Dr Bose’s legacy: the real sound of music

 

It was a disappointing stereo that started off Amar Bose. When he bought it in the 1950s, Dr Bose – at the time a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), near Boston – was frustrated to find the sound quality was a pale comparison to listening to live music.

That purchase sparked a lifetime of research into audio technology for Dr Bose – who died last Friday, aged 83 – and resulted in the eponymous company known for its high-quality, and high-cost, speakers.

He was the son of a Bengali freedom fighter who escaped from India to the US, after being imprisoned for opposing British rule, where he  married an American schoolteacher.

Having received a Bachelors degree, a Masters and a doctorate at MIT, Dr Bose was a professor of electrical engineering by the time Bose itself was founded in 1964. There were early contracts with Nasa, but the breakthrough came with the release of the 901 system in 1968, with its radical approach to speakers creating audio that sounded much closer to live performances.

It was by no means the only breakthrough that Bose would make. In the 1980s it found a way to produce quality sound from small speakers – technology which was put to use in its Wave radios. Bose’s noise-cancelling headphones were another hit, and not only among consumers: they are also used by pilots for both military and commercial airlines. Its sound systems are found in venues including the Sistine chapel and it has also made innovations away from audio, including a car suspension system.

Despite the company’s success, Dr Bose stayed as a member of the MIT faculty for 45 years, having originally only planned to teach for two. In 2011 he gave the university most of his Bose stock, with the dividends to be used to fund research and education.

“Amar Bose was an exceptional human being and an extraordinarily gifted leader,” said MIT’s president, L Rafael Reif. “He made quality mentoring and a joyful pursuit of excellence, ideas and possibilities the hallmark of his career in teaching, research and business.”

Bose’s president, Bob Maresca, vowed it will continue as a privately held company and “stay true to Dr Bose’s ideals”. As chairman of Bose, Dr Bose had insisted on it remaining private, saying its long-term research would not have been possible with a public company.

“I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by MBAs,” he said. “But I never went into business to make money. I went into business to do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”

Amar Bose: Audio pioneer

While trying to work out how to make speakers sound better Dr Bose, left, and his team discovered that when listening to live music most of the sound was actually rebounding off the walls and ceilings of a venue before reaching the eardrums. Speakers, however, directed the sound straight to the listener, with very little reflecting.

As a result, Bose’s breakthrough 901 speaker system contained eight “drivers” at the back of the speaker and only one at the front, which resulted in 89 per cent of the sound being reflected off the walls, creating the spacious quality of live music.

Bose’s acoustic waveguide tech- nology, meanwhile, challenged the idea that the larger the speaker, the better the sound.

It discovered that a loudspeaker mounted in a tube – even when folded into intricate patterns – resulted in a powerful sound being produced from a small speaker.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

Guru Careers: FX Trader / Risk Manager

Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue