More Brilliant Boxes From Bose, But No Fifth Star.
I've spent quite a while agonising over this, but I reckon the five star rating should attach exclusively to things that I can unequivocally recommend, with no reservations whatsoever.
So, even though I am absolutely in awe of my marvellous Bose 251s, they've been robbed of that fifth star by the fact that the results they deliver are so heavily dependent on the acoustic profile of a given installation.
Now that's one characteristic that I feel the 251s share with the majority of Bose's "Lifestyle" equipment ...and to my mind, it's the one that best explains why there's a significant (if small) minority of disappointed purchasers who've subsequently become "Bose-bashers".
Putting it as politely as I can, I reckon that Bose are a bunch of oddballs. Audio animals who regularly answer questions that the rest of the industry wouldn't even dream of asking.
The question in this case being:
I don't give a stuff about audiophile-accurate imaging, but I love relaxing outdoors by dining/socialising/partying/entertaining with music. I'm also fed up with having to drag gear outside and pack it away again afterwards. How the heck can I have a permanent (but easy to install) weather-resistant set-up that'll reliably spread an impressive and even sound exactly where I need it?
The Bose 251s are definitely the answer, but here's another question:
Why do some people report such poor results from them?
Before I address that, ...if you're a so-called "audiophile" who enjoys nothing better than the detailed analysis of response graphs, polar diagrams and specifications, get off this page right now.
There's simply no way that you'll ever have, or ever be invited to, the enjoyable occasions that prompted those fabulous freaks at Bose to come up with these amazing speakers.
...Right. ...So, ...where was I?
The 251s (along with most of the "audio radiators" in Bose's "Lifestyle" range) are designed with a view to converting adjacent boundaries (known to us "normal" folk as "walls, floors, ceilings and eaves") from being "audio enemies" to being "audio assistants".
In other words, they effectively incorporate those hard reflective surfaces into their acoustic design, which is why Bose's "oddball" cabinets radiate via apertures, wave-guiding slots, tubes, vents and ports in ways and directions unmatched by most other manufacturers.
Even the overall profile, including fixtures and fittings, gets used to "bend" sound waves by different amounts at different frequencies, (using the physics of "diffraction") with everything having been designed to "come to the aid of the party".
So a "free standing" pair of 251s will seem to have much less bass than a pair mounted on a wall, with the maximum bass being evident from a pair that's in corners with hard surfaces on three sides.
Being Bose, they've "tuned" the 251 system to sound "flattest" or "most normal" in its most common (and very often, most practical) placement, which (not at all coincidentally) is the one shown in most of their publicity shots, up in the "two-boundary" corners formed by the eaves with the wall.
While Bose's beautifully realised hardware allows the inversion of the enclosures, brackets and badges for the free-standing and secure location of a pair on a rail, that location will (as I've already mentioned) undoubtedly yield the "thinnest" sound, however that "thinness" is in the exact region that's most easy to fix with some boost via the "Bass" control (typically centred on 100 Hz) of most amplifiers and receivers.
This is where attempts by others to make cheaper "copies" of this design have come unstuck.
Although still light, the 251s surprise with a weight that's far heavier than they look. Most of that is magnets and the speaker chassis that support them. Some of it is dense damping material that's literally stuffed into the enclosure.
That weight, along with the carefully crafted resonance controls Bose have built into both cones and cabinets, allows the 251s to accept and deliver levels of boosted bass that elicit distorted and garbled garbage from the cheaper "knock offs".
Sure, automated assembly in Mexico must yield a great profit margin ...and yes, the Bose 251s are not for pampered purists...
A) Nobody gives a stuff about parties for pampered purists and
B) Surely anyone that's expended so much research effort for the sake of our "real world" entertainment must be entitled to raise some cash for their own party.
(I wonder if this review will be enough to get me my first-ever invitation from the party animals at Bose? ...And ...if it does, would it be the sort of party that's safe to attend?)
Great mounting hardware and plain instructions make for a great outdoor installation that'll last for years. Choice of white or black finish in an already unobtrusive and elegant design.
Requires pre-planned placement to achieve the best sound.
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