Your right, I did very little research when buying the Cinemate outside of seeing some reviews on Amazon and Circuit City where it received favorable marks. Normally I would do more research, but it was kind of an impulse buy and I knew I had 30 days to return it for a full refund.
That being said, I hooked up my new setup last night:
- Onkyo TX-SR304S receiver
- Polk M10 speakers
- Sony SA-WM250 8" 100watt powered subwoofer
I was able to hide the sub and wiring quite nicely, so it is a nice clean look. I wish the Polk M10's were a little smaller, but I got the whole setup for a great deal and saved quite a bit of money over the Bose. I am working a deal with a friend for some RBH MC4 speakers which will be an improvement over the Polk's (and are much smaller).
Let me say for the record that I am not a fan of Sony at all and usually stay far away from their audio products, but having listened to subwoofers that cost $50-150 more, I could not justify paying more when the Sony sub was on an awesome sale and suited my needs. It sounds as good if not better than the Polk sub that I have downstairs which was priced over $100 more (I know, Polk is not known for their subs but I got it free when I bought some high-end Polk speakers for my HT).
That said, I hooked everything up and cranked up XMen 3 in my DVD player. WOW! This little system really rocks! It has much more depth and bass than the Bose, and everything was a snap to hook-up since I used digital optical for everything but the subwoofer. The Onkyo TX-SR304 is a great receiver (it can be had for around $119 shipped at shoponkyo online). This receiver is perfect for a smaller room or apartment or for folks on a budget and has plenty of input options.
The Polk M10's are crystal clear and, while they lack the bass of some other bookshelf speakers, they really shine when coupled with a subwoofer. I would be a little leary of using these speakers as fronts without a subwoofer. My wife commented as to how much better the sound was at low to mid volume than the Bose Cinemate. With the Bose we had a hard time hearing conversations in shows or movies without really cranking up the volume. I immediately noticed the difference with the newer system as soon as we started watching TV.
The lack of digital input options on the Bose (unless you live in Japan, the Cinemate in Japan has a digital optical input) is really frustrating, and the fact that there are no sperate audio controls make no sense on a system that costs $500.
So far, I am very happy with my purchase. This is a sub $300 system which is going to sound much better than most HTIB options and will allow for flexibility in the future.