The year is 1968. After years of research and development, Bose engineers introduce the world's first loudspeaker system designed to reproduce the experience of a live music performance—at home.
It heralded a new era for stereo speakers and helped redefine the term "high fidelity."
Forty years later, the Bose® 901® Direct/Reflecting® speaker system remains the standard for recreating the warmth, clarity and emotional impact of a concert hall. And the technological innovations at its heart continue to drive a new generation of Bose home entertainment products.
"It seems so simple and obvious today," says John Wawrzonek, an engineer on the project leading to the 901 speaker system launch. "But doing what's never been done before is the biggest obstacle."
How sound travels
Exactly how does sound act and react during a live performance? Bose engineers determined that in a concert hall only about 11 percent of live music sound reaches the audience directly. The majority reflects off walls, ceiling and floor.
Conventional loudspeakers aim sound directly at the listener, resulting in a single "sweet spot." But the team's goal was to reproduce a natural concert hall experience at home by reflecting most sound off walls and other flat surfaces. Their breakthrough solution was Direct Reflecting® speaker technology, which delivers clear, lifelike stereo performance everywhere in the room.
But Bose engineers did not immediately recognize the importance of reflected sound. The first Bose loudspeaker sytem was the 2201 speakers, a pair of unusual quarter sphere-shaped enclosures, each containing 22 full-range five-inch drivers. Placed in adjacent corners of a room, they replicated a true spherical radiator, then generally believed to be ideal.
Although the 2201 speakers represented an advance over conventional speaker technology, some musical instruments, particularly violins, did not sound natural, and failed to retain their original clarity.
"Certain sound characteristics didn't behave in the manner you'd expect from live music," says Wawrzonek.
The team returned to the lab. "We didn't really know what we were looking for," he notes, "but one of the big lessons you learn over the years is to pay attention to surprises."
Bringing the concert hall home
After extensive research, the engineers discovered that the majority of sound in concert halls—about 89 percent—is reflected off walls, ceiling and floor. To achieve the lifelike sound they were seeking, they had to recreate the spatial characteristics and sound patterns of a concert hall.
Further experimentation led to an advance in loudspeakers: a pair of pentagon-shaped enclosures, each with nine drivers. The breakthrough came with the configuration—eight of those drivers faced the rear, only one toward the front.
Since the majority of drivers pointed backwards to reflect sound off various surfaces, the system finally had the balance of direct and reflected sound required for lifelike performance.
Decades later, the 901® Direct/Reflecting® speaker system is still in production, incorporating years of acoustic upgrades within its unique profile. You can enjoy the acoustics of a concert hall at home, with sound that's balanced, wherever you are in the room.
Experience Direct/Reflecting® technology in a variety of Bose products—from floorstanding and bookshelf speakers
, to surprisingly small cube speakers that deliver a full home theater experience.