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Audio mourns its most famous household name

Amar G Bose died on Friday, aged 83.

The son of a Bengali liberation activist and a Philadelphia schoolteacher, Bose started out repairing electronic devices and went on to invent them. As an assistant professor at MIT in the mid-1950s, he bought a high-end hi-fi and found it unfit for purpose.

He put his mind to improving stereo speakers and home hi-fi, keeping his company stubbornly private and winding up one of the wealthiest men in audio, with a fortune estimated at over a billion dollars. Most of the company’s non-voting shares he donated to MIT, on condition that they may never be sold.

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Comments

  1. John Hames says:

    I’m sorry to hear that. I knew it was an Indian name, of course, but had never been sufficiently curious to look him up. Bose products always seemed high-quality, if a bit eccentric, but I did once receive as a present their portable cd player, and I must say it was rubbish! Appalling sound quality. I tried it through hi-end Sennheisers, and even they gave up the ghost!

  2. Bill Dodd says:

    He was a heck of a promoter, but his stuff was smoke and mirrors. Like the old audtiophile’s phrase says, “got no highs, got no lows, must be Bose!” Still, he increased the awareness of the search for good sound, and for that gets a big Thanks! from me.

  3. The Bose family in India is known for its top quality scientists. I don’t know if Amar Bose was a member, but Satyendra Nath Bose was a very famous physicist and collaborator wit h Einstein (Bose-Einstein Statistics; Bose Condensate) and another relative Subramanian Chandrasekhar was the astrophysicist who discovered the existence of Blac Holes.

  4. I’m no audio expert but I’ve been pretty pleased with my various Bose products (wave radio, i-pod dock, stereo speakers). He definitely made Bose a major, distinctive brand in the world of audio; whether that’s just marketing or great engineering I’ll leave for others to discuss.

  5. PK Miller says:

    My mom had a Bose radio–my sister had gotten it as a gift and gave it to my mom. We donated it to the nursing home after mom died. She always loved it. Bose himself & his, perhaps, most tireless promoter in the US, commentator Paul Harvey (The REST of the Story) probably had a big embrace when Bose got to heaven! :) I have always felt I get better fidelity from my 3 $40 RCA “Boom Boxes” than mom did with her Bose but that’s very subjective!

  6. I’m very happy with my Bose Wave radio & cd player, I find the sound excellent considering how small the machine is, ideal anyway for the small 15m2 room that I live in !

  7. More compact than a 1960s radiogram but, to my ears, that’s about it.

  8. andreas pavel says:

    in february 1971 I bought a pair o Bose 901 speakers in New York and hang them on the arch-shaped ceiling of my studio in my mother’s concrete house in Sao Paulo – that environment and their exact positioning in it produced such spectacular results that the place became a mecca for music lovers – without which “we could not live anymore”; a condition that gave lieu to the conception of personal stereo (which later made the fortunes of both Sony and Apple). The 901 ingeniously got rid ofcross-overs, and the turbulences generated by them, by replacing the usual big woofer with 9 middle-range speakers and directed 8 of these towards the walls. Conventional audio freaks would complain about the missing last little bit of high range tweeter sound and pin point spatial definition, but the overall experience dwarfed anything else that was around. Years later that same environment again surprised all of us with the first Bose Acoustimass speakers, again on condition of a very precise positioning – in particular of the woofer at the center of the stage. Never mind about all the marketing fanfare and less than product quality of later years – thank you Amar: without you, I would have had a very different life!
    Andreas Pavel

  9. andreas pavel says:

    correction:

    ….and less than o p t i m a l product quality….

    note:

    the author is generally considered to be the originator of personal stereo – see N. Y. Times from December 17th 2005

  10. Rich in CA says:

    Little has been mentioned so far about Dr. Bose as a serial litigator, suing any and all publications that said anything critical about his products. His repeated lawsuits and endless appeals over Consumer Reports’ criticisms of the 901 speakers (“20-foot piano in the room”) brought the independent U.S.magazine to the brink of financial ruin before the lengthy process ended in a settlement. He did not hesitate to pull advertisements or move to a competing publication when he didn’t like a particular review. Look around and you won’t see many in-depth technical bench tests of Bose products these days. Consumer and high-tech magazines give the brand a wide berth.

