No Highs? No Lows? Must be Bose!
No, the title’s not an original Blankism. It’s an old standard
within the retail audio industry that goes back to (at least) the middle ’70s.
It’s also one of the more accurately descriptive derogatory statements in
America’s cultural lexicon. Personally, I think it ranks right up there with
“doesn’t play well with others,” but then, that’s just me.
Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find an equally quaint way to describe
the physical damage I’d like to mete out to one Herbert (Herbie) Hancock without
coming off like a complete racist asshole, but when I’m channel surfing at
3:00 AM, I regret to inform the reader that I’m stuck with disturbing visions
of burning something on a lawn – but, rather than it being a cross on Mr.
Hancock’s lawn, I’m envisioning burning Mr. Hancock on the undoubtedly
manicured lawn of the Bose corporate offices in Massachusetts.
See? I told you it was gonna sound awful.
And why would I want to do that to a perfectly inoffensive (if
you can forgive him for Rocket – I can’t) jazz pianist and composer?
Because the sick sonofabitch is pushing the most overrated, overpriced
and over-promoted piece of electronic horseshit the Western World has seen
since the laughable but cruel 901 invasion of the late ’60s, and the bastard’s
doing so in a mindnumbingly ubiquitous series of infomercials on late night
TV. In other words: he’s peeing in my particular pool of interest, and I
want to see him suffer exquisitely for his sins against man – and me.
Okay, so you don’t even know what the “laughable but cruel 901 invasion
of the late ’60s” is and you’re calling that asswipe Morris Dees of the Southern
Poverty Law Center to report me for hate crimes. Fair enough. I’ll go away
I implore you to hear me out before passing judgment on my sick
and twisted vision of revenge.
First, though, a bit of background…
In 1968, the Bose corporation introduced what soon became the quintessential
“must have” set of stereo speakers for every Playboy-reading college
punk in America who wasn’t being shot at by scads of angry AK-47-weilding
farmers in Southeast Asia. The single best thing about our under-appreciated
servicemen coming home from that particular conflict was that their hearing
had been so adversely affected by constant gunfire that the unavoidable Tinnitus
and subsequent hearing loss had mercifully spared them from being subjected
to the horrors of Bose’s Direct/Reflecting® loudspeaker technology.
I haven’t even gotten started.
My purpose here is not to hammer Bose for their past transgressions
against humanity’s ears, but to lay waste to their arrogant little Bostonian
selves on their latest marketing travesty: the concept that says if you spend
$1377 (more on that in a moment) with Bose, you can get better (it
makes me cringe just typing that word in the same sentence as “Bose”) sound
than were you to spend the same $1377 with some other company.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back to those disillusioned Vietnam vets and shit-for-brained college
Bose’s company-expanding concept of “Direct/Reflecting®” loudspeaker
technology certainly looked good (sort of) on paper, but the execution of
the idea fell well short of the ideal. Those infamous 901 speakers (for
which Bose is up to its SIXTH development series) became an ersatz
benchmark where no bench was necessary. The idea of placing nine “full range”
(HA!) drivers to the rear of the speaker enclosure and leaving one
driver and two ports aimed to the front caught the imagination of every dweeb
who imagined he was some sort of burgeoning Richard Feynman of psychoacoustics.
Trouble is, no one could set the damn things up properly, because most of
the twits never read the reasoning behind the 901’s weird driver array!
Do you have any idea how many really nice homes I’ve been
in over the last three decades where I’ve seen a pair of 901s aimed into a
sound-absorbing curtain rather than a necessarily reflective facing wall off
of which all that reflected sound is supposed to bounce off of to bring the
listener that patented “stereo everywhere” Bose sound? Do you know how many
nice homes I’ve been in where a pair of 901s were facing the wrong
direction because the feeble fucks couldn’t figure out why their expensive
speakers sounded so shitty that they turned them around so the nine-driver
side was facing the listener instead of the as-specified, other way ’round?
Look, I’m not asking you to become instantly familiar with all the
acoustical science and sound reproduction concepts described herein, but you
can grasp at least one aspect of why the entire idea behind the technology
that put Bose on the map is bankrupt on face value…
Bose says only 11% of live sound in a concert hall reaches your
ears directly. Okay, even if you buy that, answer me this: When was the last
time you attended a concert where the symphony you were there to hear faced
AWAY from you?
