Yes, it probably is the best sound you'll get for that size, but that doesn't mean it sounds good, and that doesn't mean it's worth $400. The first thing I noticed was how much bass they try to shove down your ears. Then immediately afterward I noticed how bad the bass really was. Yes, there was some true bass to it, but that complicated a number of things. But first I'm going to complain about the sound of the bass.
Muddy. That's the word that comes to
mind while listening to the bass from these. The way they get it to be as powerful as it is for speakers of that size is with dual passive radiators inside a little slot going through the back of each speaker. It is a very interesting design and it does get results, and I do think it is a pretty smart way of getting bass out of these small speakers. But again, it doesn't sound good. And it makes room for a design flaw which I thought was pretty distinctive. Since there's only one driver and those passive radiators get their radiaton from that one driver, it means that not only do they extend the bass, but they mud up all
the mids as well. This is more noticeable at higher volumes, where the louder mids are also coming from the passive radiators. Of course, since they're still picking up bass that mixes the bass and mids quite a bit and of course, muds up them both. And to top it off, it's all coming from the same driver, so that driver is making both bass and mids to begin with, so it's already muddy by the time it gets to the passive radiators. They just finish the job.
So because of that, they lose a lot of their quality when you start to turn them up. But since the bass and mids come from the same driver to begin with (as I just said), they're always going to be mixing and mudding each other up. The highs weren't so bad though.
Now, they're also using some fancy chip inside the speaker (called a DSP chip or something) to make the bass and highs louder than the mids. What's wrong there? Well, anyone who doesn't know much about high end audio (basically the average consumer, which is all Bose targets) tends to notice bass and highs the most in a store system. So they did that to impress people who don't know much about real hifi. And it's working, since they do it in a lot of their systems and they always impress the average consumer.
But after all that I just said, I'm sure you already know what's wrong here. The bass is purposely overpowering the mids, and the overpowering bass was one of the first things I noticed. And after all that I explained, this only worsens the muddiness of the sound. I can't help but wonder if Bose wants to co
mpletely erase mids from the sound spectrum. Are they not good enough? Bah.
So after all that, what do they sound like overall? Well to sum it up, muddy bass, muddy mids, the mids and bass tend to "mix," and as a result of that mixing just causes the overall sound to mash up and sound bad. After all I've said though, I do like the design they're doing. Why though? Well imagine if they (or some right-minded audio company) did a three way design with these same types of passive radiators. That way they could separate the lows, mids, and highs, and they could give the passive radiators only to the lows. This way the bass can still be powerful and loud without screwing up everything. A larger bass driver wouldn't hurt, though.
Update: Here's a picture I drew the other day after bothering to finally install Photoshop.
Edit: I forgot to mention that I also tried the JBL Duet 2.0 speakers while I was there. They retail for $50 and I liked them much more. They weren't a whole lot bigger, but just about everything about them sounded better. Well played, JBL.