies that I read reviews for, and I read about 400 before making a purchase, I have never seen such a contrasting fan base. You've got people who detest anything Bose and people who would buy it without listening to anything else. For the record I am neither of these people. I have owned Bose products in the past and enjoyed them as I have with other companies but was not biased towards or against them prior to purchase.
The Klipsch Prop-Media 2.1 speakers were my purchase. I was attracted to what I knew about the Brand, the subwoofer control on the actual satellite speaker and the $150 price point. I got them home and aesthetically I was just never really attracted to the speaker. My place has a very Asian-Zen and modern feel and these just kind of stood out in the wrong way wherever I placed them. But we're talking about sound so I looked past that. It's got a pretty large subwoofer, and the satellites where small enough to go anywhere. Klipsch does a great job with their horn tweeters and it really let's the highs soar. I tried them in my home office and bedroom for a week before I returned them. Why?
I loved that they were THX, which means there was no hissing whatsoever and they were dead quiet when music was shut off. I was also pleased and could not believe the power. These speakers have so much gain and get so loud, that I don't think full volume would even be tolerable to the human ear. But that was the thing. They seemed to distort at the higher volumes I tend to enjoy and didn't seem to fill a room at low volumes. The subwoofer is recommended to be set at 8 o'clock (very low) and if you adjust that any higher the bass is quite over powering. The sound coming from the Klipsch speakers was not a bad or poor sound, it was great, it was ridiculously powerful but it just wasn't the best sound I had heard for music. They ultimately went back to the store, and I give them a 4 star rating, but I'd be open to trying them in again in a different setting. I think I found them to be to cumbersome as well.
To their credit, RoomGroove wireless for $300, is their latest version of what I am doing with the airport express where you can link multiple room grooves up and they'll wireless send sound to each other. Points to them for finally getting something like this on the market.
Logitech Z-2300 THX: WOW. I was a little biased at first because I thought, Logitech? Really? The people who shine at making wireless mice and keyboards? How can they compare to these other big sound companies? What can they possibly bring to the table? Five stars no question. Here I had nothing to go on other than the $150 price point. I brought them home and unpacked. Ok, the subwoofer with this speaker set is not for the faint of heart. It is absolutely enormous and well suited for a larger office or larger room. It's got two attractive enough (without the grills) aluminum speakers, and a similar wired remote to the Bose only this has the subwoofer control on it (fortunately) and a headphone jack. (no external auxiliary mini plug)
Where to begin. This system has started off in and remains to this day in my office. At low volumes it is rich, deep, clear, and not overpowering in any respect. The music soars no matter what you're listening to. It's an absolute pleasure to sit before these speakers and I should start leaving them playing some sort of music more often because it really really sounds tremendous. And that's only the beginning.
Once the staff goes home and I can crank these up, every wall in the building shakes. The other bathrooms sound as though there is an earthquake and we should evacuate the building. I know it sounds like I'm a big bass person but this is the least of my desires. The clarity, much like the companion 5's just keeps getting richer and richer as you turn the volume up. Artist's vocals scream out at you and this system is the loudest of any I have heard. Interestingly it's also the most tolerable at high volume that I have heard as well.
I love the fact that it's got RCA jacks for speaker cables which allow you to easily extend them if you want them more than a few inches apart or want to place the subwoofer farther away than right at your feet. I love the power and clarity of these speakers, I love that the remote has the bass on the module and you don't have to adjust it behind the subwoofer. Five golden stars are easily awarded. Go Logitech.
Altec Lansing T-612 and Bose SounDock Portable:
Having tested the Harmon Kardon Sound Sticks, JBL On Stage, Klipsch iGroove, the Zeppelin monster, iHome, logitech pure fi and many others, these are the two I wound up bringing home.
Technology is great. We give birth to new ideas which create new ways we listen to music like iPods and iTunes, and that stimulates thought to a new level and we create devices made especially just for these things like the wide array of docking stations, something we had no need for in the past, and then we give birth to new ideas again and say wouldn't it be great to have our music collection on our phone and eliminate devices, and that get's created, and one company wins out over all the others and soon that creates a new problem: cell phone interference and shielding and that gives birth to the first of a new line of products: the iPhone safe Altec T-612. The first docking station to not be affected by sound interference from cell phones.
