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Bose PA System gets Key Buy Award

Ben One

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In the December 2004 issue of Keyboard, Ken Hughes reviews the Bose PS1, L1 & B1 personal amplification system. His review is quite a positive one, and addresses the dubious reactions that many of us had when first hearing the system.


Because of that review, I'm seriously considering them as my next major gear purchase in 2005 (or maybe '06--see my postscript below!). Of course, I'll want to hear them first, but the review really tipped the scales for me.


I've read the extensive, very helpful, and realistic discussions about the Bose system in the MusicPlayer forums, and those threads helped me evaluate Ken's review in an informed fashion.


Maybe the point of my post is this: I can't fully explain it, but there's something about a Keyboard Magazine review that I trust. They have top-notch reviewers. Granted, the reviewers generally seem to make a conscious effort to stress the positive about the products that they review, but they really seem to be honest.




PS My musical New Year's resolution for 2005: to make use of the toys that I purchased in 2004!

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Originally posted by bearded yeti:

Just what is the criteria for a product to get a "Key Buy" award, anyway?

That's a good question. Maybe someone else out there can explain the Key Buy award in more formal terms, but every Keyboard Magazine reviewer is given the authority to grant the Key Buy award to the product that he or she is reviewing--I don't believe they have to get consensus agreement from the editorial staff or the editor-in-chief.


Often, when rewarding a Key Buy, reviewers cite value, innovation, quality, or a combination thereof. Also, I get the impression that the product cannot have any significant flaws for it to receive a Key Buy.


Even though granting a Key Buy seems to be the decision of just one person, the reviewer, and there are quite a few of them awarded, as you correctly point out, somehow I still trust them, because of the generally high quality of the reviewers.



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I like the idea of the Key Buy award anyway: recognizing and rewarding innovation and value. Somebody needs to do it and Keyboard is about as credible as anyone.


But I'm a little dismayed they brushed aside the fact that the PAS is a mono amplification system, unless you buy two towers. It was the Bose PAS system which kicked off a stirring web debate about whether digital pianos with stereo samples suffer from phase cancellation when being summed to mono. Even Bose's audio engineers got involved in the discussion but I don't think anything definitive came out of it. It may be valid or it may just be a myth but I'd like to see the subject looked into.


Also, nothing was said about the price of the Bose PAS system in the Keyboard review. It's very pricey. I remember a KeyBuy award being given to the Motion Sound KP-200s keyboard amp and you could buy three of them for one of the PAS outfits.


None the less I'm sure Bose deserves their kudos for their innovative system. I hope it inspires competition among other audio manufacturers.

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Maybe someone else out there can explain the Key Buy award in more formal terms, but every Keyboard Magazine reviewer is given the authority to grant the Key Buy award to the product that he or she is reviewing--I don't believe they have to get consensus agreement from the editorial staff or the editor-in-chie
Actually, that is not the case. Individual reviewers do nominate products for the Key Buy award, but what (if anything) gets one in a given issue is indeed the product of editorial consensus.


The standing criteria have always been either something being "first in class" (price aside), doing something unique and musically useful that nothing else does, or having the best bang-for-buck ratio out of all similar products. Being pricey doesn't necessarily disqualify something, but if it is expensive, it has to be reeeeeally good at what it does.


The Bose system sounds remarkable... I heard the unit that was reviewed. As for needing two to run in stereo, this is also the case if you buy active speakers like Mackies or JBL Eons, passive speakers, or an integrated keyboard amp like a Barbetta or Roland KC. I guess some of the Motion Sound stereo amps would be an exception, but not much else.


Oh, and Ben, thanks for the kind words. :thu: They're much appreciated.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine


Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse



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I was one who posted a fairly negative review after using the Bose PAS for several weeks. On one hand I'm pleased to find the the Keyboard reviewers came to a similar conclusion as I did, i.e. when set to FLAT these speakers are anything but flat.


Keyboard's (sonic) conclusions were based on listening to iPod tracks and Ivory playback. I tried CD stereo tracks, real Rhodes, real Clav, bass guitar, vocals, electronic kick, miced kick, Kurzweil PC2R, S90, VL-1, and numerous soft synths. In most cases I had direct compare with Mackie 450s. Plus I am initmately familiar with how each of the above sounds through other speakers that I own. What I found extremely troubling is that I could get certain things to sound good with EQ and others I could never get to sound good at all--especially kicks and bass guitar which just sounded weird.


I don't accept that you can simply EQ your way out of the sonic problems with the PAS. The EQ approach might work for singers and guitarists, etc. who are sending them a fairly basic, unchanged source all night. But electronic keyboard players might use a clav with horns one song, piano the next followed by a low bass synth.


Any crap speaker can have balanced bass and highs if you EQ the s#$@ out of them, but you shouldn't have to do that. These are $2,000 ($4,000/pair) speakers. They should sound great out of the box...on everything...but they don't.


Bose encourages you to try out the PAS. Do it. Draw your own conclusions based on your music and setup.



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Thanks for all these great replies--I will definitely try the speakers out before deciding to buy them in the next year.


What's good about Keyboard reviews is that even though reviewers generally employ a very positive tone, you can easily figure out the issues with a particular product.


For example, despite Ken Hughes's very sunny approach, he made it very obvious that the sound in his particular tests was often unsatisfactory until he altered the EQ settings. And of course he did point out the mono nature of the Bose tower.


These are important considerations--is it easy to change EQ from song to song or even patch to patch? In the end, I'm sure I'll want stereo output eventually, so I need figure out if I want to spend a lot of money to get a second tower someday, or if I should go with a less expensive alternative for stereo amplification altogether.


Anyway, thanks again.


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