A tribute to Dr. Bose

Dr. Amar G. Bose, the founder of Bose Corporation passed away last week at the age of 83 years. And here is a tribute to the man who will be fondly remembered as an inventor and teacher.

imagesBose is indeed one of the most respected audio brands in the world; you will observe the iconic Bose speaker at airports, stadiums, malls, hotels, convention centers, and numerous institutions around the world. Bose is a name that every self-respecting home audio enthusiast would like to associate with. In my college years, I dreamt of owning a pair of Bose speakers; since I couldn’t afford these, I’d put Bose stickers on my home made units! Bose systems were expensive and exclusively for the affluent or the professional. And understandably so. Dr. Amar Bose was spending millions on research, and much of it was self-funded (till today, the company staunchly refuses to go public). However, much has changed in recent years — Bose music systems and headphones are more affordable than ever, and within reach of every consumer. You could get a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones in India for as little as Rs 8,000 (plus taxes), and a Bose music system with an built-in iPod dock for Rs 15,000 (plus taxes). That’s considerably low compared to the earlier Bose 901 series, which today sells on eBay for $1,398 a pair.

Applying scientific principles and investing heavily in research along the years, Bose proved that “big sound” need not necessarily come from “big systems”. Bose sold the popular 901 Series direct reflecting speakers in the early seventies. These speakers had multiple drivers (cones) facing in all directions. Another model (the 2201) had 22 small mid-range omni-directional drivers. Some drivers were carefully mounted to face backwards, to throw the sound back into the wall — so that sound was reflected of wall surfaces and projected forward. With this direct reflecting technique you could get big sound, even in a small room! No speaker manufacturer had tried this before.

The Bose Wave Systems were hugely popular in the 80s and 90s. The unit offered big sound from a small package and was far more than a bedside clock-radio set. If you were to rip open one of these units you’d see a maze of air-filled pipes that essential magnify the sound. Bose Wave Systems are still sold today and have a CD player or a multiple CD changer unit.

And who can forget the Bose AcoustiMass speakers that brought home theatre sound into the home. With a compact bass module that could be hidden away, and a set of small cube or satellite speakers, Bose again proved that big sound can also come from small packages.

Later Bose came out with portable music systems such as the L1 that was popular with DJs. And today we have Bose SoundLink, Bluetooth enabled speakers and the Bose SoundDock for consumers.

Bose also made pioneering technology for car stereos. Some may recall the launch of a Bose stereo system at the 2007 auto show in Geneva. The new Bose system offered stereo sound, navigation and hands-free calling. And this system later won a Telematics Award for the “Best Storage Solution for In-Car Environment. This equipment is standard on premium automobile brands and models.

Active noise cancelling headphones are now popular with air travelers. Many commercial airlines provide Bose headsets in business class. But these special headsets were first used by airplane pilots, space shuttle pilots and the military. The battery powered headsets generate a signal that is a mirror image of the ambient noise — think of it as a counter signal to neutralize the effect of outside sounds. So the listener hears only the music or just silence.

But Dr. Bose also wanted to apply his knowledge to other areas, besides sound. For instance, the automotive division at Bose Corporation used scientific principles to create a Suspension System for automobiles. You can see a demo of this system on YouTube.

Dr. Bose was not just an inventor. He has long been associated with the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), where he has been teaching for the past 45 years. Many of his students swear that Dr. Bose was one of the best teachers they ever had.

And you may have read in recent news reports that Dr. Bose donated a majority of the company’s non-voting shares to MIT.

The world will remember Dr. Amar G. Bose as an inventor who created high quality solutions that let us fully appreciated our music or sound. In that sense, Dr. Bose created something special for us, much like famous inventors and scientists such as Thomas Edison, Wright Brothers, James Watt and Graham Bell.

Thank you Dr. Bose.


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