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Dr. Amar Bose, R.I.P

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Regardless of what "audiophiles" may have thought about his products, Bose did more than just about any company to bring the concept of good audio to the mainstream market. They had a profound impact on the market.

People should understand that Bose is not a "marketing" company that can't do real engineering. Not at all. They didn't make the 301 because they were incapable of engineering a high end bookshelf monitor. They make their products intentionally, to serve the needs of their customers. The 301 is meticulously engineered, incredibly consistent from unit to unit, and it performs exactly the way they intend, as do all their products.

They have, in the last 25 years (since the AM-5 and the Radio), made a very conscious decision to eschew the so-called "audiophiles" market and decided to deliver quality sound to the mass market.

Hats off to them and their amazing achievements. The Radio, their Lifestyle systems, their headphones and soundbars, all terrific examples of precise engineering, quality manufacturing, and a keen knowledge of their market.

They may not satisfy the audiophile or the Classic collector, but the person who buys a Bose product is getting a high quality item that fulfills it's design goals perfectly.

Oh, and they make a profit while doing it. That's what they're supposed to do.

Amar may not have invented the dome tweeter, but he was an amazing man.

Steve F.

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Steve F,

That is a great synopsis of the Bose philosophy and contribution to audio! As much as I love AR and Edgar Villchur's contribution to high-fidelity sound reproduction, I think that Amar Bose's contributions are equally important, and far more lasting. There was a similarity between Amar Bose and Edgar Villchur: both were great teachers, writers and businessmen; both were inventors. Bose's legacy was probably greater in that he paved the way for his company to prosper for many years in the future after his death.

Noteworthy was Bose's intent to make the company private and not be responsible to stockholders. Bose also wanted profits reinvested in research and development, and few companies in the world have the capability of doing this sort of thing. By being private, Bose could devote money to the development of things he thought were important (noise-cancelling earphones and that sort of thing), but that stockholders in the company might rebuff.

To insure the long-term policies and private ownership, Bose shrewdly donated the majority of company stock to MIT with no voting rights and the stipulation that the stock could never be sold. From this, MIT gets a great income for the school, and Bose Corporation remains private without much likelihood (or possibility) of ever going public.

Bose had revenues of over $2 Billion in 2011, and the company has been tremendously successful, as literally dozens of audio companies drop by the wayside each year.

Tom Tyson

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There was a similarity between Amar Bose and Edgar Villchur: both were great teachers, writers and businessmen; both were inventors

Tom, you may be right but it seems to me Vilchur was all those things but NOT a great businessman. Bose succeeded where Vilchur failed. Had AR had Bose's business acumen it may have survived!

I remember listening to the Bose 901s in the late '60s when I was in college and could not afford them. I thought they were the most impressive speakers I'd ever heard! And I can tell you the absolute best car stereo I ever owned was the Bose system in my 2000 Audi. Far superior to the "premium" HK system in the Subaru that replaced it, or the JBL system in my wife's Toyota! (But I still say my KLH Model Eight sounds much better than the Bose Wave).

Dr. Bose has certainly earned a place in the audio pantheon.

Kent

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In fairness to Villchur, I think his early-on "soft, easy" approach was probably fine with their customer base at that time. The amazing customer service, the incredible, totally believable tech-savvy ads, all of that was new to hi-fi marketing at the time. It helped AR grow their business very nicely between 1954 and 1967.

It's my impression that most of AR's business failings came in the late-60's/early-70's, in the face of new competition (Advent, EPI, JBL, etc.) and an exploding college-aged youth stereo market, a big shift away from the typical suburban, home owner, "middle-aged GE engineer" customer of 1962.

AR clearly failed to adapt their products, advertising and dealer sales policies to this new reality, as I have documented ad naseum here several times.

Who was primarily to 'blame' for the late-60's/early-70's failure? Villchur was gone by then, I believe, so let's assign the 'blame' somewhere else.

Bose never suffered such shortcomings, hence their long-term success.

Steve F.

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Tom, you may be right but it seems to me Vilchur was all those things but NOT a great businessman. Bose succeeded where Vilchur failed. Had AR had Bose's business acumen it may have survived!

Kent

Kent,

Villchur did turn out to be an excellent businessman in the sense that he brought in people who were very bright, very educated (and unassociated with high fidelity) interested in doing all the right stuff. About half of the "corporate" staff were PhDs from different walks of life, mainly music and education -- none in business management, per se, or physics or electrical engineering. Villchur picked these men because he knew them well, trusted them explicitly and allowed them to perform their work at the company unfettered. For example, he had Abe Hoffman as controller, and Abe was an astute CPA and got the company back on steady financial ground after Kloss, Low and Hofmann departed in 1957. By this time, the company was in a mess, but it was quickly fixed. Bringing on marketing director Jerry Landau (father of Jon Landau, manager for Bruce Springsteen) did a great deal to improve distribution, dealer relations, etc. Roy Allison was added in 1959, and it goes without saying the fine contribution Allison made to the company. Villchur's excellent designs, of course, were the major component in AR's success, but the advertising, customer support and other things were very important as well. AR chose its employees carefully, rewarded them better than about any company in the industry, and got tremendous employee loyalty and productivity from the group. In the late 50s, when business would ebb and flow with the seasons, Villchur had plant employees painting the building, doing repairs and so forth rather than having to give pink slips or layoff notices. This brought a huge payoff in the quality of workmanship he got from nearly all employees.

