I did extensive research before purchasing the Bose Cinemate GS II Series; but before I start my review I have a quick comparison to share by comparing a $300 panasonic system to the Bose Cinemate GS II: I previously owned a panasonic 2.1 system with built in up-convert DVD player which recently broke (lasted about a year). Sound quality on the Bose Cinemate GS II is markedly better than the panasonic system! Plus my audio system is not tied to a standard DVD player. I should have bought this first–instead of being $300 behind the curve than if I just bought the Cinemate GS II to begin with. Just though I should share that in case you are trying to justify the cost.
REVIEW–Info I discovered during my research and since owning for 3 months: I listened to the Cinemate II and the Cinemate GS II side by side in the store, both using the Toslink (digital optical audio) connection and also with the Component (analog audio) connection while watching an action scene from Kung Fu Panda in both BluRay and regular DVD. To me, the Cinemate GS II’s sound was clearer and also sharper (crisper highs and clearer mids like with voices). The Cinemate II sounded great too (a lot better than the panasonic), but the sounds tended to be more muddled in the mid-to-high range (as compared to the the Cinemate GS II). But for $200 less and if your ears don’t mind the difference (or can’t tell the difference) then the Cinemate II is the better bargain. Also, the Cinemate GS II has the universal remote, but I don’t use it ( I use a logitech Harmony Universal Remote). The Cinemate II remote has volume up/down, mute, and power on/off. The Cinemate GS II remote has quite a bit of features (a lot actually), and it feels good in your hand; but if you really want one, they are available from Bose for $30.95.
Other good to know info: You can connect both the Toslink and Component audio into the interface module at the same time. The interface module will automatically default to component audio unless there is an active Toslink connection (an active Toslink connection will always override the component audio). What does this mean? I have my DishNetwork receiver connected to the interface module via the component connection for watching TV–this is how I normally use the Bose Cinemate GS II (sounds great by the way). I then have my BlueRay player connected to the interface module via the Toslink connection. When I want to watch a movie, all I have to do is power on the Blueray player and the Bose Cinemate GS II will automatically use the Toslink connection (overrides the component audio). When I am done watching a movie, I power off the Blueray player and the Cinemate GS II automatically switches back to my TV audio. Of course the Toslink audio is the better of the two, but with only two connections available I had to compromise (plus my TV has no Toslink out–which would have been the preferred solution). The interface module works exactly the same whether you have the Cinemate II or the Cinemate GS II. Also, there is a Bass adjustment knob on the Acoustimass module, so you can turn it up or down to your preference. Sorry there are no other manual adjustments that you can do to the Bose Cinemate GS II.
Room filling sound: I have the Bose Cinemate GS II in my living room which is pretty big and it opens directly into the kitchen; total size is 20×60. Despite the room size, and even at a pretty low volume, I can easily understand a TV shows conversations because of the crisp and precise audio reproduction. I use to watch with closed captioning (so the TV can volume can stay at a normal level), but now I have turned closed captioning off.
Even at max volume (watching GI Joe), it was very very loud and the whole house was shaking, but the system did not distort at all–in almost disbelief it seemed to sound even better and clearer. I think that is attributed to the Bose TrueSpace technology which is used to covert 5.1 audio into a 2.1 system; the louder it got, I guess, the more the TrueSpace seemed to kick in.
Despite my acclaim for this system it is pricey; but, it sounds great, it was very easy to setup and it has the Bose 5 year limited warranty on the speakers. However, no matter how much a 2.1 system is touted as a possible replacement for a 5.1 or even a 7.1 system, in my opinion there are no 2.1 systems that can truly replace a 5.1 or 7.1 system. But if you don’t like running wires and want a minimalist system with superb sound then I strongly recommend the Bose Cinemate GS II; or if budget minded, or can’t discern the audio difference, then the Bose Cinemate II is a solid 2nd choice.