I thought not.
I doubt any of this techno-babble would hold your attention were
I not to say something clever and deep about the Bose 901 Direct/Reflecting®
Loudspeaker at this point. Okay… < ahem > I hereby declare the
Bose 901 to be the worst bang-for-the-buck transducer ever produced by man.
Not “edgy” enough for you?
The Bose 901 is the reason the expression “No highs? No lows? Must
be Bose!” came into being.
Still not enough?
A Bose 901 has all of the tonal accuracy of Roseanne Barr signing
the National Anthem, all of the high frequency capability of a hoarse cave
troll, and the slamming bass impact of a gnat fart.
So what does Bose’s folly have to do with my wanting to roast Herbie
Hancock on their corporate lawn? Nothing, except for the fact that so many
of you are still BUYING BOSE’S BULLSHIT that they’re now making enough
money to literally cake the late-night airwaves with their slickly produced
cow pie hocus pocus, and Herbie Friggin’ Hancock is their chief turd-slinger.
But it’s no longer the sorry-ass 901 that has me in a tizzy. Oh,
no… It’s much, much worse now.
So, you may ask yourselves, “Who is The Blank to bitch about such
an esoteric and staggeringly technical subject?”
A fair enough question – enough so that I’m now going to do something
I never do on my own website… I’m going to offer everyone a little
insight on how The Blank came to be such a bitter and disturbed social
commentator – especially when it comes to reproduced sound.
You see, I’m a real, live, “golden-eared” (read: “institutionable”)
Yep, “Audiophil” – that’s me.
I am such a sick and twisted man that Lucasfilm, Ltd., hired me
over the phone to become a real, live TAP (Theater Alignment
Program) Evaluator for them back in 1990. Okay, maybe that had something
more to do with the fact that I made THX theatrical services coordinator (or
whatever she was called way back then), Judy Rosen, crack up when I referred
to Tucson as “Otisburg” (see: Superman for the bizarre sub-reference)
in the same phone call – but that’s another story for another time. I’m a
shooter, so that means I have taken care of my ears since I was a little kid,
because I knew the dire importance of protecting my hearing. I have never
attended an amplified concert without wearing hearing protection. I possess
perfect pitch, and what’s known as “pitch memory” (meaning for about any
tone or tune you can name in a familiar motion picture or television show
I can reproduce the exact key upon request). I’m also widely considered by
a growing number of friends and acquaintances to be “one-stop-shopping” for
all things consumer-audio related. I have made other people (i.e.: retailers)
so much money over the years that they should lavish gear upon me for free
(are you listening, Definitive Tech?) – like Cambridge SoundWorks (aka: HiFi.com),
who’ve made enough money off of my suggested sales to buy the freedom of all
the poor Chinese slave labor they employ to make their remarkably musical
products. In home theater circles, I can easily rattle off enough audio and
video dos and don’ts to make your spouse divorce you. I’m also boring you
now, so I’ll stop.
Hey, it’s an adventure, but at least it’s not a job. Wait… I don’t
think I like the sound of that.
And the audio-drug-du-jour that Mr. Hancock is foisting upon North
America, how does this play into my evil plans to make the world a better,
Bose-free place in which to live? Well, let’s look at some numbers everyone
can appreciate (and understand)…
With two of the necessary accessories(???) for what’s known as the
Bose Acoustic Wave® Music System – the one that our dear Mr. Hancock is
pushing – the cost involved is NOT insubstantial. In fact, at a “base
price” of “only” $1079 (that’s without the “base” – which is necessary if
you want to plug anything useful into it), one can hardly call this “miracle
in sound” anything but a miracle of marketing malevolence. Add in the two
most essential “extras” and you have an even less insubstantial price of $1377
Now, it’s not like I’m some jealous homeless guy who’s simply pissed
because he can’t afford one, no. In fact, $1377 barely covers the cost of
just ONE of my main stereo speakers; the point being that I’m not lambasting
Bose for what you pay for this bombastic yuppie boom box, but for what you
get for that grievous cash outlay.
