Design and Features
Getting "the greatest possible sound from the smallest possible speaker" was the aim of the engineers of the new Bose Computer MusicMonitors, and to begin with, they certainly got the small part right.
The speakers measure 122mm by 65mm by 123mm each and fit easily in the palm of your hand. They're constructed from aluminium and feature a silver finish. The speakers are quite heavy at 500g each, and this is also partly due to the hefty neodymium magnets inside. These are audiophile-grade drive magnets and no doubt contribute to both the unit's sound and cost.
To get better bass out of the small speakers the company invented what it calls "dual internal opposing passive radiators". These are basically two drivers facing each other and cancelling out low-end vibration -- this stops the speakers from physically moving around on your desk.
The controls and ports are quite sparse with only a single 3.5mm input to plug in your PC or MP3 player, volume up/down buttons and a power switch.
In addition to the speakers you also get a minimalist remote control with volume and power controls.
The speakers capture human voices particularly well, with plenty of presence and "breathiness". You won't be fooled that the singer is in the room with you but at least you can locate where in the sound field they might be sitting.
Good quality recordings are served best by the Bose speakers, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's magnificent "Red Right Hand" has all the menace and intimacy it needs. The strong bass line remains propulsive and Saint Nick sounds like he could be whispering in your ear.
Bassy music or other material -- such as computer games or action movies -- isn't as successful. While the speakers give you the sense of bass and really good "punch", the speakers small size means it is physically unable to provide gut-rumbling low frequencies. On an A/B comparison between the Bose speakers and a pair of Wharfedale 8.1s driven by a Pioneer receiver, the Wharfedales had a lot more atmosphere during Quake Wars: Enemy Territory and added authority as shells exploded about us.
As the Bose system lacks any EQ controls or subwoofer output, a dedicated amp and speakers would give you more flexibility. If you're looking for a better set of multimedia speakers for similar money, though, then you need to go pro: Wharfedale Pro is the recording industry arm of the aforementioned hi-fi manufacturer, and they make some great-looking monitors for the same or less money. For example you can get an active pair of Wharfedale 8.1s for more than AU$100 less than the Bose duo.
As an upgrade to laptop speakers, the Bose Computer MusicMonitors will do nicely. They're compact, good looking, well built and relatively portable -- if you don't mind toting the power brick around. But they are very expensive.