So Villchur was indeed a good businessman; not in the sense of longevity and long-term prosperity for the company as with Amar Bose, but nevertheless Villchur had to be considered a good (if perhaps in a very different way) businessman during the years he ran Acoustic Research.

--Tom Tyson

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Michael Fremer reveals himself once again as a blithering idiot.

http://www.analogplanet.com/content/dr-amar-bose-dead-83

He couldn’t even get his facts straight. He said 901 was comprised of nine 5” midrange drivers. In fact they were 4” and today we’d call them acoustic suspension midwoofers. They each had a rated capacity of 30 watts RMS. KLH Model 6’s woofer was only rated at 40 watts. Bose developed many innovations including precision active equalization to exploit the linear falloff below resonance of an acoustic suspension speaker system, designed an enclosure that eliminated internal standing waves, and designing a speaker that’s specifically intended to exploit the acoustics of a listening room instead of fighting them, possibly still the only one that does. His products were also built to the highest standards and he had an extremely generous service policy. His 1801 high powered amplifier was virtually bullet proof when some others were constantly blowing up. He made a great deal of money because a lot of people liked what he sold and were willing to pay the price. That they weren’t all audiophiles or his products targeted at audiophiles hardly matters, he saw a market need and he met it. His noise cancelling headphones are the best I’ve ever tried. He started from nothing and built a privately owned $2 billion a year company.

It took me two tries, the second lasting 4 years to redesign Bose 901 to my satisfaction. No compromises were made to its original design goals or principles. Who are you going to believe, a PHD professor of electrical engineering at MIT or a guy who swears by demagnetizing vinyl phonograph records and writes for a hobbyist magazine I consider a rag?

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Despite the fact that I have never been particularly enamored with most Bose products, I am able to fully appreciate that Amar Bose must have been not only a brilliant engineer, but also a prescient and extremely successful marketeer. Truth be told, I've only ever owned one pair of (lower level) Bose speakers, and they were certainly not "built to the highest standards", and I could not get rid of them fast enough. Granted, my simple pair were not 70's era 901's, which may still be the paramount Bose speaker, but I will state that I never found any Bose design philosophy to really suit my tastes.

soundminded, your statement leaves me very curious, and it would be interesting to have more details: exactly how do you "redesign" Bose 901's, after 4 years effort, without compromising the concepts of the original engineering team .

Tom's note about Landau reminded me of my earlier post, which was merely forwarded as a tangential point of interest for AR aficionados.

http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?showtopic=7492&hl=

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ra,ra I've posted about this before but I'll be glad to summarize it for you again. Among the many speaker systems I own (I never get rid of anything) including Teledyne AR9 are an original pair of Bose 901 I bought new in 1970. It was a choice between that and AR3a. When properly installed the original Bose 901 has three main flaws IMO. There are two flaws in the bass. The first is that there is a broad upper bass resonance peak that's been well documented in at least two reviews and it IS audible. In my pair in my room it's about 7db at 250 hz. The second problem in the bass is that the equalizer only supplies 6 db per octave of boost but the speaker falls off at 12 db per octave. This means uncorrected you have to play the speakers very loud to hear the two lowest octaves. These are easily corrected with additional equalization. The other problem is the midwoofers IMO don't reproduce the highest octave at all. To fix this I designed two arrays of tweeters and bi-amplified the system. This was not as easy as it sounds. Not only did this array have to mate perfectly to the 901 system it had to be designed to the room it's installed in. (It's based on the same proprietary mathematical model I've used in other applications.) It took two tries, the second one requiring four years before it was successful. As with all of my sound systems each system must be individually equalized for its own performance quirks, the room it's in, and for each recording to get accurate sound fields. I am very familiar with the actual sound of most real acoustic musical instruments and have become a critical listener in the last 25 years.

When it is correctly operating, except for re-engineered AR9 which beats it in the deep bass, re-engineered Bose 901 is the most accurate conventional 2 channel sound system I've encountered. BTW with the ability of the system to reproduce the top octave, a grand piano does not sound like it's the size of a wall and imaging does not drift. All of the advantages of the 901 concept have been retained without any compromise and the flaws eliminated. Original 901 and series II can reproduce 23 hz with 10% THD at moderate levels and 26 hz at louder levels according to tests run by Hirsch Houck Laboratories. This is equal to the enormous JBL Ranger Paragon D44000. However, IMO it would take at least 3 pairs to equal the maximum loudness in deep bass AR9 is capable of. It would also take 600 to 1000 watts per channel. Inspection of the equalizer shows it was manufactured to high standards for consumer class electronic equipment. No repairs, modifications, or problems were encountered in almost 45 years except for missing grounding conductors on the input/output jacks and resealing the enclosures. I did this with beads of GE silicone instead of removing the drivers and replacing the putty. In 2004 I contacted Bose about this. They considered the system unrepairable but offered me a 50% discount on a trade in for their latest version of 901. I declined.

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If I may hijack this thread a bit soundminded, I highly recommend some piano music played on your favorite piano, the Steinway Model D. It is available on BlueRay/SACD from Amazon or discounted Flac download at www.2L.no/.

The pianist is Ola Gjeilo. He's Norweigan. The music was recorded in a church in Norway using a very sophisticated mic system and high rez recording equipment. Here is a link to a youtube video of a portion of the recording session which I downloaded yesterday and like very much.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh1rPtdzbGI

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Thanks Carl. You're right, I love the sound of most Steinway pianos. The 8'-9" Concert Grand D size is perfect for large spaces but would be overwhelming in all but the most enormous homes. It's an interesting problem when you have a good recording of one and play it back at live levels in your home.

The arrangement of the microphones on the stand is called a "Decca Tree" named after the Decca record company that invented this configuration many years ago. It's being mixed with a close highlight mike at the tail of the piano which can be seen in some of the video clip. I think the mixing engineer did a very good job of balancing it. Even just a few feet away from the piano where the Decca Tree is located you can hear a great deal of reverberation from the church. In the real world at a live performance this reverberation can envelop you, in fact that's the terminology acoustic engineers use., Listener Envelopment (LE or LEV.) No conventional sound system including Bose 901 can recreate this effect and multi-channel systems you can buy are not particularly successful at it either. Too much reverberation coming from the same direction as the source makes it sound like it's in the Holland Tunnel and you're listening from outside or as Ralph Glasgal of Ambiophonics fame puts it "a sewer pipe." But without reverberation the piano sounds flat and lifeless.

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First things first - - - happy birthday, Carl ..... a milestone date, eh?

soundminded, let me say that your decline of the Bose offer seems smart and just, based on your extensive knowledge and analysis of this speaker system. Also, thanks so much for the explicit description of your own process and findings. Reading your response made me think about at least one of the reasons I appreciate this forum, which is that I do learn so much from people, like yourself, that know much more than I about acoustics theory, measurements, and terminology. CSP is indeed a great source of shared knowledge for speaker geeks.

Am curious about your long ago personal debate between AR-3a's and Bose 901's? Flashback to 1973, or thereabouts, and I seem to recall that these two speakers (and maybe JBL L-100, if it was available then), seemed to represent the high end in consumer home audio.

As I've mentioned, I am not a Bose guy, but this might be the speaker that I find to be the most gorgeous ever manufactured by Bose.

post-112624-0-61130300-1376011537_thumb.

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I stuck with the original because it is an acoustic suspension design. It took me 25 years after understanding Newton's second law of motion to figure out exactly how an acoustic suspension speaker actually works (not to take anything away from Edgar Villchur but he got the right answer without fully understanding it and why it is right.) It's the best possible design. Bose's idea of pushing the resonant frequency above 180 hz where he said phase shift became inaudible and using an inverse linear filter to compensate for the linear falloff was clever IMO. He got a lot of things right, some of them wrong but he was far from stupid, ignorant, or exploitive. Think about it, eighteen 30 watt midwoofers, two enclosures, and a precision powered electronic filter for $476 isn't bad. The photo you have is a variant of Series II called "the Continental."

When I first saw 901 in a store window I scoffed at it thinking nobody in their right mind would pay that kind of money for that thing. Then some time later I heard it and changed my mind. BTW for years I drove it with an AR amplifier. I was very much impressed by the way music escaped from the enclosure, something I'd never heard from a loudspeaker system before. The store I bought it in sold AR3a also and I had a chance to listen to them side by side. I had Bose 901 in storage for many years. I was surprised when I took it out it seemed to be in excellent condition. No sign of material deterioration or anything like that. This most recent experimental project with it started in 2004 and ended in 2008. It's my "second" system.

The modified system has the goal of reproducing the sound of acoustic instruments as they would be heard in the same room the speakers are in. That's the best that can be achieved with a conventional sound system. They cannot recreate large room acoustics. They achieve this by overcoming three types of distortion my model predicts. The total sound energy across the entire audio spectrum reaching the listener must be flat (back to the microphone) and that includes reflections taking the characteristics of the recording, the speakers and the room boundaries into account. The high frequencies must travel the same paths as all other frequencies. And the sound must arrive at the listener from the same angles they would from an actual musical instrument. The modified 901 or something like it is the only design that has the potential to achieve that goal. Speakers that aim most of their sound energy at the listener haven't got a prayer.

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