CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III (black) review: Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III (black)

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III (black)

Steve Guttenberg Matthew Moskovciak
Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Matthew Moskovciak Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater
Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.
6 min read

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III (black)

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III (black)

The Good

The <b>Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III</b> is a 5.1 speaker system with tiny, stylish satellite speakers and a large powered subwoofer. It creates a big, dynamic sound (especially for its size) and requires very little tweaking to sound good.

The Bad

The Acoustimass 6 Series III is more expensive than competing systems that sound better and look just as good. It also has an unusual configuration that requires more wires than other 5.1 speaker systems. And although the satellites are tiny, the subwoofer takes up more space than many competitors' subs.

The Bottom Line

The Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III speaker system delivers a big sound from exceptionally small speakers, but its high price keeps it from being a good value pick.

Bose is one of the most polarizing brands in home audio, especially on the Internet. Some home theater enthusiasts are quick to dismiss Bose products as overpriced and overhyped, but user reviews for Bose's products are often overwhelmingly positive. That makes it tough for buyers to separate truth from fiction.

Whatever your opinion on Bose may be, there's no denying the company's products are expensive, which is why we couldn't include a Bose system in our recent roundup of 5.1 speaker packages for under $500. The Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III ($700 street price) was the closest we could get and we compared it with its more affordable competitors. For all the vitriol hurled Bose's way, the Acoustimass 6 Series III held its own in head-to-head testing, especially considering its satellite speakers are among the smallest we've seen. On the other hand, it's hard to justify its $700 price, especially when an excellent alternative like the Energy Take Classic 5.1 system is available for just $400. The Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III definitely isn't our top choice for a budget 5.1 speaker system (especially for value-conscious buyers), but those who have to have the Bose name won't be disappointed.

Design and features
The Acoustimass 6 Series III is a six-piece system: five "virtually invisible" (that's Bose's term) satellite speakers and a large subwoofer. The satellites are perfectly visible to our eyes, but they are tiny at a mere 3.1 inches high, 3.1 inches wide, and 4 inches deep. Each sat houses a single 2.5-inch "Twiddler" driver, but no separate tweeter. The black plastic speakers weigh 1.1 pounds each; the cabinets are attractive and have non-removable black cloth grilles.

Bose Acoustimass satellite speakers
The Acoustimass 6 Series III satellite speakers are exceptionally small.

While Bose refers to the speakers as cubes, their backs are curved and have threaded inserts to facilitate wall-mounting. No brackets of any kind are supplied with the Acoustimass 6 system, but Bose sells cast-metal UB-20 wall/ceiling brackets. These brackets allow horizontal and vertical adjustment of the speakers, so you can direct the sound where you like. We placed the sats on stands and put the center-channel sat on the shelf in front of our TV.

Bose Acoustimass speaker connectors
The speaker connectors toward the bottom of the speaker are extremely small, although they work with Bose's included speaker wire.

We were disappointed with the quality of the sats' spring-clip wire connectors. The spring clips' grip on the wire is even less secure than for most connectors of this type, so a moderate tug may dislodge the wire. However, once the sats are in position the wires will stay in place. The clips only accept skinny bare wire ends, which is fine in this case since Bose supplies all the speaker wire.

Bose Acoustimass speaker wire
The Acoustimass comes with even more wires than a standard 5.1 speaker system.

Many packaged 5.1 systems come with speaker wire, and so does the Acoustimass 6, but the bad news is that it comes with twice as many wires as other systems. With the Acoustimass 6 you need to run the included 20-foot flat, ribbon-type wire between the Acoustimass module and your receiver's five speaker and subwoofer outputs. That proprietary cable is fitted with a multipin connector that plugs into the Acoustimass module; then you run another proprietary set of wires between the Acoustimass module and each of the five sats. The only reason we can think of for this unusual arrangement is that Bose is performing some additional sound processing in the subwoofer. That's fine, but be prepared for all the wires.

Bose Acoustimass subwoofer
The subwoofer looks downright huge compared with the tiny sats.

The matte black, vinyl-covered powered subwoofer has a single 5.25-inch woofer mounted on its bottom panel, and a large rear-mounted port. The cabinet appears to be constructed from medium-density fiberboard, but the front and rear caps are molded black plastic. The Acoustimass module's cabinet is definitely bigger than most of the competition's subwoofers; the mighty Bose is 16.33 inches high, 8.13 inches wide, and 22.33 inches deep and weighs 27 pounds.

The Acoustimass module has bass and LFE rotary controls located near the back of its right side panel. They separately control the overall bass volume level and movie soundtrack low-frequency effects. There's a detent at the 12 o'clock position of each knob, which we took to be the "flat" setting. As we played movies and music we sometimes felt a need to make small adjustments above or below those settings.

We used a Denon AVR-1912 receiver and an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player for all of our Acoustimass 6 listening tests, and we were pleased to find the system unusually easy to set up. Usually, with speakers as small as these, we would have to take some time to experiment with the AVR-1912's subwoofer-to-speaker crossover settings to achieve the best possible bass balance between the sub and sats. With the Acoustimass 6 the bass balance is fixed, and is handled within the Acoustimass module. We had great sound within minutes of setting up the system.

The Acoustimass 6's satellites may be incredibly tiny, but the sound is anything but small. We showed the Bose no mercy and played the opening sequence of the "I Am Legend" Blu-ray at a healthy volume, and the sound of Robert Neville's Mustang fastback speeding through the deserted post-plague New York streets was thrilling. When Neville shoots at herds of galloping deer the sound echoed off the buildings, handily demonstrating the Acoustimass 6's ability to put us inside a scene. The tonal balance was full and rich, and considering the size of the tiny satellites, that feat was even more impressive. Dialogue sounded natural and clear.

The Acoustimass 6's sub-to-sat bass blend was well above average, so we compared the Acoustimass 6 with the Harman Kardon HKTS 20BQ and heard two very different-sounding systems. With the "House of Flying Daggers" Blu-ray the fight scene within the circle of drums had more impact and visceral kick over the Acoustimass 6. The HKTS 20BQ's smaller subwoofer created a lot less bass, but it had better definition, so each drum thwack was more distinct. The sound from the HKTS 20BQ and Boston Acoustics SoundWare XS 5.1 systems was more detailed overall, and the wrap-around-the-room surround imaging of both systems was more immersive, but the Acoustimass 6 had more oomph, so it sounded like a bigger, more powerful system.

Porcupine Tree's "Anesthetize" concert Blu-ray sounded remarkably dynamic with the Acoustimass 6. The prog-rock band's mix of acoustic and electric instruments changes from tune to tune, and Gavin Harrison's drum kit had great punch, but his cymbals and other percussion instruments sounded a little coarse compared with what we were getting from the HKTS 20BQ's satellite speakers. The Bose's soundstage depth was flatter than the other systems'. The Bose satellites don't have tweeters and the Harman Kardon speakers do, which might account for the difference.

Listening to Paul Simon's new "So Beautiful or So What" CD in stereo we were more aware of the Bose sats' small size. Simon's vocals lacked body and the acoustic guitars sounded a little muffled.

We really liked the Acoustimass 6's fuller tonal balance with movies, and with the room lights turned off it was easy to forget we were listening to five 3-inch-tall speakers. However, the system forfeited the resolution and detail we heard from the other systems. The best, clearest sound we've heard from a small, budget-priced 5.1 subwoofer and satellite system came from the Energy Take Classic 5.1, although some buyers might prefer the Bose Acoustimass 6's rich sound.

The Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III speaker system delivers big sound from exceptionally small speakers, but its high price keeps it from being a good value pick.

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III (black)

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series III (black)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping