Personal opinions are marketing research. That is what it is all about.
I grew up relatively poor. Our stereos tended to be cast offs of my uncle, neighbor, or whatever. So although I was born in 1984 I got to experience older stereos. Now we call them vintage, then they called them junk.
Remember that the acoustic wave radio by Bose was released in 1984. It was brilliant in that it used tiny and cheap drivers and components set up to allow it to sound like a larger system. When it appeared beside your average Sony cassette boombox it couldn't help but sound great in comparison. It also was marketed as a fashion accessory for your home. Your average stereo back then was either a compact boombox with detachable speakers or an old wood covered 1970's monstrosity. I had a couple of hand me down 1980's early 1990's systems. The Bose system was sleek and ultra modern in comparison.
Back then audiophiles were using huge set ups with tower speakers and vinyl turntables. The quality was far higher from the true high end stuff. My brother, as a teenager, had a hand-me-down (from my uncle) vintage pioneer receiver with the separate cassette deck, and separate CD player could have easily blown away any Bose product. But the tower speakers were 4 foot tall, the receiver two feet wide by six inches tall and about 16 inches deep, and the sources similar in size. The system probably took up 30 cubic feet of space, even his dumpster-dived and self repair 27" 70's vintage wood cabinet TV took up about 12 cubic feet. But in comparison the wave system could sound better than most compact systems of the time and only took up less than a couple cubic feet.
Are they overpriced? Yes. They were also pretty decent back then, and by the early 1990's they had marketed themselves into a niche of high-ish end compact stereos. Then they leveraged that reputation really well. That is why they keep managing to charge a premium to the less educated audio consumers.
Beats is their main competitor in the high profile consumer headphone market. Some of the vintage Bose bookshelf speakers actually were near audiophile, just nothing recent.
Edited by cheapfi - 10/29/12 at 8:17am