Audio pioneer Amar Bose dies at 83

Visionary behind namesake firm was synonymous with acoustics innovation, high-end sound systems


New York - Dr Amar Bose, the visionary engineer, inventor and entrepreneur whose namesake company, the Bose Corp, became synonymous with high-quality audio systems and speakers, has died. He was 83.

His death on Friday at his home in Wayland, Massachusetts, was confirmed by his son, Dr Vanu Bose.

As founder and chairman of the privately held company, Dr Bose focused relentlessly on acoustic engineering innovation. His speakers, although expensive, earned a reputation for bringing concert hall quality audio into homes and vehicles.

And by refusing to offer stock to the public, he was able to pursue risky long-term research, such as noise-cancelling headphones and an innovative suspension system for cars, without the pressures of quarterly earnings announcements.

A perfectionist and a devotee of classical music, Dr Bose was disappointed by the inferior sound of a high-priced stereo system he purchased when he was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineering student in the 1950s.

His interest in acoustic engineering piqued, he realised that 80 per cent of the sound experienced in a concert hall was indirect, meaning that it bounced off walls and ceilings before reaching the audience.

This realisation, using basic concepts of physics, formed the basis of his research.

In the early 1960s, Dr Bose invented a type of speaker based on psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception. His design incorporated multiple small speakers aimed at the surrounding walls, rather than directly at the listener, to reflect the sound and, in essence, recreate the larger sound heard in concert halls.

After setting up his company in 1964, he introduced the Bose 901 speaker system in 1968, which became a bestseller for more than 25 years. Unlike conventional loudspeakers, which radiated sound forward only, the 901s used a blend of direct and reflected sound.

Later inventions included the popular Bose Wave radio and the Bose noise-cancelling headphones, which were so effective they were adopted by the military and commercial pilots.

Dr Bose's devotion to research was matched by his passion for teaching. Having earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering at MIT, he returned from a Fulbright scholarship at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi and joined the MIT faculty in 1956.

He taught there for more than 45 years and, in 2011, donated a majority of his company's shares to the school.

Dr Bose made a lasting impression in the classroom as well as in his company. His popular course on acoustics was as much about life as about electronics.

Said MIT engineering professor and longtime colleague Alan Oppenheim: "He talked not only about acoustics but about philosophy, personal behaviour, what is important in life. He was somebody with extraordinary standards."

New York Times

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