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Bose at 50: Sounding Off for Half a Century

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 11/11/2014 Frank Markus

"NEVER LOSE YOUR IMAGINATION. ALWAYS DREAM OF THINGS THAT ARE BETTER AND THINK ABOUT WAYS TO REACH THOSE THINGS." – Dr. Amar G. Bose

Research

That's been the guiding principle of the Bose Corporation since its founding in 1964 by the recent MIT graduate engineer/inventor/entrepreneur. Bose and his two employees started off making money developing power-regulating systems for the military and other government agencies. They plowed the earnings into their passion: exploring acoustics and speaker design. In 1966 the company unveiled its first loudspeaker, the 2201. This strange-looking 1/8th-sphere-shaped speaker boasted amazing acoustical properties that represented a quantum leap past the competition, but its high price and poor marketing scuppered sales, nearly swamping the company.

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Fortunately Bose's second audio product was a hit, proving so successful that it is still in production 46 years later. Chances are good that you've listened to a 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker, which took the unusual approach of facing eight small speakers out the back of the enclosure and just one out the front so that most of the sound reflects off other surfaces before hitting your ear. Yes, you have to position it a little bit away from the wall, but the live-performance effect is worth it.

50 Years of Bose© Provided by MotorTrend 50 Years of Bose

1978

Dr. Bose boards a Swissair flight in Zurich and is initially thrilled to discover that electronic headphones have replaced the old pneumatic tube type. Soon he's dismayed by the amount of background noise competing with his movie soundtrack, and he wonders whether it might be possible to cancel the ambient cabin noise. By the time he lands in Boston eight hours later, he's roughed in the mathematics for what would become the Bose noise-cancelling headphone.

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1983

In the '80s heyday of the aftermarket stereo business, Bose strikes a handshake deal with General Motors to design the first custom speaker installation in a vehicle. Bose reckoned that in an automotive interior, with listeners positioned in one of four or five known locations inside a clearly defined "room" space, it ought to be possible to accurately replicate the experience of listening to a live performance. The 1983 Cadillac Seville that launched the branded audio market featured four speakers with analogue equalization and amplification onboard each speaker (tuned differently for cloth or leather interiors). Bose is still the No. 1 automotive supplier of branded-audio systems.

50 Years of Bose© Provided by MotorTrend 50 Years of Bose

1984

A decade of acoustic wave-guide research bears fruit in a boom-box-sized stereo that packs a full-size audiophile punch. The Acoustic Wave music system and subsequent Wave Radio and other spinoffs earned high praise and are also still in production.

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1987

The era of the giant furniture-size speakers ended with the accidental discovery that a bass module could be placed anywhere in a room without altering the stereo imaging. The Acoustimass 5 system of small cube speakers for the high and mid-range and an out-of-the-way bass unit revolutionized home hi-fi and is still in production.

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1991

Remember the whole "Cold Fusion" brouhaha? Bose assembles a team of physicists, chemists, and materials scientists to investigate this phenomenon. Their findings? A math error in the original scientist's results precisely accounted for the excess energy they were claiming to have generated.

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2004

Bose invites the automotive press to an unveiling of a suspension system the company has been secretly working on for 24 years. Dubbed Project Sound and mounted in a Lexus LS 400, it features electromagnetic rams capable of pushing a wheel down into a rut and pulling it back up out of it, promising an unprecedented level of active ride control. The demo vehicle wows the crowed by jumping over a 2-by-6 plank (a feature not intended for production).

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2009

Bose goes to work on a low-mass, high-efficiency sound system for use in Chevrolet's revolutionary Volt plug-in hybrid. The company is also readying active noise cancellation systems to erase the unpleasant harmonic vibrations of a V-8 engine running on four cylinders, enabling improved fuel economy at no cost to comfort in bigger trucks.

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2010

That Project Sound technology demoed on the Lexus has yet to hit production as a vehicle suspension, but a 1/5th-size spinoff, Bose Ride, comes to market as an electromagnetic seat suspension to greatly improve comfort and eliminate dangerous vibrations for long-haul truckers. Offered as an aftermarket seat or an optional factory fitment on Volvo trucks, the seat costs between $2,995 and $5,995 depending on the quantity ordered.

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2013

Dr. Amar Gopal Bose dies at age 83, having donated a majority of Bose’s non-voting shares to his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The dividends are used to further various education and research efforts, with much of the funding going to projects that are unattractive to typical venture capital investors—you know, like the projects Dr. Bose happily funded for decades before seeing any payoff. Happy birthday, Bose. The world eagerly awaits your next OMG invention. 50 Years of Bose© Provided by MotorTrend 50 Years of Bose

50 Years of Bose© Provided by MotorTrend 50 Years of Bose
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