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Bose makes a few computer speaker packages, the least expensive of which is the Companion 2 Series II at $100. The package includes two compact speakers measuring 7.5 by 3.2 by 5.8 inches; both are angled slightly upward so the sound is aimed toward your head when you're sitting at your computer. With their metallic silver finish and clean, business-like styling, the Companion 2 Series IIs deliver the sort of understated, elegant look that you'd expect from the design-conscious Bose engineers.
The speakers themselves are fairly lightweight--the left speaker weighs 2.3 pounds and the right is 1.8 pounds--but there's enough heft here to give you the perception that the speakers contain some quality components. Bose has conveniently placed the volume control knob and headphone jack on the front of the right speaker.
The right speaker also houses all of the system's connectivity on its rear panel. There you'll find the power jack for the AC adapter (there's no USB option), a minijack connector for connecting the umbilical line to the left-hand speaker, and two sets of full-size stereo RCA inputs. One of the inputs, obviously, is for your PC, while the other is for any other audio source you'd like--an iPod, stereo receiver, or what have you. Bose supplies a minijack-to-RCA cable for the PC, and a standard set of stereo cables for connecting larger gear. For better or worse, the two inputs are active simultaneously, so if two sources are plugged in, you get a mixed output. We actually liked that; you can hear notification sounds from your PC even as you're listening to your music player.
The spec list in the manual says each speaker contains one 2.5-inch full-range driver--that means there's no separate tweeter. It's worth noting that we've seen speakers in this price range that offer a separate woofer and tweeter--the M-Audio Studiophile AV20s and the Creative Labs GigaWorks T20s come to mind. That's the preferred configuration so long as it's implemented well. On the plus side, the speakers are magnetically shielded, so they won't interfere with older CRT monitors.
If you're looking for heavy bass in a PC speaker, you'll probably want to steer clear of these sort of 2.0 stereo speakers and pick up a 2.1 configuration with a separate subwoofer instead (Bose offers several subwoofer-enabled models, as do dozens of competitors). That said, we don't think anyone will accuse the Bose Companion 2 Series II speakers of being bass shy. The little speakers put out a reasonable amount of bass--but that's arguably the best part of the speakers' sound.
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.