Bose Companion 20 Review

Bose is well known for its premium built and premium priced speakers. Premium quality and price was never in doubt, but sound quality was always something that raised debates through internet community. Typical Bose sound was often described as bass rich and pleasing, but lacking in detail and artificial. Is Bose Companion 20 a speaker that not only looks good but also sounds good as well?? 

Bose Companion 20 is a set of premium desktop speakers for multimedia use. Because of their price, that is very close to what You have to pay for entry level studio monitors ( ca. 200-250 Euro per pair of studio monitors), I will test these speakers and compare them to slightly more expensive JBL LSR305 I own, to see how much performance Bose Companion 20 does have in its sleek cabinets.

Companion 20 is set of two speakers in stereo setup, with dimensions of  22cm high, 11cm deep, and 9cm width, so they are very compact. Right speaker have all the inputs and electronics inside and the left one is a box with just the driver that is powered from right speaker. Except for the back side, both speakers looks the same, with stylish metal grill covering the front and the rest of the box made from plastic. Both speakers are slightly tilted back for better sound projection, but as you will see that it is not tilted enough. Companion 20 looks great on desk next to a laptop and don't eat too much space.

Back side of right speaker we have four ports, 3.5mm signal input, input for Control Pod, power input from the external brick and signal output to the left speaker. Volume and power control is operated on classic Bose Control Pod. Control Pod is a fantastic way to control power and volume of the speakers, that is always in hands reach. It is also very well built, with metal case, smooth operating rubber volume control, and touch sensitive, metal top that is turning speakers on and off by a single tap. Below the volume wheel, you can see headphones output and aux input to connect external devices. Unfortunately, 3.5mm jack input on Control Pad, and the same input on right speaker are the only available ways to feed the signal to speakers. No wireless connection here. Another problem with wires is the amount of them coming out from right speaker and going in different directions. They create mess on desk that needs to be hidden somehow if you like your desk to look clean.

Bose Companion 20  use two small full range drivers, one in each cabinet, to create sound. Drivers are placed low on the front of cabinets and this has few implications on sound itself, but we will look at it later. Bose does not give any details about amps power rating nor driver size. To produce decent bass from such a small drivers and cabinets, Bose added bass ports on the back of each speaker. For the tests I connected Bose Companion 20 to my Matrix Mini-I DAC via RCA outputs.

So how does it sound?? 
On the first try Bose Companion 20 sound much bigger than they look. Bass is suprisingly full and big, and they sound spacious with big sound stage. 

Unfortunately, the more time I spent listening, the more obvious it was that they are not the most neutral and natural sounding speakers. First, low frequencies especially mid and upper bass regions, are hyped up to hide the fact that really low frequencies are missing. It was very pleasing at first, but with time, made bass response seem hyped, dull and lacking in initial kick. Different kick drums and bass guitars tend to sound similar.That is obviously due to small driver size. All added weight was a result of heavy reflex port use. Still, bass response is strongest features here that will attract many buyers, and that is totally fine for Youtube videos and some radio stream, making most of poor quality tracks sounding enjoyable.

Another feature that will attract buyers is spacious sound. They sound bigger than they look, with soundstage reaching out from speakers boundaries. But again after some more listening I noticed that something is wrong here. Soundstage is big, but flat and lacking in detail. Some of mid and high frequencies are hyped so they appear clean sounding, but real details are scarce. Midrange, overall, is recessed and boxy, and when I played them loud they start to sound hard and distorted. Snares tend to sound muted and cymbals lack air and reverb. Another problem with soundstage and midrange is a result of driver placement low at the front of speakers. Drivers are very close to desk surface, and that results in soundstage that I look down at, because its coming almost from desk level. Also, close placement of drivers to desk surface means a lot of sound bounce off desk surface before reaching our ears. It has bad effect of our sound perception, making sound appear uneven and weird. I can think of only one solution and that is rising speakers higher to ear level, but that is not something everyone will want to do.

As for the volume, Bose Companion 20 is able to play quite loud and fill small to medium size room with sound, but sound quality drops fast if you push them too hard, so don't expect to throw a party using them.

To sum up sound quality of Bose Companion 20, I would say they sound decent, but definitely not 250 Euro decent. It's more like 120 Euro decent. In no way they are bad speakers, they are just too expensive for their performance


My everyday desktop speakers, JBL LSR305, do not look anything near as good on desk as Bose. They are also much bigger and around 50 Euro more expensive. Also, the Control Pod is absent, making JBL difficult to adjust  the controls. But, the sound they produce is level, if not two levels, above what you get from Bose Companion 20. Let's start with bass. JBL has great bass, fast, detailed, never boomy, with good punch and no artificial boost. JBL can reach around 20hz lower than Bose thanks to bigger bass driver, stronger amplifier and bigger cabinet. JBL's bass most of the time is all I need in desktop environment. Midrange and heights are smooth, natural, neutral and three dimensional. Soundstage is also much bigger, more precise and more 3D in comparison to muddy 2D of Bose. You could also easily use JBL at a home party and they would make You proud. Bose Companion 20 sounds like a computer speakers playing some tunes, JBL sounds more like a music show happening on your desk. Bose also flattens the dynamics compared to JBL. On the flip side for Bose, it has less amp noise, which can be nice if you use them in dead silent enviroment.


Is Bose Companion 20 worth the money? In a word, NO. They are definitely overpriced and not very well equipped. So, if you don't mind the price, like Bose looks and brand esteem, and need speakers to look good on your desk, then go ahead. They will give you decent sound (just right for media consumption), good controls, nice design and good build quality. But, if you are serious about listening to music and enjoying it, and do not mind something bigger then there are plenty of better choices out there, and many of them will save you some money as well.  

                +good build quality
                +modern, clean look
                +compact size
                +convenient, high quality remote
                +big and spacious sound

                -overblown, boomy bass
                -rolled off, poor quality high frequencies
                -poor, manipulated midrange
                -scarce features 
                -heavily overpriced

Verdict: 5.5/10

Thanks for reading. If You have any questions, please feel free to ask via email or leave a comment.



Have a look and listen to my sound test of both Bose Companion 20 and JBL LSR305. Audio for this test was captured by Tascam DR-22WL recorder.