Dr. Amar Bose Dead at 83

Don't speak ill of the dead is commonly accepted wisdom to which I almost always subscribe. However, an Amar Bose obituary in today's New York Times by Glenn Rifkin that read more like an advertisement than an obit forces my hand.

The obit writer claims the Bose Corporation "..became synonymous with high quality audio systems..." and that "His speakers, though expensive, earned a reputation for bringing concert-hall quality audio into the home." Really?

The article quotes Dr. Bose as saying "I never went into business to make money." It further states that "Dr. Bose was disappointed by the inferior sound of high priced stereo systems he purchased when he was an M.I.T. engineering student."

It then goes on to parrot the company line about the Bose 901 and how Dr. Bose's innovation incorporated multiple small drivers aimed at the surrounding walls instead of at the listener to produce the same ratio of direct to reflected sound one would hear in a concert hall.

No doubt both Henry Kloss and Edgar Villchur are turning over in their graves. Anyone old enough to remember the AR3a loudspeaker or the KLH Model 5 and how those sounded compared to the Bose 901 knows which sounded better and it wasn't even close.

The Bose 901 was introduced in 1968 to much fanfare. While Consumer Reports remains essentially clueless about high fidelity, back then it bought a pair of 901s and to its credit reported that it didn't like what it heard. Among the problems noted was that instruments often “wandered” around the room and were bloated in size.

This hardly came as a shock to anyone who auditioned a pair, as I did back then at a Queens, New York store, near my parent’s home.

I remember hearing a solo violinist larger than the orchestra, but why should that surprise anyone when the sound is being bounced off the wall by two arrays of four 5” speakers angled towards the wall?

Beyond that, the sound was boxy, obnoxiously colored in the midrange, and dynamically constricted. I thought the sound sucked compared to my AR 2ax’s.

The 901 required an "active equalizer" to compensate for the fact that the speaker had neither tweeters nor woofers, though one could argue that the surface area of nine 5" drivers adds up to 45 inches.

But, at the time I remember saying to myself, would you want your midrange driver also handling bass? In a small 2 way you have no choice of course, but this was a $479 speaker system, which at the time was a great deal of money. And no amount of equalization can make a 5" midrange driver behave like a tweeter so the speaker produced no high frequency sparkle or air.

Much was made about how much power the 901s could handle but that's because the "Active Equalizer" was a power sucking device, meaning driving a pair of 901s required a very powerful amplifier.

Bose couldn’t take the criticism (not from me, but that would come later as you’ll read) so his company actually sued Consumer Reports for expressing an opinion. Relentless in his desire to “get” Consumer Reports, Bose pursued the litigation for 13 years before finally losing the case in? In the United States Supreme Court! How crazy is that?

I moved to Boston in the fall of 1969 as the new company was gearing up for the full retail push that lasted for quite some time. I remember reading a full-page advertisement in a Boston newspaper (I think The Globe) in which Dr. Bose introduced himself and his loudspeaker.

He proudly proclaimed that he was an engineer, which in my mind at the time immediately begged the question "So what are the other guys toiling in this field, butchers?"

Dr. Bose trumpeted his M.I.T. background after which followed his rationale for the 901. He'd measured the percentage of direct to reflected sound at Boston Symphony Hall (pictured in the advertisement) as 8:1. Therefore his loudspeaker bounced the sound of 8 5" midrange speakers off the front wall while one 5" midrange fired towards the listener.

Reading the advertisement, I thought to myself what does the ratio of direct to reflected sound of Boston Symphony Hall have to do with recordings made at Kingsway Hall or any other concert hall? And with reverberation already captured by the great recordings of the time, why would it be a good idea to bounce sound off your walls anyway? To get a reverberation of a reverberation?

So, curious to hear whether perhaps my original listen the previous year was just a bad demo, I drove over to Tech Hi-Fi in Harvard Square to have a listen. I walked in and the salesman greeting me had a pink button on his shirt that says "Ask me about Bose". Up until that moment I had never seen in a hi-fi store such overt customer “steerage”—or any attempt to sway a purchase.

I was taken aback and said "Why are you wearing a Bose button? Why are you being a walking Bose advertisement? What about the other brands?"

This kid turned out to be 100% honest and/or clueless. "Because," he said to me, "for every pair of 901s I sell I get points towards a trip to Hawaii”!

“I never went into business to make money”—Amar Bose.

A few years later I’d gotten myself onto WBCN-FM where I started weekends on the all night shift. I liked that! I could do what I want, say what I want and establish an intimate rapport with the all-nighters and the lonely. It was great. I talked a lot. One of the things I talked about was hi-fi. Why not?

I got into my anti-Bose rap. I was expressing my opinion just as I am here. I think I did mention the Tech Hi-Fi visit and trips to Hawaii.

The next Monday I walked into the station’s sales office and I heard a guy named Kenny Greenblatt arguing over the phone with someone. He saw me, looked up and putting his hand over the mouthpiece said “What the hell did you say about Bose last Saturday night? I have got this guy from the company on the phone and they are insisting that the station fire you!”

Fortunately the management stuck up for me and I wasn’t fired but Bose’s strong arm tactics beginning with the Consumer Reports lawsuit was just the beginning of the company’s legal bullying and litigious ways.

Bose sued Thiel Audio in the early 1990s to stop the audiophile loudspeaker maker from using ".2" in the name of the CS 2.2 speaker.

Bose sued Harman Internation. Bose sued to prevent a company called QSC from trademarking the term “PowerWave” because Bose had a trademark for the “Wave” radio.

But in terms of corporate asshole-ishness, nothing beats the suit filed in 2003 against CEDIA the non-profit industry trade association that runs the annual home theater show of the same name because I believe CEDIA’s publication was “Electronic Lifestyles” and Bose owns a trademark on “Lifestyle”. Bose lost that one, but not before the trade organization was forced to spend around $1,000.000.

“I never went into business to make money”—Amar Bose.

But wait! There’s more! As we all know, Bose went on to “invent” the “Wave” radio as if there was anything particularly inventive about a small plastic radio. The real innovation was make the ridiculous advertising claim that the radio produced “concert hall sound” and replaced “a rack of expensive audio gear.”

Bose developed and patented what it calls the “acoustic waveguide.” Look it up and then tell me just how different it is in concept from the “Acoustic Labyrinth” found in my parents’ old Stromberg-Carlson console music system from the 1940s?

In 1998 the New York Times assigned me to write a story about the vinyl revival.

The editor with whom I worked really liked the story and later that year assigned me to write a story about five computer speakers. I could pick one very inexpensive one, one, moderately priced one, one “tweaky” one and two from Bose: the $219 Mediamate and the $599 Bose Acoustimass system—the one that used as a speaker protection system a lightbulb in series with the speaker.

Uh oh.

I chose a Henry Kloss developed Cambridge Soundworks Microworks system ($249.99), Altec Lansing’s ACS48 PowerCube Plus ($149) and for the “tweaky” system, the Eminent Techology LFT-11 planar magnetic system plus box subwoofer ($599), which also required an outboard power amplifier.

Once Bose found out I was doing this review I got in the mail a box of “goodies” that included a Bose baseball, a Bose hat and some other swill, but to its credit, nothing that could be seen as the type of “gift” to which The New York Times would object. Read the story at the link below

DOWNTIME; Making the Best Of Computer Sound.

I was as responsible and respectful as I could be without selling out, which I refused to do. I wrote as many good things as I could about the wooferless Mediamate suggesting readers “pass” on it unless they had no room for a separate subwoofer.

I wrote that the $149 Altec-Lansing could reasonably be sold for $300 in the context of what I’d auditioned, and that the Cambridge Soundworks system produced the “deepest, tightest bass of any system in the survey”, which was absolutely true, and that it is “the best balanced, most dynamic-sounding of the lot”, which it was.

Had I been 100% honest, I would have written that the Cambridge Soundworks system was twice as good as the Acoustimass, which it was, at half the price!

But I didn’t write that. Instead, I wrote that “….getting a satisfactory blend with the compact woofer unit (18 1/2 by 8 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches) is difficult because inexplicably, the Acoustimass system does not offer a bass-level control, something offered by both the Altec and Soundworks systems, which are less expensive”, which was all true!

I described the Acoustimass system as one that “…can play reasonably loud, but it sounds strained when pushed, at a volume where Microworks is still coasting. It is hard to justify the Acoustimass's high price.

All of that was true! And it was in The New York Times! Bose was not used to getting such a review. It was more used to the idiotic slobbering you’ll find all over the net and in Bose advertisements.

For instance, read habitual Bose slobberer Rich Warren’s recent review of Bose’s $6000 LED television fitted with one of its “wave”-type sound systems .

At the bottom of the review you’ll find this: ”In full disclosure, Bose underwrites the national syndication of my radio program. However, my impression of this product comes from viewing it at a local dealer in real-world conditions.”

So, I hand in my piece, which I felt was both honest and respectful of all involved. I get a call from the editor, Bruce Headlam, a few days later telling me what a great piece it was, how it was “voiced” just right for The New York Times, how clean the copy was, etc. and that I would soon have more assignments from The New York Times.

Weeks pass and nothing. Meanwhile, I thought of a few really good ideas to pitch and I pitch them. I hear nothing. More weeks pass. Nothing.

