Rich Warren: Acoustics genius Bose will be missed

Amar Bose, founder and chairman of the company that bears his name, passed away July 12 at age 83. He was among a small circle of great men who graced my life.

Amar Bose was a devoted music lover, mathematician, acoustician, Ph.D. in electrical engineering and an astute businessman. He studied under the greatest minds at MIT and continued their teaching traditions for more than 45 years.

Teaching provided one of his greatest joys. Students and peers cited him throughout his teaching career for remarkable ability, presence, sincerity and enthusiasm.

He received his first teaching award in 1963, followed by many thereafter.

In 1956, he started a research program in physical acoustics and psychoacoustics. This led to his development of many patents in acoustics, electronics, nonlinear systems and communication theory.

Before the founding of the Bose Corp., he developed and patented sophisticated electronics, including what are popularly known as "digital amplifiers" that now play a daily role in our lives.

Dissatisfaction with an early component stereo system that the young Mr. Bose installed in his dorm room determined one path of his research and ultimately the founding of the company that bears his name. He strove to make recordings of the Boston Symphony Orchestra he heard at home sound more like the live performances he regularly heard at Symphony Hall.

I've attended hundreds of news conferences in the industry. Most are high on theatrics and low on technical explanations. Bose presentations always included either Mr. Bose and/or the lead engineer on a project explaining why they created the product and how it worked.

In short: Engineering drives the Bose Corp.

In an industry of large egos, Mr. Bose preferred his engineers receive the glory. He was a modest man, fiercely proud of his company, but preferring to stay out of the limelight.

He would invite select members of the press to his office for whiteboard presentations explaining the principles behind projects and products on which he was working. It resembled a private college colloquium. His sincerity engendered great respect.

Mt. Bose lived modestly as well. For most of the years I knew him he drove a Buick and worked in a simple office.

One of his attributes most visible to those of you who own Bose products was insistence on simplicity, long before Steve Jobs created the iPod. Mr. Bose and I once argued about the lack of a Dolby switch on the first Acoustic Wave Music System in the mid-1980s. I thought there should be an in/out switch. He argued that at that point, most cassettes used Dolby B, which was beneficial to sound quality, so why make operation more confusing just for the few cassettes not encoded with Dolby B?

Mr. Bose knew that the cassette player was temporary. He loaned me an early Sony Discman to plug into the auxiliary input jacks so I could hear how good the Acoustic Wave Music System really sounded. A CD player replaced the cassette player a few years later.

Mr. Bose believed so strongly in the mission of his privately held company that he made arrangements for it to continue in its current form after his death and made its sale next to impossible.

In 2011, to fulfill his lifelong dream to support MIT education, Mr. Bose gave to MIT the majority of the stock of Bose Corp. in the form of nonvoting shares. Under the terms of the gift, dividends from those shares will be used by MIT to sustain and advance MIT's education and research mission. MIT cannot sell its Bose shares, and does not participate in the management or governance of the company.

The Bose Corp. underwrites my radio program, which is handled by WFMT. This does not influence my respect for Mr. Bose as a great man.

I could have penned these exact words long before the Bose Corp.'s involvement with WFMT.

I will deeply miss him.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

Topics (2):People, Technology

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