As most audiophiles will gladly inform you, speakers can make or break a perfectly good song, movie or even game. They will elaborate that a good speaker system must be able to handle the highs, mids and lows with ease. These standards are understandably lowered for computer speakers due to the mostly 'inferior' audio hardware found on the typical desktop but there are some demanding users who want the best even for their desktop speakers. The new, stylish Bose Companion 5 aims to do just that but will it be the "one" with the perfect sound?
Out of the box, the Companion 5 looks quite similar to its older sibling, the Companion 3. Both share a similar form factor - a black metal base with an extended spine and dimpled cone casings. Moreover, they are both 2.1 systems with a wired Control Pod - a circular gadget with a touch sensitive pad and a rubberized rotary dial used to mute or adjust the Companion's volume. The Companion 5 also carries the Acoustimass module and is augmented with the new TrueSpace surround digital processing circuitry that provides full 5.1-channel effects even with just two small speakers and a woofer.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Companion 5 is its ability to function without the need for a sound card. All one has to do is to connect the USB cable from the Acoustimass module to any PC, and let its internal decoders do the rest. Of course, if one prefers to utilize a sound card instead of the Companion's internal decoders, there is always the trusty 3.5mm stereo cable for instant hook-up. Additionally, the left and right speaker cables are color coded, preventing any mistakes during set-up. A Bass Compensation control can also be found but is located at the rear of the Acoustimass module, making it hard to reach and adjust, though that is only a minor grouse.
The best way to enjoy the Companion 5 is when the speakers are placed in relative close proximity in relation to the user (around 35 cm) and when the Acoustimass module is placed beneath a desk to give it plenty of enclosed air space to reverberate at the lower frequencies. Using the internal decoders of the Companion 5 (via the USB connection), we found the ambient surround effect to be impressive, as well as the panning sounds of moving objects during our movie test. Moreover, explosions, laser-fire effects, vocalized speech and in-game audio was adequately balanced when we played a first person shooter, Quake 4. In addition, the Companion 5 gave us warm and crystal clear sound as well as a bold mid-range and pristine bass during our XRCD2 and music file tests.
Despite all these, there were moments when we felt that the overall output sounded disorganized, particularly when these speakers are set to the lower volume range. This is probably due to the Acoustimass and TrueSpace circuitry which attempts to create a virtual surround impression but lacks the finer details. Nevertheless, this can easily be remedied as soon as a user turns up the volume and allow the music to fill up one's room.
The Bose Companion 5 is an alluring set of speakers that provides those highs, mids and lows that audiophiles look out for. And while it may be quite a chore to adjust the tweeters and Acoustimass to get the optimum listening experience, users will eventually succumb to its superior sound quality and fully enjoy this US$399 speaker system. The old adage of "you get what you pay for" certainly holds true in this case.