You get shit.
True, the “Acoustic Waveguide®” principle is sound (no pun intended)
in its own right, but that doesn’t mean all those “testimonials” you hear
from the paid scum posing as Bose’s customers aren’t blowing thick, oily
smoke up your ass. Okay, maybe they are real people, but anyone who
claims that this is the best reproduced sound they’ve ever heard is either
deaf, a Clinton-worthy liar, or thinks the radio on Gilligan’s Island
is high fidelity at its finest.
C’mon, people… That stupid little beige box sounds as good or
better as a component system with appropriately huge speakers? Right.
And my mother raised the flag on Iwo. Fuck…
And what’s with all the claims of you having to constantly “tweak”
your component system? I’ll buy that if you and your spouse were stupid enough
to breed and you didn’t have the common sense to duct tape the little ones
to a passing car when you had the chance, but if tiny hands don’t have access
to your system, what worked once is what works forever.
Oh, and that part about the kid being able to “feel the bass” in
his chest from that ridiculous little box… Yeah, if you dropped the box between
the rib-spreader during open-heart surgery, I might buy that, but the laws
of physics are incontrovertible in most cases – and bass reproduction is sure
as hell is one of them. You need a BIG transducer to move enough air
to reproduce a particularly low waveform. Hell, the wavelength of
“Low E” (42.5Hz @ A = 440Hz [at sea level]) on a bass guitar is eight meters
long, so anyone who thinks that his or her chest is being tickled by
a $1K ghetto blaster is ripe for the picking by the unscrupulous Kennedy-voters
at Bose. Sorry, people, that pricey toy doesn’t even come close to reality.
Shit, it’s not even in the same neighborhood as virtual reality.
So, what would yours truly suggest to all those easily taken fucks
with $1377 to absentmindedly blow on a “Keeping up with the Joneses” special
and still get the portability and quality (meaning build quality) they’re
expecting from the beige plastic lump Herbert “Watermelon Man” Hancock is
pushing in those insufferable infomercials?
Well, for starters, I’d tell ’em to put away $877.02 of that $1377
for a rainy day (or hookers) and buy a Cambridge SoundWorks Model Twelve (that’s
a separate satellite speaker and bass module sound system all wrapped
up in a transportable case) along with a Panasonic SLSX469V AM/FM portable
CD player and drop by your idiot neighbor’s house – you know, the same moron
who’s already sprung for the sorry-ass Bose system – and bring them to tears
by simply plugging yours in and blowing their shitty little Bose shoebox
into the fucking swimming pool…
…And all for a mere $499.98(!), less shipping and handling.
That’s right. You’d get all the same features of the Bose system
in a more portable, gloriously musical package that’s assembled right down
the road from where you will find Mr. Hancock burning on that other
nicely manicured lawn. But the sub-$500 combo also features:
• Real stereo imaging (not “pretend” two-channel
imaging from 2 drivers in the same box).
• Real (below 50Hz, at any rate) bass impact.
• Real expandability (no extra “accessories” needed
– the Model Twelve truly does “play well with others”).
I know what you’re asking yourselves… “Does The Blank work
for Cambridge or Matsushita (Panasonic)?” Not hardly. I’m just offering a
suggestion as a gentlemanly consumer advocate who’s looking out for the little
guy – meaning anyone with a fucking clue.
I’m like the government (Gag!)… I’m only here to help.
If enough of you STOP accepting the Bose 30-day in-home Acoustic
Wave® Music System trial offer, maybe you can spare the life of a very
talented – but woefully misguided – musician who’s been on my menu ever since
he started stumping for Blows®.
And isn’t the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get from that sense of accomplishment
worth the price of admission – namely saving yourself $1377 – alone?
Nah, I didn’t think so, but I had to give you the PC out if you
wanted to take it.
And now I think I’ll take my leave of you good people and go listen
to Horatio Gutierrez playing Rach 3 on my decidedly NON-portable primary sound
I think Herbie the Human Torch would have wanted it that way.
“You couldn't get a clue during the clue mating season
in a field full of horny clues if you smeared your body with clue musk and
did the clue mating dance.”
— Edward Flaherty