I attend an industry event and run into a guy I know who worked then at JBL. He says to me “I read that computer speaker piece in The New York Times. Nice work, but you know, you’re never going to write for them again.”

I said, “What are you talking about? They loved that piece!” “Yes,” he said, “but it wasn’t sufficiently respectful of the ‘B word’ “.

I responded “Oh, bullshit! It was honest and respectful and most of all truthful.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he responded, “you’ll see.”

More weeks passed and then in The New York Times I read a story similar to the one I’d pitched but written by a knucklehead who hadn’t the slightest idea about what he wrote. I was pissed! I emailed Bruce Headlam again, reminding him that I’d pitched essentially that same story and that I know much more about it than the person who was assigned the story and what’s up with that?

This time I heard back! He was in a snit and wrote that if I thought disparaging one of the paper’s writers was an effective way to get an assignment from The New York Times, I was sadly mistaken or some such words.

But I knew what really was going on: not enough respect paid towards “the B word.” I was out at The Times and not getting back in. My JBL friend was correct.

When I bought my Saab 9-3 Turbo-X back in 2008 (Bose still in business, Saab out? Feh!) I was disgusted to find it was fitted with a “premium” Bose sound system. Not surprisingly it sucks. The drivers have thimble-sized magnets. I don’t care how brilliant they are at Bose ( in advertising, branding, trademarking and litigating), you cannot get dynamic sound from drivers with thimble-sized magnet structures.

How exactly does it sound. As we say around here “No highs, no lows, must be Bose”.

So, you’ll pardon my speaking ill of the dead, but when Dr. Bose said "I never went into business to make money," I say “bullshit!”

Everything that company ever did and ls likely to ever do was and will be all about making money and very little about making good sound.

So to read an obit like the one appearing in today’s New York Times is particularly galling but hardly surprising. Even in death Dr. Bose had it all figured out.

Nonetheless, I say, “Rest in peace, Dr. Amar Bose,” the entire marketing and promo clueless high performance audio industry can learn decades worth of lessons from what you’ve accomplished.

That said, the obit headline calling Dr. Bose a “Devotee of Sound,” is just more BMB.

maelob's picture

Totally agree with your points, but you mentioned something that hit the nail in the head ” the entire marketing and promo clueless high performance audio industry can learn decades worth of lessons from what you’ve accomplished.

When the industry is going to learn how to market stuff?- Ask the average Joe what is the best audio company in the world? Off course you know the answer.  LOL and dont get me started with Monster LOL

ProPeople's picture

I'd been around for 25 years in music industry.

I wondered in spite of many people bashing bose, why many people are still buying bose products? Was it because of the their marketing or the sound it produce?

For example: Acoustimass 10 Home Theater Speaker System

Marketing - All products need to have a good marketing in order for people to buy it. If Bose raked huge revenues because of their marketing style, then BOSE IS THE REAL WINNER! after all this is business anyway. If other brands said have a better sound quality than Boses then its time for them to wake up and do marketing strategy. What's the point of making high end products when no or few people are buying it? It's the principal duty of every person in this world to do business to earn money in order to survive. Let's do business!

Price - the common rule is that if the price is high then don't buy it, you can buy other brands at half price with more quality sound (as many comments found in the internet says). Bose has been around for so long now, and so to those bose bashers have told many people that bose products are overprice. In spite of this, but why many people still buying and looking for it? One Best Buy store salesman have once said that in the store he keep introducing new high end sound system products to consumers at lower price than Bose, but these consumers are still looking for Bose. Why? Maybe because of marketing?

Sound - Acoustimass speakers really have inferior sound quality? Until now I haven't found any speaker system with exact same size of bose cubes that sounds more better. I mean you need to compare it with product of same size, otherwise comparison is not fair or constructive. For information, it was bose who first created the smallest size surround speaker system (is there others? who? what brand?)with a big sound, other brands seemed to follow after. I can say Bose system is more balance and natural sound (also many others say, others says opposite) at any level. I understand you can buy many high end speaker system with nice specs and outputs out there, then after combining all of these to form a surround system, can it produce a balance and natural sound on time? I don't think so, you must do a lot of tweakings and adjustments to get your desired output. You will end up always taking time to do adjustments/tweakings everytime you switch from music to movies, games etc.. I believe bose analyzed the dynamics in a typical houses, clubs, restaurants, bars, etc. in mind to come up with a speaker system that is less hassle to the user in terms of space, sound quality and less or no need to do sound adjustments. This what we call ingenuity.

Oh just now I know, Bose had a contract with US Military and NASA to supply bose products for their use?...Do you think these 2 well-knowned US agencies also fooled by Bose?

Michael Fremer's picture

Bose speakers measure poorly and sound worse. Putting a crappy 2" speaker in a small plastic case may be your idea of innovation but it's not mine. I don't know what products Bose supplied to the the military. The company does have good engineers in house but what they produce for consumers in terms of sonics is pure crap. Always has been and continues to be. I have a Bose system in my car, unfortunately. It is crap. "Balanced and natural"? You say you have been around the music industry from 25 years? In what capacity? You still obviously haven't heard good sound if you think what Bose produces is good sound. Cambridge Soundworks made little cubes that cost half what the Acoustimass system cost and sounds twice as good.

ProPeople's picture

Bear in mind, no consumers buy or even borrow measuring equipments just to check the output of speakers system that they’re going to buy. Either they read the specification at the back of the speaker cabinet, or they audition it by listening to music or movies. But most of the time consumers do it by listening. Now this consumers still preferred the Bose, I said 95% preferred bose but many of this 95% will not buy because they actually cannot afford the price. They may save money and buy later. Where is the sound worse here? It’s maybe true the measurement of bose acoustimass do not give good results but when you listen to music why it is so very pleasing to ears? We tried the Paradigm speakers to play Hotel California of Eagles, yes it sound very nice but only in limited spot, it lacks spaciousness as compared to Bose where you can actually hear pleasing sounds virtually in all spot.

Bose crappy plastic cases whatever? – ok let’s say its really crappy plastic, but why it sounds better than those you said high end speaker cabinet? Do not think about measuring equipments and again I must remind to compare it with other brands of same size. My friend’s parents still using 1985’s Bose901 until now for music listening and says they love it, of course outside body now looks so old, many dirts, stains, etc. but overall still intact. Of course by now, bose competitors will build very nice cabinets in order to compete and compensate the claims of bose system.
Mostly bose supplied noise cancelling headphones to US military & NASA astronauts, you see but it is still bose. They also installed specially made bose loudspeakers inside their various command centers. The renowned catholic Basilica in Rome and world’s largest Mosque in Saudi Arabia had installed Bose speaker System.

Oh, now you said bose have a good engineers in house…., their sonics is not crap because many consumers bought it and it is still sustainable at this time. I tell you, you go to any store who sells used electronics home theater products. You will find bose speakers are still expensive compare to other used speakers, but many people are still buying it in spite of its price. The result you will seldom find now used bose speakers in any electronic store because it is easily sold out. These people crave for the sounds of bose… and yet you say the sonics is crap?
Your bose system in car is crap? Benz, audi, volvo, etc. installed bose system and not any consumers did not complain. And now, Ferrari installed bose system in their currently new model cars, do you think Ferrari manufacturer is crap also?
Yes Bose speaker is balance and natural at virtually any level. I am keyboardist in a band for 8 years, then the rest I work in recording music and movies producing HD music, movie sountracks mastering, live concert recording, etc. In a recording studio we have use many high end speakers to hear samples during recording processes. But after a record finished, we bring it to our audition lounge area to listen, we have many high end speakers that bears specific technical details such as definitve tech, klf, paradigm, jbl, yamaha, etc. and of course the controversial bose acoustimass surround system that has no technical details. All of the speakers we tested gave different personalities, our concerned here is how the recorded sound produce not the speakers we are using. We always and usually used bose acoustimass in the last listening sessions because of its spaciousness and natural sounding wherein people can walk anyware within the big room, say go to open pantry to make cofee, etc. without losing the detail of the music while listening.
It was Cambridge Soundworks (before acquired by Creative Labs) who first replicate the idea of small cubes home theater speaker system created by Bose (other followed later). Yes, being maker of high quality speaker system, cambridge abled to copied the small cubes (but bose still have smaller in size) and produced at first pleasing sounds and with price lower than bose. But when you turn the knob into different volume levels, that’s where you feel and hear the differences between the two. Bose still dispersed with more balance and natural sounds at different levels. Of course the competitor will have to lower his price to make consumer buy for it, only to realize later the consumer may think he’d better buy bose beforehand.

Michael Fremer's picture

Most people buy BOSE because of the marketing.

Their stuff sounds like crap. The 901s are among the worst sounding "hi-fi" speakers. Bouncing the sound produced by 8 cheap 4" drivers (originally CTS from Paducah, KY) has nothing to do with 'concert hall' sound. Those drivers produce no high frequencies. It's physically impossible. And massing 9 of them in a box doesn't magically add high frequencies. Their minimal excursion guarantees smothered bass too. And the inefficiency of that system, with its active EQ requires massive amounts of power to get any sound out of them.

I'm glad you know people who still listen to them but they don't know what they are missing.

the Acoustimass is a terrible sounding sonic blight: the satellites cannot blend with the fart box. If that's what you like, fine. Everyone is entitled to his or her tastes but people also eat Pizza Hut and Papa John's pizza when real pizza parlors are in the same area so there's no accounting for taste.

