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
News
people
News
Amazon's drones were unveiled last year.
business
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Life and Style
Worth shelling out for: Atlantic lobsters are especially meaty
food + drink
News
i100
Sport
Gareth Bale
footballPaul Scholes on how Real Madrid's Welsh winger would be a perfect fit at Old Trafford if he leaves Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Lily James in ‘Cinderella’
film
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has arisen within th...

Ashdown Group: Development Manager - Rickmansworth - £55k +15% bonus

£50000 - £63000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / D...

Recruitment Genius: Security Officer

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Applicants must hold a valid SIA Door Su...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - City, London

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - The C...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss