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BOSE 901 series3 a good buy?


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Guest rickcee

Hi I believe ( no personal knowledge) that all 901 models have the 12 year disappearing foam. refoaming 2 large woofers (advent, etc) is one thing. Refoaming 18 small speakers . . .

but if they're real rubber surrounds, or an improved non deteriorating foam. . . . enjoy Rick

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  • 11 months later...

Three years ago I removed the stapled on grill cloths from my 33 year old Bose 901 original series 1 (they didn't have a series until series 2 appeared) and was astonished to see that there was absolutely no deterioration whatsoever. The original drivers were manufactured by CTS and were an acoustic suspension design. Dr. Amar Bose apparantly learned a thing or two from Edgar Vilcher using the acoustic suspension principle to great advantage. Whle this loudspeaker may not please many or even most audiophiles, there were some rather clever ideas which were innovative and unique even by today's standards. By tightly coupling the 9 drivers in each enclosure and pushing the resonant frequency up to 180 hz by using a small enclosure, the opposite of what other manufacturers do, he took advantage of the linear falloff of 6 db per octave below resonance and built an electronic equalizer to compensate for it. He claimed that according to his tests, phase shifts around resonance were inaudible at or above this frequency but not below. This of course made the drivers very power hungry especially at low frequencies and at 30 hz, it is much less efficient than an AR 12 inch woofer. This required very expensive amplifiers in those days (I used an AR) By series 4, he had made a lot of changes greatly improving his profit margin although IMO compromising performance. He abandoned the acoustic suspension design and opted for a much more efficient ported design compromising the bass response by about an octave. He bagan manufacturing his own drivers and used an injection molded plastic enclosure. The equation went from typically $500 speakers, $1500 amplifier to $1500 speakers, $500 amplifier. I don't know where the series 3 fit into this scheme.

It is noteworthy that although Bose would point out many dozens if not hundreds of changes they've made to 901 over the years (I'm sure all of them would be called improvements by the manufacturer), the basic concept hasn't changed in 35 years and being only up to series 6 today, this has proven much to the chagrin of many audiophiles to be among the commercially most successful audio products in history.

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I don't think that's quite fair. A lot of highly respected reviewers found much to admire about it at the time it was introduced. As I said, it was deficient IMO in both high frequency output and tonal accuracy but no worse than many of its competitors at its price around 35 years ago. It is unfortunate that instead of evolving and improving in performance as the rest of the industry evolved, it got worse. The only thing that did improve AFAIK was the profit margin per unit and overall profits. While an engineering failure by modern audiophile standards, they must be doing something right. They apparantly sell tons of them. AR on the other hand is bankrupt. Well building a better mousetrap depends on your definition of what better means I suppose. They sure have a lot of audiophiles hating them.

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>As I said, it was deficient IMO in both high frequency output and tonal accuracy but no worse than many of its competitors at its price around 35 years ago.<

Hmmm. I'm not sure that's quite fair, either. My memory of the 901 really only goes back to about 1975-7, so maybe taking it back further makes my memory inadequate and your description right in every detail.

My memory is that Bose was always very proud of those speakers, but they just looked so "cool" sitting on those contemporary-style stacked-conical stands that a lot of people just had to have 'em. But you couldn't have spent that much money on anything else and not accidently ended-up with something that sounded much, much better.

For the benefit of those too young to remember: In those days a good audio system was still a virtual necessity in all but the most destitute of homes. All those major entertainers and society-shapers from "the 60s" (which were from about '64-'73) were still out there making music or comedy albums or something. There were no affordable, color VTRs, PCs weren't around, and the major source of entertainment was the home audio system - which had gotten better and more affordable at the same time. Department stores were selling fully integrated systems from Magnavox and Sony and Capehart and others for thousands of dollars with the only thing to recommend them being that they were easy to purchase and the speaker cabinets were huge. It was still possible to buy a "console" recordplayer/TV combo.

So I think the 901 probably filled a terrific market niche. It sounded bigger than it was, got incredibly loud (with enough amplifier), was ultra-stylish, and showed that the purchaser's level of sophistication was "on-up-there" compared with department store purchasers. (snob appeal at a fraction of the price of Klipschorns)

I saw many a pair of 901 Series IIs sold with big JVC or other receivers and a few sold with Crown amplifiers (although I have no recollection of the preamp popular in that day). I do remember that dbx dynamic range expanders were a useful item about then and that they were usually demo-ed to the extreme - so you could hear the "pumping."

My recollection (which is likely flawed) is that the 901 Series II was a big improvement over the 901, but I remember them needing some serious, serious amplification. The big receivers weren't really up to it. But pair them with a Mc, or Phase, or Crown and crank-em-up and you could deafen a football arena with fairly clean sound; truncated but clear.

My memory is so incredibly foggy on this next bit that I hesitate to say this and I look-forward to being corrected if I'm wrong: I remember the Series III as being the first iteration with the ports that looked like jet nozzles.

My exposure to them was limited by two pair in a smallish local stereo store, one on stands in one room and one hanging from chains in another. In the front room was one of the new Bose receivers with the equalizer and other controls built-in.

The hanging pair in the "real room" were connected to a Crown amplifier and panels of something had been added to the corners of the room for reflecting sound.

I recall not liking them. But it was "kinda cool" that you could play something from "Slowhand" or "Victim of Love" from Hotel California on them at truly deafening volumes and they would swing on their chains. I thought that was their best feature since they clearly (to my ear) didn't sound worth a flip. But if you wanted to watch speakers do a Tarzan imitation, this was the only game in town.

About this same time there were a pair of Yamaha speakers (I remember them as being 10" 3-way), the Advent, and some others that were much better sounding for far, far less money. Far less money.

And just to complete the memory, I recall that the Series IV was somehow "cheaper" than the III, but I don't remember if that was their price, or their construction, or what. Oddly, I remember them as sounding better than the Series III, but IMHO that wasn't saying much.

I lost all contact with Bose about this time. It "feels" like the 501 got a lot of 901 sales as soon as they were released and the 301s were, of course, absolutely everywhere. The 301 did "look good" for a speaker of that size in that day.

You know, my opinion as to why Bose did so well is probably wrong and counts for nothing, but as one of the guys on the sales floor (not selling Bose except for a few weeks one Christmas season during college) I can say that having something to *SAY* to the customer used to be important as we were selling a product, not a commodity. The story of "direct/reflected" sound at least gave the guys on the floor some reason to tell the customer that they *should* appreciate the sound of the Bose (no matter what it really sounded like).

I suspect that is why the ESS AMT speakers did so well, the Dalquists, the Magneplanars, etc.

Is it the equipment or the guys on the floor or the salaries that has every manufacturer looking for the cheap solutions rather than "real" solutions today? I don't know.

But if I were going to have a pair of 901s in my house, they would either be the Series IIs or a series I haven't heard yet.


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