As for Bose noise canceling head phones: yes they cancel noise well but the music that's left is laughably terrible. 

I love watching people parading around airplanes proudly showing off their Bose noise canceling headphones.

Poor folks

ProPeople's picture

Haha, now you said there’s no arguing, different people have different taste, ok good that’s it. So those US Military, NASA, St. Peters Basilica in Rome , Al Haram Mosque in Saudi Arabia, Benz, Ferrari, Rover, Audi, Starbucks, famous bars & clubs, restz.. etc. have a bad taste of sounds? Hahaha, you are more laughable here!.. LOL… Look at the sales of Bose, it never go down ever since and sustainably increasing than your venerable high end speakers you may have now and so to other brands.

Bose alone outsold the entire high-end audio industry....in that regards, they are indeed the best! Like McDonalds? Since McDonalds sells the most hamburgers of anybody, they must make the best hamburgers. Right?

Now, new brands of high end sound systems come out on the market, and even sony, LG, Samsung etc now manufacturing high end sound systems too,, what will happen on sales to other high end speaker systems now!.. they will plunge its sales more below because they have to share with the new brands that comeout new in the market. But Bose maintained its sales standing in the world market. This is the real Accounting you need consider Michael.

Other thing that may connect to Bose – many people around the world hates USA, they even burn flags of the US in the public. Irony, look at the person burning the US flag, he is wearing Levis and tucked iPhone in the pocket. The main thing here is that the products have been tested for so many years already. That’s why when the product have given or exceeded the need or expectation of the consumers, there’s no more obstacle in owning it whether it came from where, right also?

Michael Fremer's picture

Now you're rambling. Sales have nothing to do with quality. Bose has good sales, poor sound quality. But worse, their margins are grotesquely high. They build cheap and overcharge. That people buy the stuff means nothing other than their good marketing and smart branding. I have never disputed that.

ProPeople's picture

How come u say that? Sales has nothing to do with quality? Hahaha so very laughable,... Sales of bose will not so huge if the quality is not present, right? And its expensive as you say, but people keep on buying.  There's only 1 reason for this because of quality.  Quality comes first before marketing, otherwise few people will buy. Michael ur the one rambling, how come you cannot equate quality and marketing?. Bose already around for 40 years!

dat56's picture

First of all, let me say I truly enjoy your work and furthermore, I respect your opinion on things audio, but...the man just passed away.  Is this the proper time to rake him over the coals?  I think not.  Poor form, imo.

That said, many people that have heard and/or owned lots of "audiophile" products, still like some of the Bose designs.  The 901 for example:  OK, it wasn't your cup of tea.  Fair enough, but it has certainly been around long enough to warrant a bit of respect.  I think whether a person likes it or hates it depends as much as anything upon what they think a loudspeaker should sound like.  If they think it should sound more or less like every other speaker they've heard, they probably won't like it.  If they think a speaker should sound more like live music and less like a music box, then they may just like it a lot.  Of course, that's just my humble opinion, fwiw.

But, my intent is not to become engaged in another online Bose bash.  Just to offer another perspective.  Making money is not a crime in the USA, as of yet, and to the best of my knowledge, Bose never tried to cheat anyone.  They offer a product and say "this is the price".  I find no fault in that.  They have some of the best customer service going and some of the best consumer electronics resale values, too. Many people find their products to be highly desireable for many reasons, including subjective sound quality.  And if more people would get off their audiophile high horse, listen to live music and think about how it sounds, and then listen with an open mind to many speakers, not just Bose, they might agree.  But many can't seem to get past the "B" word.

Michael Fremer's picture

I was set off by the obituary that was just like all things Bose: a large part bullshit. No objectivity whatsoever. I suspect the writer was as much a legit obit writer as Rich Warren is an "audio critic."

The obit smelled of the same stink that's followed the Bose organization since its founding: a lot of hype, very little performance.

An honest assessment of the man's life and career would have at least mentioned the controversies surrounding his company. Most competent obit do that. This one didn't. I bet it was a planned "plant."

In what I wrote I tried to explain why this is "personal" for me.

Finally, when I kick the bucket I have no problem if Tom Port and some of my other detractors write similar things... I'll be dead. So I could give a shit!






Bromo33333's picture

Some are fawning, some are "just the facts ma'am" - it doesn't matter.

Common decency and courtesy will mean you don't kick the family when they are down.  I must come form a region of the country or of an age where people were civil and respectful in a time of grieving.

I feel you were out of line with that diatribe.  But it is your blog - and I only hope it didn't hurt anyone close to him that had nothing to do with your issues.


Just like you said - you are not in a position to hurt Amar since he's gone - the only ones you can kick and hurt are the survivros.


And for the record, I am with you that Saab going under was a tragedy of large proportions.  I loved the 9-5 Aero I had once upon a time.  I am now in a Volvo, and while good, it isn't the same.

Michael Fremer's picture

I understand your point but to reiterate: I am certain that the obituary was a "paid assignment" to the writer, paid for by the Bose Corporation or family and "supplied" to The New York Times for publication.

Everything about it "smells" like it and that is just plain wrong. In fact, I sent a complaint to the paper's Public editor. A dispassionate obituary would never have prompted to write anything here about Amar Bose's passing.

Unfortunately, that obit triggered a reaction that I needed to express in words and put on the site.

ProPeople's picture

From Michael: The obit writer claims the Bose Corporation "..became synonymous with high quality audio systems..." and that "His speakers, though expensive, earned a reputation for bringing concert-hall quality audio into the home." Really? Answer: YES

linuxguru's picture

Mike, thanks for calling a spade a spade. BTW, the spin doctors at Bose corporate communications are still hard at work - several posts on a Bose obit/tribute thread at the user forums of Indian audio-video website hifivision.com linked back to your article to debunk the Bose myth.

Somehow, the entire thread "disappeared" yesterday after several days of heated debate. It should be noted that Bose pays for sponsored ad placements in the user forums, so I wouldn't be surprised if they exerted pressure to get the moderators to delete the thread - it would have been too obvious if only the negative comments vanished.

ProPeople's picture

Most people buy BOSE because of the marketing.

What happened to you Michael?

100% of people will not go to Bose store and say to salesman ….“ Because you have a good marketing of this bose speaker I will buy it” no sense!, you think for 1000USD of acoustimass system, common people will buy it just because of good advertising??? Of course not! He need to listen to the sound first…100% even the rich people will not buy immediately without listening to it! Chances are he may come to the store and buy outright without testing, but it’s because he heard it already before, eitheir from his friend’s house, in the club, bars etc.. But even so I believe he will still need to listen to it again to make sure that everything is ok..

Now it is really time to tell all those existing high end speakers manufacturers to somehow look into their marketing strategy to push their products in the market not just in one place but worldwide. In this way their supposedly very accurate sounding cabinets will finally appreciated by most people if not all.

ProPeople's picture

If you cannot afford don't buy it, it simply like that mikey! Just look for other brand u said which have better sound at half price.  But bose will continue its big revenues, unless they close the company.

Trace's picture

Lot a whole lot of grey area here !

Billf's picture

Come on, Mikey. The guy just died. I'm no fan of Bose products, but do we really need a diatribe about how lousy they are just now? Proportion.

Consider taking "almost" out of the first sentence of your post, retaining that sentence and deleting the rest.
Don't be a knucklehead!

Michael Fremer's picture

A more traditional obit would not have set me off and there would have been no diatribe, regardless of my personal feelings. But that obit "smelled" of a Bose commissioned and paid for obit fobbed off to The New York Times that read more like a commercial and it fit into the larger pattern and picture that I have about Bose.

That's what set me off. And I don't take back a word nor do I question the timing. I respect your right to disagree.

ravenacustic's picture

While Dr Bose might be an easy man to criticize, can we be less critical of Sony and Philips for having brought us "perfect sound forever"?

i think HL Mencken got it right. 

WELquest's picture

Yes, there are lots of contrary views for this or most any subject. Lots to praise and lots to condemn. As a counterpoint to public dispays of adoration or uncritical politeness, I very much appreciate Michael's wider view, necessarily including blatant examples of a kind of abuse of the public trust, and outright theivery in having intimidated the world's loudspeaker designers into no longer using transmission-line or labyrinth loading.

Giving people what they want is noble, even selling deep fried Twinkies can be defended, but the 901 speaker doesn't fit to any of the defenses I use to explain other inferior products. It was a successul phase-distortion generator and an absolutely awful speaker ... but then again, there are today many suucessful audio products on the market that are objectively (good methodology applied to listening) inferior to other products at 1/10th the price ... but nary a consumer in any category ventures forth on a mission to learn what products are actually worth. A price is chosen and then maybe some comparisons with other products at the same price.

In addition to Aesthetix, Octave, Vandersteen and such, I own a lot of Bose: QC-15 headphones, multiple MIE2i buds, 3 Wave Radio/Music Systems, 2 big Acoustic Waves, a SoundDock and the astonishing new SoundLink Mini. I'm in the industry and buy most gear on accomodation, but I paid retail for these Bose pieces because that's the game, and they are worth it to me. I also have the Bose audio system in my Audi A8 not because it came free with the car, but because it's better than the much more expensive B&O system.

Bose is an extremely clever company, which has made some garbage in the past, and might well again. It has been a very bad citizen along the way ... but the only things that makes Bose different in this regard to many other companies is that they are more clever, and much more successful.

It is our mistake for finding Bose's claims of concert hall sound from a radio any more of a stretch than the average high-end audio ad. That's like the audiophiles who moan that there shouldn't be any $50K amps, etc., because they give the audio world a bad image, while of course $5K amps are somehow a totally friendly concept to "normal" people.

Why do we read exaggerated ad claims by Bose and complain, yet accept equally ludicrious claims in high-end audio? Exaggerated claims are like the speed of light, the same whether you're traveling in the low-end or high-end worlds.

As for Sony's "Perfect Forever," our mistake as an industry was to actually believe the Sony claim. We disagreed with the "Perfect" part, and totally bought into the "Forever" part. CD/Redbook audio is not likely to ever fully beat what can be heard from an LP, but a fair number of remastered CDs are today better than the vinyl version that was available in 1983. In the what's-possible-and-available world, CDs aren't the Garbage Forever that we bought into in 1983.

Bose might have displayed near-evil along the way, but it is much more than that.

Thanks Michael for adding balance and additional truths to the discourse.

Michael Fremer's picture

I'm surprised that you find the Bose Audi system superior to B&O's. I heard a prototype of the B & O system during a visit to the factory a few years ago and though it sounded very, very good.

It was co-designed by a guy named Manny LaCarrubba who was quoted in a TAS interview as saying (and I'm paraphrasing) "...Michael Fremer has single-handedly set the cause of good sound back decades".

Why? For advocating vinyl. So clearly I don't hold irrational grudges. That B&O system sounded really good and I have trouble believing the Bose sounded better given what the Bose system in my car sounds like!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Manny La Carrubba has strong belief systems, to put it mildly. When I attempted to conduct a blind power cable test at mi casa for the Bay Area Audiophile Society, I asked Manny to help with protocol. The test parameters he constructed, which included hanging a huge piece of treble extension destroying green felt over the components (so that participants couldn't see which cables we were using at the time), made it near=impossible to hear obvious differences in the power cables. Manny then went on to proclaim that the test proved that all power cables sound alike. How interesting that a speaker designer can acknowledge neither the differences in sound between good vinyl and good digital, nor between power cables. 

Paul Boudreau's picture

I've never listened to any Bose equipment and so have nothing useful to say about its sound quality.  I do know something about the power of marketing, though.  Over the years I've spoken to many people whose knowledge of audio & audio gear approaches zero but who nevertheless knew the name Bose (usually in the context of "I need a new xxx, what should I get?).

iyke's picture

I always thought that Bose speakers were overated, but the world is filled with examples of Brands who's position in the marketplace have nothing to do with how good their products are, and Bose is in that category. Sometimes people are buying for quality, they are just buying because of how successful the marketing appeals to them. In my view, Bose success is largely based on the fact that their marketing allowed People to feel like audiophiles without actually being one. They tapped into the laziness in all of us; here, you too can be an audiophile, just buy one rectangular box and you will have the world's most sophisticated sound system in your...who wouldn't fall for that? There's one born every minute....don't believe me? Check out what happened in that Florida courthouse last night.

Michael Fremer's picture

I agree.

370lbgorilla's picture

While his family and friends mourn his passing, you take this as an opportunity to further whatever agenda you may have against Bose.   


Michael Fremer's picture

I believe the obituary was a paid assignment by Bose, planted in the newspaper as a legitimate obit. It is Bose, not I, who are furthering an agenda. Had the obit read like a legitimate one, and less like an advertisement, I'd have not written anything.

recoil's picture

You believe the obit was a paid assignment by Bose. You have made that clear.

That doesn't make how you handled the obit right. I still feel it was in very poor taste whether what you say is right or not.

I am not a big fan of Bose products myself having sold them for years and feeling that there was much better product for the money available. 

I am not saying that what you said is inacurate or untrue, that isn't the point. Whether Bose paid for this obit or not doesn't make what you have written here right after his death any more appropriate.

I respect your knowledge and I respect your opinion on audio. I also enjoy your writing style but I believe this flat out was in bad taste. Just because someone else jumps off a bridge doesn't mean you should too.

Michael Fremer's picture

I accept your criticism. Perhaps it was. Even had I thought that while writing it, I'd have posted it anyway. Do you think it's in "bad taste" when an obit writer includes the less positive aspects of a newly deceased person's life? Because good obits regularly do that.

It would not have at all been extraordinary had the obit writer countered Dr. Bos's contention that he didn't go into business to make money with his notorious appetite for litigation.


Bromo33333's picture

I think it is in very poor taste, and very small-minded to post this diatribe hot on the heels of the death of Amar Bose.  Even if there was bad blood, and even if Bose was both motivated by profit and was litigious by nature.  Even if you feel they were hypocritical.  Even if you feel you are 100% right.

It doesn't make it OK to write a send up of the man before he's even interred in the ground.  I am dissappointed, and had hoped that Stereophile and you would have taken the high road.

Michael Fremer's picture

Again, I believe the obit was a "paid assignment" and not a legitimate obituary. That's what set me off and I'm not backing down. It struck me as more of the chicanery that rubs me the very wrong way about Bose.

rischa's picture

Why should people be revered upon death just because they've accomplished the feat of kicking the bucket? Death is the perfect time to look critically at someone's life. Nobody's perfect, so why can't we honor the dead by remembering who they really were? When I move in to that subterranean box, I don't want people to forget that I could be a complete, oblivious, asshole at times, because then they would be remembering a fictionalized version of me.

vinyl listener's picture


Martin's picture

for my first system, my first real system in the early '90s after getting out of university, I auditioned some Bose speakers. Back then I thought those little speakers pointing in all directions looked pretty cool. And all the reports, press, etc. I read said they were great. Revolutionary even. 

So I listened to a couple of different models. I knew nothing about Hi Fi back then, I actually thought all amplifiers were created equal...  

I thought the Bose speakers, all I heard, sounded crappy. Like, boxy, echoey, kind of wierd. And not pleasant. 

Big Cap's picture

The very second Bose put HIS name on a product available to the public at a cost, he also offered up HIS persona subject to the court of public opinion.

There are certain undeniable facts about Bose as a company that Mikey referred to; while he did nothing to disparage his personal life. It's all fair game in a "free market."

The first speakers I ever bought were Bose because I was a green kid and didn't know any better. Then I got a job selling speakers and I quickly figured things out. Bose is crap--over-priced, mass marketed crap. And on some level, this guy is culpable for manipulating a market just as the consumers who plunk down their dollars for audio shit are culpable for creating a consumer electronics dynasty. But dynasties are abnormal, and the market always reaches equilibrium. Buy Other Speakers Eventually.

abhimawa's picture

I would've done the same thing. Harsh as it is, but truth does not echo in the same direction with respect. I thank Bose for referring me to true high-end. If I didn't hear the Accoustimass in the first place, I wouldn't have tried the bigger brother 901, and still broken hearted by Bose's signature of "sound everywhere but nowhere", which then led me to true high-end audio.

Another thing is Bose knows that potential buyers (read: people who will spend, those who are too busy to read specifications, but want to party a lot and have some background music) of its products will not care about the specification, but more with convenience.

The litigation that Bose made, though, was dirty, disrespectful, to prevent the truth being spoken in favor of Bose's greediness.

Anyway, rest in peace, Amar. 

storym's picture

After I graduated from college in 1984, I saved some money for awhile than plunked down some cash on Bose 501 speakers thinking this was a huge thing. Well ,  I don't have to tell anyone here what a big mistake that was. With the money I spent or much less, I could have bought a pair of Paradigms at a local audio shop that would've kicked ass. I would never be that naive again!

storym's picture

Oh , and I forgot to mention the gift money I once wasted on a pair of Bose ear buds. Oops, I guess I was that naive again!

Mikey, you were right on with your column. I always steered other people away from Bose speakers.

Kevin Ray's picture

Mike didn't speak ill of the dead. He told the truth about a litigious company that's been selling overpriced shoddy products almost as long as I've been alive. They threaten, bribe and sue to protect their reputations. After a person passes, when does it become respectable again to s tell the truth about them?

lukejosephchung's picture

Mike, I've been following your writings for the better part of 3 decades, dating back to your employment under Harry Pearson at TAS...while I can understand your denigration of Dr. Bose's products, having owned a pair of original series 501's, you've always had a knee-jerk reaction to both the brand name and the man himself...you TRULY couldn't give it a rest for this ONE time???

TheATLDude's picture

Luke,  your chacterization of Mike's comments is exactly spot-on.  Somehow people think that Bose marketing was "something special", and has some voodoo-like quality that causes the consumers to buy anything.  Nonsense.  

The fact is the audio business has always been filled with charlatans.  As others here note, there's Noel Lee at Monster and Tomlinson Holman, the "inventor" of THX.  Both unmitigated scams (and neither a degreed engineer, which is why Bose probably pointed it out when he had the chance).  Amar Bose had scientific support for their products - if the science was wrong (as much of acoustical science turns out to be over time), at least he has people engaged in scientific method, which can't be said for the yellow-highlighter on the CD crowd.  

Regarding your review between the Bose and Cambridge Audio speakers, I agree the Cambridge Audio were "better value".  In fact they were such good value, the company went bankrupt.  The first obligation of any company CEO is to keep the company in business.  Pricing a product at a level that can't sustain the company isn't very good business now, is it?

The attacks on Amar Bose as some money-grubbing businessman are way over the line.  As those who've been around him over the years know, he never lived "like a billionaire" - although clearly he was.  Same house for for over 35 years, drove an old Buick even when the company started to become flush in the 1980's, no chauffeuer or limos when traveling, either.  Ate lunch in the same cafeteria as the employees, shunning "executive dining rooms".  No corporate airplane for him, he of course was riding at the pointy end of usually American Airlines flights - the reason he so wanted to solve the airplane noise problem.  And he was barely seen in public marketing anything from the company after the 901 was launched.  He confined himself to his teaching gig at MIT, and speaking to employees, most of which have nothing but fond memories working at his company.  And they've managed to keep much of their manufacturing in the USA.  They never succumbed to the Walmart school of business that got Americans underwear 35cents cheaper while at the same time shipping all our jobs to China.    

My only gripe?  He's set up what I regard as a phony transfer of company stock to MIT as a transparent attempt to dodge inheritance taxes.  But knowing his disdain for how government spends money, at least his heart is in the right place.

Bose products brought endless joy to millions of people around the world.  Pissing on him now seems childish and pointless.  Give it a rest.

Michael Fremer's picture

Dear TheATLDude: I never accused Dr. Bose of being a "money grubbing dude". And I have never criticized anyone for making money and being rich. Never, ever.

I criticized the claim that he didn't go into business to make money. Given the company's litigious behavior and its extravagant marketing claims, that was B.S.

Nor did I say that Bose's marketing had "voodoo like qualities" that caused people to buy the company's products. In fact I lauded Bose and the company's marketing abilities, even though the claims were bogus.

Yes there are charlatans in the audio business, but I wouldn't say it was "filled" with them. As for Noel, he was the first guy to take cables out of the lamp cord level and demonstrate convincingly that cables do make a difference.

In my world the real cable "charlatans" are the knuckleheads who insist that cables don't make a difference, or make such a minor difference as to be irrelevant.

If you were around when the 901 was introduced, the major players then were AR, KLH on the East Coast and JBL etc. on the west. The "green paint" on CD rims came far later, but that's tangential.

Again, I would not have written what I did had that obituary smelled of it having been bought and paid for by Bose and planted by the company in an unsuspecting New York Times.

I am a regular obit reader and there was nothing regular about that obit!

Michael Fremer's picture

The point of what I wrote was to ask the Bose Corp to do just that! "Give it a rest for this ONE time!"

Instead, I believe the company acted nefariously, hiring a writer to produce a glowing obit devoid of balance that read more like an advertisement.

That obit smelled. The stench is what prompted me to write what I did, not Dr. Bose's passing.

Had the obit been legitimate, it would have shown some balance, giving readers highs and lows (insert the joke here, I won't) of Dr. Bose's career.

The lows would be the lawsuits. If you're going to print the quote "I didn't get into the business to make money," a legitimate obit writer would have countered that with the lawsuit history!

I think the obit was paid for by Bose and planted in the unsuspecting New York Times. Just an opinion but given the company's history it would not be at all surprising.

anomaly7's picture

Really, if you tell the truth about someone, or your experience of someone, and someone thinks that's speaking ill of that person, so be it. It seems pretty clear Bose was a self promoting ass. If people object to that characterization, let them counter it, but don't blubber about manners and etiquette for someone who's died.

Thanks for the great article Mikey. It certainly didn't open my eyes or change my opinion about Bose products, but it gave me insight as to why the products were sub optimal. Bose clearly thought he could turn out shit and berate people into believing it didn't stink as part of his marketing hype. As for the NY Times behavior, well, they published their support for non existent WMD's too...

John C Freeman's picture

Well, I agree with Mike's description of Bose products.  And there is nothing wrong with making money selling gear that is not quite what you think it is. Probaly most manufactured stuff does not really measure up to the hype used to promote it.  That being said, I heard that Dr. Bose quietly donated a good deal of his money to research on deafness and prolblems with hearing.  This is a worthy place to donate money to, as both of my parents had severe hearing problems,  my mom for over 50 years.  It is really hard to get along in society when one cannot hear, it literally effects everything.

All of that being said I never purchased anything with the Bose name on it, just not a good value, plus they just do not sound very good.  Still my perferences do not take away from Dr. Bose's work or other good he did for society, beyond his company.

Michael Fremer's picture

Thanks for adding that to the discussion. I had no idea and wouldn't have known that had I not written what I wrote so it had some redeeming value. Again, my point was not to demonize Dr. Bose.... just to provide a counterpoint to an insipid obituary.

John C Freeman's picture


Glad you found the information about his charitable contributions useful.  I know that your reply to the NY Times over-the-top obit was a counterpoint to the Times insipid fawning over a well known audio businessperson. I peronsaly enjoy your occassional interjections of social or political commentary in your articles.  It makes life much more interesting than just reading a list of adjectives used to describe a warm sound.

TheATLDude's picture

"Bose developed and patented what it calls the “acoustic waveguide.” Look it up and then tell me just how different it is in concept from the “Acoustic Labyrinth” found in my parents’ old Stromberg-Carlson console music system from the 1940s?"

And Mr. Fremer, regarding your attacks on "acoustic wave".  If you'll look over the patents issues to Drs. Bose and Short on acoustic wave, and the associated mathmatics, I for one am interested in how it remotely works like the rat maze shown on the Stromberg-Carlson box.  Perhaps your hyperbolic attempts to smear the work of dedicated engineers in search of a headline is more related to your failures as a journalist at the New York Times than some secret, Trilateral-Commission "agenda".  

Michael Fremer's picture

I provided the links to the pieces I wrote that The New York Times published. I will let readers decide if I was a "journalistic failure" at the paper but I think the pieces make clear I was anything but, so don't let your anger get the better of you.

Whatever the math involved, can you tell me how the waveguide differs conceptually from any ported system? The explanation on Bose's site isn't just "dumbed down." It's dumb whatever a reading of the actual patents may reveal.

Regardless of the math they developed for Bose is the folded tube inside a box anything new? Transmission line speakers have been around for a very long time. As have folded horn designs. 

In any case listening to the Wave Radio or any of these small Bose products, I fail to hear the claims made for the technology. These devices don't produce deep bass nor do the fill rooms with concert hall sound.

The claim that a Wave radio replaces a rack of expensive audio gear to me goes well beyond the usual advertising hyperbole.

On the other hand, Ron Popeil's Showtime Rotisserie (set it and forget it!) does exactly what Ron claims!

mmarston's picture

how it was possible to obtain a patent in the 1970s for a concept that was illustrated in DIY magazine articles long before that.  But the Patent Office has been an abject failure for longer than I have been alive.  Otherwise, Major Armstrong might have lived longer...


this guy's stuffing the "tube" with absorbent material seems the main contribution... not sure what Bose added except plastic construction.

Billf's picture

Thought a little more about your posting and the raft of responses praising you for "telling the truth" about Bose. I lived in Boston around the time that you had your show on WBCN, and also bought equipment at Tech Hifi, which was a frequent advertiser on the station. Tech featured certain lines of speakers, including Advent and Bose, which were often mentioned in its spots. Accordingly, I can understand its reaction to your disparaging the products and calling to question the honesty of its salespeople on the air. Advertising is the lifeblood of any radio station and Tech's literally paid your salary. Your lack of judgement in making the remarks and continued resentment at having been talked to by management are remarkable. I would have fired you on the spot.

Similarly, your continuing anger at not getting the gig with the New York Times by blaming a dead man's company borders on self- delusion. Maybe, just maybe, the other guy who wrote the article did know what he was talking about and was a better writer than you, and Bose had nothing to do with your non-selection. We'll never know, but I suspect that your subsequent petulant trashing him to the Times editor sealed the fact that your only writing in the paper in the future will be limited to your doodling on your Sunday sports section. As for your criticism of Bose's aggressive litigation strategy, I missed where you have noted the same of the Beatles, who, under the direction of the late Neil Aspinall, sued anybody they could to bully them into giving up their rights to Fab-related material. Some call that doing business. Ask the Carvers, Phase Linears and McCormacks of the audio world, all gone too soon.

I also never cared much for Bose products, but that's not the point. Your sensitivity to criticism in light of your attacks on others in the name of truth and humor is amazing, as is your tone deaf decision to publish these little personal anecdotes in the wake of Mr. Bose's passing. They reveal much more about you than him.

As Big Star eloquently put it 40 years ago, you get what you deserve.

Feh, indeed.

Michael Fremer's picture

Very well written criticism!

However, it was not Tech Hi-Fi that called to complain. It was Bose Corp. 

I did not call into question the honesty of Tech Hi-Fi's salespeople! That is not the same as pointing out that the sales people are "incentivized" to sell one brand of loudspeaker in order to win free trips to Hawaii. No other company at the time used such an underhanded approach to sell hi-fi. That's a fact.

You are turning truth-telling and whistle-blowing into defamation. Yes, Tech sold various brands of loudspeakers and advertised them on BCN but to then have the salespeople "incentivized" and steering buyers to one brand is a not so subtle a form a "bait and switch" and hardly fair to either the other speaker manufacturers or to consumers.

Perhaps you would have fired me on the spot for alerting consumers to an anti-consumer business practice, but I think your decision would have been very wrong. And I think the station was more on the side of the listener than the advertisers.

