I have been researching speakers for my 5.1 surround setup for the past two weeks online (I have a Panasonic HTB that I paid very good money for about 7 years ago). My focus has been the front main speakers, so I was thinking along the lines of a floor speaker. My research drew me to Klipsch and Polk for top quality speakers at fairly good price points. I'm a value shopper, but this time around, I was willing to spend more for a quality component setup I expect to have for 5 or more years. As to listening preferences, I like my music to have crisp highs in the foreground, not buried and mumbling into the bass, and my bass to be slightly boomy but set in the background, where it belongs.
After long hours of online research I decided to just go out and listen to various brands of speakers at Best Buy. Week nights are a great time to do this, as the staff are more attentive and very accommadating to letting you play with the speaker selectors. And you can crank the volume without disturbing many shoppers.
I started out listening to the floor speakers in the "affordable" section. I listend to the Sony 3-Way SSF5000s, Polk TSI300s, TSI500s, and a set of a Klipsch Icon 2-Way VF-35 speakers. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Best Buy sample CD was filled with wretched heavy metal rock that just didn't do anything for me. But I listened anyway to form an objective opinion. The Polks seemed just okay, the Klipsch nice and crisp, as expected, and the dirt cheap Sony's didn't sound so bad either.
Then I went over to the bookshelf section just to play around, not expecting to find anything there, and that's where I met up with the Bose 201s. I listened to a pair of Klipsch Icon VB-15s, Polk OWM3s, Bose 201s and 301s. I was really amazed at the full range and crisp sound of the 201s and the sound dispersion was very good no matter what angle I was listening from. And they projected well even at low volume levels. The Polks were a very close second, but didn't seem to display the full range of sound the 201s have. And the Klipsch? Well, I just don't think they delivered that well. The Klipsch and 301s seemed a bit on the muddy side. You had to push the volume on both to get them to "sing", but even so, the highs were not well separated from the lows. And they did not project very well.
I decided to take the 201s home and hook them to my Panasonic 100 watt receiver, which also has a Klipsch Sub 12 hooked up (just bought the same evening as a great scratch and dent deal). For music, I have played Rush, Boston, orchestral and jazz. For movies, I have played Black Hawk Down (constant shooting action) and Perfect Storm. And I pushed the volume, looking for weak points. Let me tell you, I haven't found any. Whether the volume is low, medium or high, you will hear a crisp full range of audio from these speakers. They're a bit wide for a frontal setup, but they are attractive and I love the sound so much, that is where they will stay.
To sum it up, Bose was not even on my radar as a result of my online research. Many reviewers just seem to think they can't stand up to the likes of Polk, Klipsch and other relatively high priced brands. But, when I let my ears have their say, the story became very different. I still have a lot of respect for Polk and Klipsch (I love the Sub 12, it shakes the house if you want it to) and will likely incorporate one or the other into my remaining 5.1 setup.