It worked well. I give it 5 stars for innovation, sound, it's own bass and treble controls on the unit that can be controlled by the remote control, size and a pretty unique look. (Which I am personally not attracted to) This purchase lasted 24 hours before it was returned. It was going to be used as a hallway speaker and so probably would not get much use out of the iPod Dock. It goes for $200 which seems reasonable. Ultimately though it did not have the fullness and richness, or spaciousness that the Bose did, and the bass cracked on several songs. This is perfect for a teen, or college person or someone who just listens to music here and threre at reasonable volumes in the kitchen or around the house.
Bose SounDock Portable. FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS, and no sale or special pricing. Certainly you have to have a unique perspective on money to purchase one of these for yourself. One now resides in my bedroom and another in the hallway so certainly I'll share mine. Are there alternatives on the market that you will be happy with? Absolutely. $400 is a lot of money to spend on a device like this. Or is it? I sell a $10,000 journal on the Epica website, I have seen $12,000 pens, $400,000 automobiles, $200 for torn up jeans (and that's just a normal brand), $12 to see a movie, $50 for a tank of gas, $4000 for a high end washer and dryer... look at the world we live in. Certainly dollar for dollar you are not paying for the product itself or the metal, cotton or components, EVER, but the value it brings to you. The features and luxuries and benefits it brings. The feeling. And that always has a price.
How many times have you shopped for the best deal on something, bought it, and then later wished you had purchased the better version, or gotten the special optional features, or wish you had just splurged after the fact. How many times have you not been able to do it like when you purchase a car? I have just gotten myself used to two things. One: happiness comes from your thoughts and your ability to keep your mind and focus on things that please you, not from objects you buy, and two, the fact that if contrast has caused me to give birth to a desire for wanting something, and I think in the obtaining of it I will be more pleased in owning it than the less expensive version, I am going to buy the one that brings me the most pleasure and gives me personally, the best feeling.
Need, purpose, design, size and functionality all coalesced with the SounDock and so I spent 200 more dollars after I returned the Lansing for something that would be kept in my hallway which pointed into the bathroom. But it was more discreet, it had a revolving iPod dock that I could hide from view when not using it, a remote control that let me change my playlists (that most remotes do not do), a look that was much more attractive and streamline, and a sound that was just richer and fuller.
And while it pains me immensely to know that I took the two-hundred heart pounding watts of Klipsch out of my bedroom, the amazing, clear, spacious and dynamic sound of the Bose Companion 3s out of my bedroom and now have replaced those with another SounDock, portable, it certainly does create magic in the bedroom. Aside from two lamps, it is the ONLY other wire in the room. It's small, and doubles as my alarm clock. I LOVE the fact that I can wake up to any song or play list in the world. using an iPod (I am very put off by Apple's decision to not have a snooze button on iPod alarm, while it is on the iPhone, however on the iPhone you can only wake up to a ringtone! Silly) I love how it fills a room and how if you're not in the room you hear it loud and clear and would have no idea something so small is producing all that sound.
I have really come to appreciate Bose. They create the best sound they can possibly engineer by pouring 100% of their profits back into research and deliver the best product they can that generally takes years to release. They think their sound sounds best flat, with no adjustment. That's what the EQ is for on the iPod or iTunes or whatever source you're using. They realize you shouldn't have to tweak all the treble and bass if the sound is just amazing to begin with. It's all about the feeling you get when you listen to it. The SounDock does not sound as good as a system like the Companion 3's or any other subwoofer driven device but you have to look at it's purpose and size.
SounDock gets five stars for listening to customer requests and making their successful SounDock portable even better by adding the aux in port so I can hear music wirelessly, a great remote with lots of functionality, discreet touch volume buttons, a hideaway revolving dock door to make it look even cleaner than it already does, a great room filling sound, a battery that lasts, a slimmer design, a power cord that wraps around the transformer and an overall sound that makes you feel very good when listening to it. Try placing one of these things in your kitchen, hall, bathroom, closet or smaller room and listen to the rumble and sound. Amazing.