Fortunately that's how it is at Stereophile as well. Write a negative review and often there are threats to pull out advertising. Stereophile always sides with the writer and therefore with the reader, over the advertiser. That's a fact. That's how it was at the old TAS too. 

Of course I did get two writing gigs at The Times, both of which were well received by the paper and I was told I would be getting "many more." That part you ignored.

Also I did not "petulantly trash" that other writer. He wrote a story I had pitched soon after being told I'd have more assignments, so pleased was the editor with what had already been turned in, and the story that ran was not well informed. I pointed out what was wrong with it, not with the writer. But never mind.

Suddenly the calls stopped coming, the pitches unanswered. An industry veteran's prediction that I would not be writing any longer for The Times because I had paid insufficient respect to "the B word" came true. 

Draw your own conclusions.

I am not angry or bitter about what happened, just a bit cynical. And since I published links to the two pieces, I leave it to readers to determine whether I was not asked to write more because of my poor journalism or because of "something else." 

You say I 'blame a dead man's company". But that's now. I blamed a living man's company because all facts point towards it.

But again, what prompted me to write what I did was NOT my ill feelings towards Bose, though yes, I have them. It was prompted by reading what I am sure was a "planted" obituary, paid for by Bose. 

Now, that is a serious charge and I make it not based on seeing a pay stub or anything else. I make it based upon my being a fan of obits and obituary writing.

It's a tough job and requires a dispassionate point of view. Most good obits well thread the needle, pointing out the highs and lows of person's life....most people have both, few are saints.

That obit was all highs. It was congratulatory pointing toward sainthood! There were controversies surrounding Dr. Bose, particularly involving litigiousness. Suing CU over a bad review and taking it all the way to The United States Supreme Court over a thirteen year period?

Not mentioning that truly aroused my suspicions. You don't have to see a dead fish to know there's one wrapped in some newspaper. You smell it.


Suing Theil over a decimal point? Suing CEDIA for having the word "Lifestyle" in its trade-only magazine ( a company to which Bose belonged!) and costing the magazine $1,000,000.

Those are the lows in my opinion, particularly when the claim is made of not going into business to make money.

That obit and not my personal issues with Bose is what prompted me to write what I did. I wrote it because the obit fits in with everything else I know about the company both generally and personally. The obit fits into a pattern. My Bose-Dar went off and I wrote. 

If I find out that The Times commissioned the obit and/or that the writer had no connection to Bose whatsoever, I will be sure to let everyone know.

Finally, please show me where I am "sensitive to criticism" because I don't think I am. Why, I think what you wrote above was sensationally written. I just don't agree with much of it...

Billf's picture

A Bose obituary appeared today in the Washington Post. Also a plant?

Thanks for the compliment. I thought it was pretty good, too.

l'm done!

TheBottomline's picture



As someone who sold Audio from 1988 to 1992, (then Video) for a large NYC Independently owned Co., I concur: Box Only Sound Extra. I sold more 301's than 901's. I sold what I wanted. The best a person could afford. We had many musicians/celebs.., who didn't know about the equipment. 

People with space limitations wanted theAcoustamass 5's- small speakers w/sub woofer.

BOSE, was never considered audiophile. In their heads, maybe. Too each his own. Yes, sometimes it's all about marketing. See Apple: MP3 pushers. 


Eat a Peach For Peace!!! 

Jim Tavegia's picture

Somehow I can't get the image of 2 guys in black suits and hats arriving at your door, "Hey, Fremer, you in there"!!!!!

joegator81's picture

I will be grateful to Bose for two things:

1) getting me to care about sound quality

2) for a good paying part time college job


That being said, i quickly learned while working at Bose that the plasticky stuff that we sold was overpriced swill. So my first audiophile speakers were a pair of Monitor Audio B4's which killed everything we sold. I began feeling a bit guilty when people would come in not knowing anything they didnt hear on the Harvey radio show or read in an advertisement. Of course, "Bows-ee" was the best, and i had to judisciously tap dance around that. I had to recite the memorized script for each product verbatim. I had to give some rediculous excuse as to why we didnt publish specs. I had to play only the "allowed" demo music. I had to feign amazement when i removed the nerf ball from the "bass module" during the theater demonstration, as if removing a blockage from a giant port would result in a sudden increase in "bass". I had to ignore the fact that the lifestyle system in the theater room was tweaked with acoustics and back room equipment. The company was very totalitarian in there propaganda usage.


Don't see anything wrong with what Mikey has done. He's just being honest, not sure why he has to hold back. Not sure if anybody associated with bose would be reading an audiophile website anyway ;)

AnalogJ's picture

Well, as long as we should only harmonize  along with those who only love the recently deceased, let's talk about Hitler, shall we? A raven-haired man who dabbled in the applied arts, a painter, really loved dogs and basked in the living environment of underground bunkers.

Speaking of Amar Bose, I understand that his coffin will comprise of Bose 5" boxes spread around the mausoleum, creating a truly sound, surround after-life experience. For those that can't afford the mausoleum experience for their very own after-life, Bose Corporation announced today that it will offer up 1"  boxes with a folded tube long enough to hold ones entire intestinal tract.




Glotz's picture

Ask any casual music listener what a great speaker company is... Bose?

For ALL of the reasons Mikey brought up in this section, Kloss, the worst of audio marketing, and the obit...

Just grateful for MF's voice.  

labjr's picture

Steve Jobs ran Apple like Bose and sued everyone for stealing ideas he stole himself. Everything Apple did and still does is proprietary and getting worse. He was a greedy shithead jerk who screwed his own friends. But his obituary praised him even more. 

Michael Fremer's picture

I don't think Bose was a "greedy shithead jerk" and I don't think Jobs was either. However whatever you say about the men, please don't compare the products! I am an Apple user and am grateful every day I don't live in Windows world. I have Windows on one of my computers and every time I have to go there (not often), it's hell. 

abhimawa's picture

Steve Jobs might not be as nice a person as illustrated by journalists, but Apple's products are lovable vs. Bose's which are laughable, especially when coined to their philosophy of 'better sound through research'. 

Apple's litigation were based on direct competition, whereas Bose's were based on names over different competition (people owning Mark Levinson 20.6, Audio Research will shop for Thiel 2.2, almost absolutely they won't look for Bose CS2.2), and truthful opinion (that's their jobs of telling the truth to consumer), not to mention the ridiculous 'lifestyle' case (why not have I heard people claiming to be the first to use the 'Mark 2' term, by the way???).

This is not to defend Mike, but telling people to write to their liking, and even asked those who wrote honestly to be fired when not suitable to their promo, are downright disgusting. Apple never care about journalists writing their products being overpriced, or perform poorly (they don't). In term of design, they respect Dieter Rams, indeed.

“I never went into business to make money”—Amar Bose.

RIP Amar, wherever you are

NorthStar's picture

R.I.P. Dr. Amar Bose

* I see the light! ...And she's eternal.

Trace's picture

Does this mean you will not be attending ? A pall bearer perhaps. The coffin might make a nifty speaker enclosure,

jstro's picture

You honesty and integrity really shows through and for that I am grateful. My life enjoying audio began with very humble roots and through the decades slightly over four in audio I have tried to find the best sound within my budget and at times over leveraged I did own several Bose products and still have their headphones and acoustic wave in our bed room. My main system is very old high end with quad esl, tubes and massive lenco. I did buy into their marketing and also was disappointed as others have mentioned. But as you highlighted I your original post Bose was always about money otherwise he would have gone out of business long ago. This is your web site so if you are not honest and forthright very few would be posting. I don't think it was "too soon" and learned a lot from your experience.thanks again for passing on your thoughts a d insights. 

detroitvinylrob's picture


You were spot on, and I appreciate your passion and honesty, once again, point for point.

Being kind, and speaking kindly about someone dead (or alive) is a great way to go through life and a practice gentlemen should abide by and yet, I could not agree with you more when it comes to the efforts of the good doctor. Not to mention his standing in the "real" world of high fidelity. He was a cunning business man and a possible genius in his public slight of hand, one could never say, that the man lacked any aspect of commercial suave. The signature bose rhetoric, even in this man's NYTimes obit, is enough to make me want to throw-up. Do people really buy that shit? Don't answer!

I'm obliged to offer, may he rest in peace...

Happy Listening! ;^)>

Biff's picture

I heard a pair of 901s just once, and that was enough. They were horrible; blurry, indistinct, and all the rest.

I will say, however, that a pair of smaller Bose speakers (301 maybe?) really weren't bad, probably because they didn't try to be something that they weren't. But all of that direct/reflecting crap is just that.

PS - Mikey, don't change a thing about your writing. 

Billf's picture

CEA Mourns Death of Industry Pioneer, Dr. Amar Bose

Arlington, VA – 07/16/2013 – The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)© family was extremely sad to learn of the death of consumer electronics (CE) industry legend and CE Hall of Famer, Dr. Amar Bose. Dr. Bose’s passion for technology and his dedication to continued research and development exemplified Ninja Innovation at its best. His expertise in, and love of, acoustics and psychoacoustics drove the development of award-winning, innovative products from his legendary company Bose Corp. 

Since he founded the company in 1964, Bose products have reshaped conventional thinking about the relationship between an audio system’s size and complexity, and the quality of sound produced. Dr. Bose was inducted into the CE Hall of Fame in 2007. We send our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

Logansport Berry's picture

Ninja Innovation©®™ - I had to look that one up.  Coarse vulgarian that I appear to be, it looks like I need to add a title to my summer reading list.