  11. “Conventional audio freaks would complain about the missing last little bit of high range tweeter sound and pin point spatial definition, but the overall experience dwarfed anything else that was around.”

    I think a 20ft wide violin is considerably less than “pin point spatial definition”. Not sure what it was about the “overall experience” that “dwarfed anything else that was around” or the “spectacular results that the place became a mecca for music lovers”. Those are big statements in view of the sound offered by Spendors, KEFs, B&Ws and the various electrostatic designs. If they were that good, they’d be used as classical monitors instead of B&W 801s.

    And lastly, I’d say that a frequency range dropping off at 13.3kHz is a lot less than “last little bit of high range tweeter sound”. I’d say it’s completely absent.

    Each to his own, I suppose.

  12. andreas pavel says:

    Dear Barry – I never heard a violin of that size from my Bose 901s, even though I would of course be highly interested to her such an extraordinary instrument. How did you assess the size of that 20 feet violin (which is larger than two gran codas on a row) – with a measuring tape? Also, a drop off starting at 13,3 KHz is not very meaningful if we don’t know how many dbs are lost per octave – so what do we have at 26,6 KHz (which are imperceptible anyway)? Most adults hear little or nothing beyond 15 or 16 KHz anyway. Still, we get uncomfortable when we learn that some audio reproduction device doesn’t reach the standard 20 KHz and quite happy to learn that a frequency range of up to 24 KHz is available. I am no exception to that – but then, I also make use of homeopathic medicine… There are many scientific studies of placebo medicine; and of placebo audio, too: double blind tests of highly diluted substances and/or hifi cables, loudspeaker feet, etc. Academic acousticians smile about esoteric audio as much as their medical counterparts when it comes to esoteric medicine. As far as I am concerned, this doesn’t take the fun from it, but I keep away from ideological wars.
    Having said that, a drop off at 13,3 KHz is of course not esoteric, and the same applies to widely overblown images that have little more than left, right, and center positions. Indeed your kind of objection to the Bose 901 sound has been made countless times and is actually quite right. But it is quite wrong, too! – if these parameters are the basis for a conclusive overall evaluation. First of all, different listening rooms – which are by far the most important element in a reproduction chain – will produce wildly different results with the Bose 901, and the same applies to even minor changes in their positioning. But if you are lucky enough to get the perfect position in the perfect setting (as I was), the rewards can be overwhelming. Yes, some instruments may seem somewhat larger than lide (though certainly not a full orchestra or a church organ or a rock band) – but who cares, if their physical presence is truly involving and palpable beyond belief! At least, you are not chained to the sweet spot of a single listener, with those drastic changes in frequency response and imaging arising from even minor movements of your head. And by the way, do your B&Ws or other high class loudspeakers (which I value very highly!) reproduce a full sized symphonic orchestra in your living room? I doubt it.
    What is high fidelity anyway? Fidelity to what? To the original presentation, in a totally different room? This would require a very demanding simulation project, with a specially designed listening room and expensive arrays of wave field synthesis loudspeakers. Nothing for the usual stereo freak. Blumlein’s invention of stereo was purely pragmatic, somewhat akin to the invention of aspirin (for a long time nobody new how it worked); and it is a miracle that it works at all.
    Of course, there is a different solution: use the best Stax electrostatic headphones you can get (they easily beat electrostatic loudspeakers), drive them by a specially designed equalizing amplifier that compensates for the transfer function of the headphone/ear system, and feed the signals from sound events recorded with a dummy head microphones into them (preferably having ears not unlike your own). Now you are really close to an accurate, high fidelity, reproduction of the original sound event. Compared to that, conventional stereo is little more than clever improvising.
    For each his own? Am I right to perceive a dismissive reference to those “who can live with lesser quality”? When it comes to loudspeakers, I would like to propose a more ecumenic approach; I have known a great number of wonderful loudspeakers in my life that sounded completely different from each other. And that is actually the fun of it – if you are looking for “the truth”, you won’t find it anyway. Or not in the field of so-called high fidelity.
    Early friends of the Bose 901s don’t have an easy life in today’s hifi environment; so at least I will try to improve my standing by mentioning the remaining components of my early system: Stanton 681EEE cartridge, mounted in the marvelous Rabco SL-E8 a tangential tracking arm, Thorens 124 turntable, MacIntosh preamp, Phase Linear amp.

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