The founder of audio firm Bose, Dr Amar Bose, has died aged 83. He wasn’t simply the boss of a high-priced equipment manufacturer, but a major player in acoustical engineering.
Born in Philadelphia in 1929, the son of a refugee from India, Bose taught himself to repair broken toy electric trains because his family couldn’t afford new ones. He later turned this into a teenage job repairing radio sets.
He studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, after a spell in India, taught at MIT for 45 years, including a class on acoustics.
Bose began working on producing audio equipment after noting that expensive speakers didn’t accurately recreate the experience of live music. His big breakthrough was realizing that the acoustic set-up in concert halls and theaters could be mirrored in home audio.
While an estimated 80 percent of the sound in a concert hall reaches the listener by bouncing off a wall or ceiling, home audio equipment at the time largely worked by simply beaming the sound directly at the listener. Bose developed speaker units that housed a series of multiple small speakers pointing in different directions to get a mix of direct and reflected sound.
The set-up of the resulting business was also unusual. Deciding against accepting offers for the patents, Bose took $10,000 from an MIT professor, YW Lee, to set up the firm. (It proved a smart investment as Bose later bought Lee out for $260,000.)
Despite the company’s success, grossing a reported $2.28 billion in 2011, Bose opted to keep the company in private hands. He argued this allowed him to do a better job of developing new ideas without the need to meet the “artificial” timetable of bringing good news to investors with annual and quarterly reports. Upon retiring in 2011, he gave a majority of the company’s shares to MIT; the set-up means the institute gets an annual dividend, but can’t vote or sell the shares.
Later Bose creations included noise-cancelling headphones and software that could simulate the listening experience in individual seats of a concert venue even before it was constructed.