BOBo's picture


  I can not agree more with what you say about Bose. I have neen involved in high end audio for over 30 years. In that time I have NEVER heard a Bose speaker that I thought was worth the money. Often I found speakers at 1/2 the price that sounded better. Keep up your good and honest work.

moviebluedog's picture

Sometime in the early 80s, I remember going to a stereo store in Cerritos, CA with my dad. He was looking to buy new speakers. The first ones shown to us were Bose floor standing speakers. The eager salesman said they were the best sounding and most accurate speakers in the store. My dad bought them. My dad didn't really give a hoot about sound quality anyway.

A few years later, I heard the small Bose AM-3 cube speakers at the Sharper Image. Not knowing much about sound at the time, I thought it was amazing that such loud sound (not good sound) came out of such small speakers. I was young and I wanted them. I bought them a few years later. I got them home, hooked them up, and they sounded nothing like they did in the store. Very tinny. No bass. No midrange. Years later, I took off the panel of the "bass" unit and saw it was nothing but paper, cardboard and a 4-inch driver that looked like it came from a cheap boombox.

Even later, I went to a Bose outlet and sat through their demo with big "speakers" hanging on the wall. The demo sounded pretty good. The demonstrator came in and took the "speakers" off the wall and reveiled one of Bose's small cube systems. Legend has it that Bose had a room right behind the cube speakers with all sorts of electronics to make the speakers sound better.

I totally fell, like thousands of customers, for Bose's marketing for years. They did advertise themselves as a lifestyle company with superior sound. I once thought that my dad and I had great speakers, until I went to friend's homes and their speakers demolished the Bose sound. I also had a Nissan with a Bose sound system and I couldn't stand listening to it.

As for Mikey's article about Dr. Bose, I thought he spoke the truth. I've known Mikey for a few years now. Mikey is very passionate about audio, Saab cars, and movies. I'm glad he knows his stuff and tells it the way he sees it. If it weren't for Mikey's passion and ability to get some people riled (and I say that with total respect for Mikey), we wouldn't have a revival of analog and vinyl, for example. We need people like him to keep our eyes and ears open. I don't have a problem with a company making money, but I don't like how Bose has strong armed people over the years, either.

I can thank Dr. Bose and his company for opening up my eyes and ears to much, much, much better sound from far better components that don't necessarily cost more than a Bose system. I've gone to another made in the USA speaker company, Vandersteen, and never looked back. I still cringe at Bose's heavy marketing campaigns and customers who fall for them. Just because a little box can put out loud sound doesn't make it sound good.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

Like Mikey, I developed an aversion to Bose products based my experience with the 901 and after hearing stories of other speakers populated with cheap drivers. My first hi fi speakers were ARs too. However, my wife was impressed by a colleague's Bose Soundlink II used at an office party and thought she'd surprise me with one as a Christmas present. When I realized it was a $300 purchase, I asked her to return it, she proudly responded that she'd got a great deal at Amazon and only paid half. Setting up the Blutooth link to my old iPhone was easy, the sound was smiley faced but impressive for such a small unit. I believe it is worth $150 but not $300. We use the Soundlink around the pool, my enormous Sony boombox became annoyingly intermittant last summer, many have commented on the good sound quality of the Soundlink. I suppose the moral of this story judge each product impartially, there must be a few good engineers at Bose interested in creating a quality product.

acoustiCrap's picture

Of course the Obit is a plant. It was probably written by Corporate Communications at Bose years ago and pre approved by Bose himself in exchange for an ad contract with the NYT.

I know Bose tries to patent basic laws of Physics, eg the Helmholtz Resonator became the Acoustimass module ("patented Bose technology"). Or the acoustive waveguide (lowercase 'w') which has existed since the 1600s or  before in church organs became the "patented Bose technology" Waveguide (with a capital W). What  I didn't know was than an actual implementation of this so called Bose Waveguide in the form of folded tubes already existed in a radio from the 40s. That was news to me. But doesn't surprise me in the least.

I guess sometime in the late 80s Bose realized they were not going to, or going to be able to, compete in the high end floorstanding speaker market. That market was already taken by the B&Ws of the world and was also fairly croweded. Instead Bose was going to stand apart by focusing on a unique selling point, big sound from a "small package". Thus the Lifestyle concept was born. A system that would blend in with the "decor" (Bose marketing loves that word) while giving the impression of big  sound(not to be confused with high quality sound) and look pleasing to the eye. That along with an army of patent lawyers, litigators and a huge marketing budget paid for by their overpriced products was going to be the Bose strategy for the 90s and beyond. And it proved successful. Hugely successful.

Speaking of their success, I am amazed at how similar Apple's and Bose's strategies have been and how successful they are at using the strategy. Apple took BSD Unix, made  some modifications and labeled it MacOS. Bose took basic physics concepts and existing  product designs and rebadged them "Patented Bose Technology". Their customer service is great. Both make sleek products that look good and are generally above average in quality. Product ads from both are eye catching and backed  by an enormous marketing budget. Their products are priced  over the competition, in part to create the impression of quality which they are, to an extent. And lastly their legal department sit waiting for an opportunity to sue the pants off their competitors at the slightest hint of  infringement. That is their strategy in a nutshell. And it's hugely successful.

Do I hate Bose products? No, I don't hate them. I just think there is a carefully crafted mythical aspect to Bose (like there was to Obama in 2008) that is nowhere near reality. My own speakers are actually a pair of Bose 601 series III that I bought for $150. For that amount they sound fabulous.







barrysconspiracyworld's picture

Great post and very informative.  I'm amazed people are so impressed with those crappy plastic, over priced radios.  I never liked the 901s and they are such a flawed idea.


Sometimes you just have to say "Jerkstore!"

azmoon's picture

Good piece Mike.  I agree totally.  

hifijohn's picture

Bose was nothing  but a con man and the only wrong with a con man is a very successful one.$500 for a clock radio $1100 for that life style stereo?! And dont forget the endless lawsuits, if bose spent as much time creating great products as they did suing they really would be a great company.

ProPeople's picture

Bose alone outsold the entire high-end audio industry....in that regards, they are indeed the best! Like McDonalds? Since McDonalds sells the most hamburgers of anybody, they must make the best hamburgers. Right?

What else bose need to do?

orthobiz's picture

Fremer is a controversial figure in his own right with barbs, arrows and bombs thrown his way all the time. I appreciate his Bose discussion even on the eve of the demise of poor Amar. Because you're just not gonna read it anywhere else like Mike has laid it out.

Additionally, as a transplanted New York tiptoeing among the polite midWesterners, it is true that we east coast people (I am trying here not to bring up andy New York/New Jersey rivalry) blurt stuff out automatically, without thinking (or even needing to think) BUT are considered normal in our own environs. And with all the vitriol on the web, at least Mike's piece explained both sides of his own position. 

Mike, you are a mensch in my book. Thanks for not being a tuches lecker.


mjohnson229's picture

Bought bose once. Junk quit working after 6 months. Threw it in the garbage can the next day. Bought B and W speakers with Rotel equipment. Been happy ever since.

ProPeople's picture

“Bought bose once. Junk quit working after 6 months. Threw it in the garbage can the next day. Bought B and W speakers with Rotel equipment. Been happy ever since.”
Another unbelievable/funny story. It said bose is expensive and you threw to garbage can? Hahaha.. You must me be a rich person? …No, because a truly rich person will not post like that. And you know those rich people are the most satisfied by bose products. Here I need to qualify also, because many rich people are really craving for the most highest quality of sound. And in order to get that they bought those big systems like def tech, kef, paradigm, jbl, polks, infinity, wharfdale, emotiva, sunfire, martin logan, etc. and these needs a lot of money. But I tell you, these people have big houses that can accommodate these big systems but maintaining the big area inside the house which it is the main purpose, not the big speakers . However, the trend of rich people when it comes to sound reproduction have now change. They make a dedicated home audio/theater room inside their house to put this expensive high end systems there for movie viewing. The bose system especially acoustimass system they usually put it in front, say in a big living/receiving room as they wanted it free of big speakers but filled with big sound, and that bose accomplished it. It was bose pioneered this small cubes music system and sound like the standard size high end speakers.

audiocableguy's picture

I am beyond happy after reading this article! It is wonderful someone has put words to describe the marketing machine that continues to bully consumers into buying inferior crap! It would be interesting to see the breakdown of the Bose financial plan. What is spent on marketing, R & D and legal compared to other companies. We all have countless sayings to describe the products, can't recall any of them favorable.

I have yet to hear a bose installed audio system in a vehicle that's worth a damm. The pro stuff is mid level at best, however the $$$ are up with truely superior products (d&b, Nexo, Meyer). I have heard more than once from sales people, "We sold this system on name recognition alone! It sounds good because it says Bose on it". Better sound through marketing. Idots.

Amar Bose has passed, I can't say anything about the man himself. He has a list of notable accomplishments and has built a household name in the process. The fact that legal pressures has been used repeatedly to protect the name is truely sad.

Mr. Fremer, I salute you sir!

