Bose has incorporated something called TrueSpace Stereo Signal Processing Circuitry, which it says is a "proprietary technology [that] helps maximize audio performance by widening the image of closely placed speakers. You experience audio that seems to come from a soundstage wider than the two speakers, allowing for full performance beyond the computer screen." According to Bose, the speakers also automatically adjust tonal balance "for rich, convincing audio performance at practically any listening level." We put these features to the test with some musical selections, as well as one of our favorite PC games.
The vocals on Belle & Sebastian's The Boy With The Arab Strap album were pushed forward and sounded somewhat harsh. The speaker seemed to emphasize sibilants. Arcade Fire's Neon Bible is a rather densely layered recording, and the Bose Companion 2 Series II speakers made it hard to distinguish instruments from each other.
We switched things up with some instrumental jazz. When we fired up saxophonist Ben Webster's classic "Chelsea Bridge," we felt the Bose Companion 2 Series II seemed to accentuate the analog recording's tape hiss, and Webster's warm sax sound was nowhere to be heard.
On the gaming front, we booted up Unreal Tournament 3 and the little speakers' strengths in the bass department helped accentuate weapons firing and the explosions they caused. The speakers didn't produce huge, enveloping sound, but they delivered enough oomph to serve casual gamers expectations for a more visceral gaming experience by upgrading from their PC's bundled speakers.
We wrapped things up by putting the Bose Companion 2 Series II against the aforementioned M-Audio Studiophile AV20s, which are widely available for the same price (if not less). The head-to-head comparison confirmed our initial evaluation of the Bose. Overall, the M-Audios delivered a somewhat cleaner, crisper sound, free of the noticeable sibilance exhibited by the Bose. That said, they lack the second input and headphone jack found on the Bose.
In an earlier review, we were pretty hard on Bose's high-end Computer MusicMonitor speakers, which are smaller and sleeker looking than the speakers reviewed here--but also really expensive at $400. In the end, it's easier to be more forgiving with the $100 Companion 2 Series IIs. But if you're not married to the Bose label, there are plenty of PC speakers out there for the same price that will deliver better overall sound quality.