Bose Companion 3's: When I first set these up in my office I was absolutely amazed by the quality and quantity of sound coming out of these speakers. They are gorgeous, discrete and fit the bill for big sound. I was impressed by the fact that I could turn them up to full volume, with any kind of music and here no distortion of any kind. That one fact is so rare, that made them a winner for me right there. When listening to Diana Krall, I felt as though her lips where inches from my ear as she sang only to me. These speakers really sing out.
For some reason when I tried watching movies on them, the volume decreased significantly and so even at full blast the sound was not that loud. Over time these speakers have moved from office to bedroom to ultimately being returned to the store but not because I was dissatisfied. I kept these things in my closet for 3 weeks because I didn't want to return them, I wanted to find a use for them or somewhere to enjoy them. They went back because I didn't want 5 cords in my bedroom and a subwoofer at the foot of my bed.
Like the companion 5's, I like the puck volume control (would be nice if it was wireless, wouldn't it? Especially if everything else on your desk is). It's very sensitive and feels good to touch. One gentle tap and sound is muted, another and it comes back on. It's also nice to be able to increase or decrease the bass that pours out of these units on the back of the subwoofer by virtually a full 360 degrees. I am also pleased with the RCA jacks used to connect each speaker. Initially I was put off and wondered why they did it but when I realized how EFFORTLESS (one of my favorite words) it was to extend the speaker cable, i.e. just plug in another video cable, I was thrilled. Five stars to the Companion 3s
Bose Companion 5's: It's funny how when you don't know what you're missing, you don't miss it. I tell people that in my business that when you buy this $185 journal and you haven't seen the $265 version, you think you're in heaven. It's perfection. Then you see the top of the line and you just can't imagine it gets any better. The Companion 5's are nearly triple the size of the Companion 3's (Yet still rather small and attractive), look absolutely gorgeous next to my iMac, have the same puck with mute, headphones, volume up and down and auxiliary input just like the Companion 3's (which will play something at simultaneously as what you have going on your computer).
BUT there are two major differences in these speakers vs anything else I have heard, ever. One is it connects to your USB port, not your stereo mini plug in port which requires 2 minutes of configuring, and two, the sound that comes out of these speakers is the most delicious, exquisite, full, wide, spacious, rich, detailed sound I have EVER heard come out of speakers in this class. Anyone I have shared them with leaves with their jaw on the floor. As I turn up the volume we just stare at the computer and say WOW. It just sucks you in. Where before I did not enjoy spending time in front of the computer for very long, I can literally spend hours in front of this one or in the room where the Companion 5's are playing. The sound is that unbelievable. The cables as of this writing are proprietary and cannot be extended, however for the `surround effect' it's not recommended that you extend them anyway.
I enjoy barely audible volume levels in the morning but come nighttime, I love to crank up the sound and speakers can take it at a volume so loud you can only take it for a short period. It's as though with each increment you raise the volume, you experience a new dimension to sound. The Bose Companion 5's for this purpose get 5 stars, 10 if I could, for looks, size and for a sound like no other.
Finally, don't be led astray by the Bose advertising. These speakers are marketed towards people who like to watch movies in front of their computer, something that, after spending all day in front of a computer, is the last thing I want to do. I've tried it and yes it's a great experience but if you never watch a video clip with these speakers it will still be the best investment you make for music and any other sound that comes out of them. The Bose experts will also tell you that these speakers should not be more than 24 inches apart because they are specifically engineered for you to sit right in front of them. When I heard that I also thought the sound quality would decrease if I stepped away, or perhaps it wouldn't fill a room the way I want. Not the case. Inches away or across the room, I cannot say enough about this virtual surround sound speaker.
So hopefully that gives you a little more insight into what these speakers can do for you, how they can be used, what I was looking for in particular and what the actual experience was. If you made it this far, your a trooper. I hope you found the review useful and if you wanted to contact me with questions we actually sell on the Amazon site. Just do a search for Epica journal and you can write in. Thanks! - Written over three hours near Los Angeles in the company of Bose Companion 5's.