ProPeople's picture

Did consumers was in coma for 40 years of bullying from Bose? And until now this consumers didn’t wake up? lol!… I don’t think so. Bose maintained its world market sales in the audio industry until now and incrementally increassing. I tell you now, no matter how intelligent you are in the field of marketing (even you acquired PhD), the crap product you are advertising will eventually discovered by consumers in a short time (at most say in 5 years time). But in the case of bose products, the sales didn’t go down. In conclusion, that means the complaints/bashings by people on bose products is actually found only in the internet blogs, forums, discussions, reviews, etc.. But in reality don’t have. It’s laughable when someone in a reviews said ”I bought bose today and after I went to house to listen, I returned to the store the following day…I don’t like it.”. Funny and unbelievable.
I remember in one bose store in Dubai (after our gig show), the two customers were fighting each other on who should take the last unit of Acoustimass home theater system...eventually it was resolved but the other guy left grudges to one who took the unit.

sooneroutlaw's picture

I have been in the A/V business since 1984, and must admit I sold Bose products back in the 80's.   I realized they were pretty awful, but consumers wanted them.    Why is that?   Because Bose was an absolute genius in the way they marketed their products to unknowing consumers.    They were (and are to this day) the first name the average consumer thinks of when the word "speaker" is mentioned.   Very similar how MccDonalds markets their food to stupid people.    But McDonalds is the first name people think of when the word "hamburger" is mentioned.    Branding has won out in this business for these brands.    

No, their speakers were nothing I would ever own (even though I won many pairs/sets of them in contests), but I did sell them (but only when a customer asked for them by name.   *I made sure NOT to compare them to anything else in the sound room.   LOL Why walk a customer?   "99% of them don't understand sound and don't hear things the way we do", was a statement made to me by one of my earliest managers, who made me a successful salesman.    

In closing, I say Don't kick a man when he's down (or dead).   Hey, he was a genius.

ProPeople's picture

No marketing, no survival. What's the point of making a product without advertising it? Marketing is a must in any business, otherwise you are just wasting your time, effort and money.

ra7's picture

What else can we expect from Mikey, Stereophile and the audiophile press in general? An obit in a newspaper forced your hand? More likely you couldn't post quickly enough.

They may have paid for an obit in NYT, but what about paid-for reviews on analog planet and Stereophile? Is that much different than bose marketing their products? 

Bose sold shoddy products for high prices. Hey, that is no different than many of the hi-fi companies out there. They are just not as successful at it.

Don't begrudge him the success he had and that the equally greedy hi-fi industry only dreams of. 

malvrich's picture

How did it come to be that Bose products are never reviewed in any audio publications? is this willful manipulation also or did no one ever request the products out of some disdain for dealing with Dr. Bose?

I've heard a lot of bad things about the products (cone tweets, cardboard etc) but never really gave a critical listen. What gives there?

Thanks and R.I.P. Dr. Bose

ttanib's picture

First of all I love my multiple pairs of Bose 151 outdoor speakers the original rectangular box version that seem to be indistructable and sound just great outside. All you lovers of Bose products did you ever actually listen to them? They are horrible, the 301 wasn't bad! Mickey never critiqued Bose for being a capitalist (a bad word these days in the USA) he said he was a charlatan! TRUE!!! He never said no one else was or Bose was exclusively the owner of that crown he just postulated that the "obit" was a plant."How could that be" you may ask, again open your ears and also your eyes! 

Well done Mickey, for being Mickey! We need you.

ttanib's picture

First of all I love my multiple pairs of Bose 151 outdoor speakers the original rectangular box version that seem to be indistructable and sound just great outside. All you lovers of Bose products did you ever actually listen to them? They are horrible, the 301 wasn't bad! Mickey never critiqued Bose for being a capitalist (a bad word these days in the USA) he said he was a charlatan! TRUE!!! He never said no one else was or Bose was exclusively the owner of that crown he just postulated that the "obit" was a plant."How could that be" you may ask, again open your ears and also your eyes! 

Well done Mickey, for being Mickey! We need you.

Atomicmod's picture

What's with all the uproar? Mr Fremer didn't get into a game of insults, he just gave his opinion on the man's shady company. If any of you really think that this piece "hurt the Bose family," then you're all clearly living in a fantasy land. 

theDude's picture

Mikey, I read your piece, find the links to "DOWNTIME; Making the Best Of Computer Sound" and "Bose’s $6000 LED television fitted with one of its “wave”-type sound systems" dead. Did Bose get to you or the magazine, forcing you to pull the respective webpages?

While I agree with you about Bose products (I once owned a set of 901's), I think you'll have to admit that Dr. Bose made his mark, whether we like it or not, and that that kind of determination and drive is laudable, on a personal level, even if you didn't like his business practices.

I want your job!

Mike D's picture

Never cared much for Bose. Very effective marketing though.

I just came from the Capital Audiofest. I wish some of those guys had just a little of Bose's marketing skills. If that is the future of high end audio we are doomed. Seriously.

I do think the effectiveness of the Bose Noise Cancelling headphones needs to be acknowledged. Without regard to how you feel about the tonal balance - I think it's fine - the noise cancellation is actually quite astounding.

ragingfighter's picture

Sound is not only about science alone. It's as much is based on personal taste as it is about audiophile grade quality/accuracy of track or soundtrack. If you're talking on home theater you look at Adobe and DTS or the whole idea of those sounds coming through those surround sound processing systems a very inaccurate. They not exactly what the studio set records because if you were here exactly what the studio said probably recorded in the first place not only with the sound be crappy not only would the impact of any explosion be feltt much less of an impact but the whole experience will be room. The reason I bring this up because what you hear be at a movie tracks like a movie is produce sound deal with people breaking Celebrita imitate that cracking or other types of explosions to imitate what seen on screen if you are arguing about accuracy of a track the whole idea of home theater right there alone is a worthless debate. That in itself for any movie for the most part means that soundtrack is not accurate at all and is enhanced before it's even rent to any high-end audio system and also ran through DTS Weatherbee the 7.1 the Neo six any of that stuff adobe Digital Dolby Pro logic old manipulate the sound quality. Also the fact that sound was a ready enhanced as will say before it even gets delivered to your home theater is also the point I make of this debate being almost pointless. As for studio recordings of audio tracks be at music CDs MP3s lossless sound files etc. those amounts of accuracy count for a lot more than movie soundtracks. This is if you're arguing the point of being completely pure or is neutral as possible. When it comes to sound and this is an important one for all the fools on this form to understand there is no right or wrong people should be happy there's choice and if the choice you decide to make is not what everybody else agrees with that's fine but it's your choice as an individual to choose what sounds best to you. I have heard many home theaters I have also heard many good headsets a variable quality. Again this is a very subjective opinion I do enjoy Bose and I also enjoy Bowers and Wilkins. There are some really good headphones it comes down to use your case what you using it for and preference. Obviously you will not use a $5000 headset on a train plane across as everybody on the flight around you would be disturbed. Also not everybody likes the same experience when it comes to sound especially for music because there are very much no visual cues to stimulate your eyes so your years are really taken in the sound more than even watch movies in my opinion. I don't see any choice is the wrong choice when it comes to somebody's personal preference. If somebody enjoys Bose and they enjoy the quality of what they bring to the sound industry that's a choice and it's their choice I don't think anybody should be criticized for either being a fanboy or hater. I do think anybody that can write about article on somebody's obituary is a disappointing person that should keep their opinions to yourself and grow up some. Person is that at least give that much respect for the person to keep your mouth shut if you can't talk at all with a level of respect. And this whole tirade of opinions and sound quality and choice the point I make my favorite type of sound may not be your favorite type of sound and your favorite CyberSound certainly may not be the next person's favorite type of sound. It's very important to have choice but don't criticize what everybody else decides because you don't see it being right way or your way. I know many people that have different solutions further south a lot of people out of the street love beats a lot of people Wikes Sony I enjoy Bose and Bowers and Wilkins is my preference. I think they both represent different standards and audio and they're both very good that is an opinion though some people out there that he Bose there some people out there that hate Bowers and Wilkins probably but again it's about choice not the criticism of choice. So for everybody that has strong preference power to you and enjoy what you listen to the fullest you have your own setting years your own set of hearing capability as everybody else in the world has different hearing to some level that everybody here's the same thing the same way that's very important to note of this whole thing. So enjoy your solution be a Bose or any other brand. And if anybody here knows sound so well and you're good with would go out build your own speakers your own designs your own cabinets hey try let's you good you do. 

ragingfighter's picture

Since I was using speech dictation some of the wording was misspelled your miss used The general idea is not misconstrued. Take out the word Adobe it was supposed to be Dolby. But the basic idea of that whole tirade was choices choice don't criticize anybody from making their choice or liking what they like there is no wrong or right it's very much similar to choosing Mac and Windows. Don't knock anybody if you disagree with it so choice if you feel what you've chosen is better that's fine if they feel what they have chosen is better that's fine leave it at that move along enjoy what you listen to enjoy what you use. It's so kiddush and foolish to bash people after they passed away whether you know them or not and shows a lack of respect as well. 

Redgage's picture

The Bose 901 was introduced in 1968 to much fanfare. While Consumer Reports remains essentially clueless about high fidelity, back then it bought a pair of 901s and to its credit reported that it didn't like what it heard. Among the problems noted was that instruments often “wandered” around the room and were bloated in size.

This hardly came as a shock to anyone who auditioned a pair, as I did back then at a Queens, New York store, near my parent’s home.

Thanks !!