Realistic sound reproduction - this, the goal of Dr. Amar G. Bose, is reasonable, yet nearly impossible to realize. Since 1964, the Bose Corporation has worked toward this ideal with consistent basic research coupled with unusual construction ideas, producing significant innovations in audio products.
Examples of the Bose Corporation's innovations include the Bose '901' loudspeaker with its 'Direct Reflecting' reproduction (1968), the Acousticmass speaker technology that made reduction in the size of speaker components possible (1986), the compact 'Wave Radios' with their new 'Waveguide' speaker technology (1993), the 'Acoustic Noise Cancelling' technology of Bose headphones (since 1989), and the systems of the Lifestyle product line (since 1990).
For the Lifestyle product line, the designers at Bose concentrate on providing the most simple and intuitive controls possible and an elegant design for the system's compact components. Despite complex technological challenges, the Bose team has succeeded again with the current Bose 'Lifestyle 35 Digital Home Entertainment System' with DVD player and the innovative ADAPTiQ technology.
The ADAPTiQ audio calibration system
Every space has its own unique properties. These factors, like size, floor, furnishings, curtains, windows, etc., have a strong influence on the sound of an audio system. The Bose ADAPTiQ calibration system allows the user to adapt his Lifestyle 35 system to all of these influences, from room structure to listening position, in a process that takes only 15 minutes. This lets the Lifestyle 35 system operate at its maximum sound potential.
Technologically, the ADAPTiQ calibration system is based on correction of differences in frequency and wavelength. A digital equalizer with 248 filters calibrates frequency, amplitude and wave shape for every filter and saves the results.
The Lifestyle 35 system is further proof of technological development that, through the consistent use of innovative microelectronics, not only continues to miniaturise electronic products but, in effect, dematerialises them. The user can only sense the complexity of the technological system; what is important to him is the optimal handling of the sophisticated device.
The Media Center
The design of the Lifestyle 35 Digital Home Entertainment System's Media Center, by Mike Laude (Industrial Design Director) and Rich Carbone (Senior Industrial Designer), is based on that of the the Lifestyle 10 Music Center, originally done by John Grinkus in 1990 and refined by Lou Genatossio in 1995 in the Lifestyle 20 Music Center.
All the controls of the Lifestyle product line (Lifestyle 5, 8, 12, 20, 25 , 28, 35 and 50) embody two fundamental principles of Bose design: their compact design should fit, inconspicously but elegantly, into any ambience, and they should be as simple and self-explanatory as possible 13). The principal characteristic of the controls is a flat central panel with reduced surface area and slender profile. The contrast between black and silver in the housing - a characteristic of the legendary appliances of Braun AG since 1960 - reinforces the impression of elegance. Lifestyle control panels do not have an array of features to make them look like the instruments in an aircraft cockpit, which is primarialy supposed to convey an impression of professionalism. The designers have also dispensed with playful elements such as motorised doors.
The integration of the DVD player and other electronic devices, such as the controls for the video components, which are larger than the previous model's CD changer, is complicated in the Media Center of the Lifestyle 35 14). Kevin Annunziato, Paul Zuidema and Herb Knapp had to do many trial configurations, in close cooperation with the designers, before they achieved the desired compactness with good ventilation and minimisation of electromagnetic disturbances.
It took intense discussions and many sketches and models before Mike Laude and Rich Carbone found a new interperetation for the central panel that reflects the innovative technology of the Lifestyle 35 system (fig. 9 and 10). The shape of the media center appears softer than that of its predecessor because of its gently curved sufaces. Elliptical side pieces with sleder chrome rings give a formal accent to the dynamic of the system. The chrome rings also cover up unavoidable assembly tolerances between the side pieces and the cover.
The dark, shiny front surface is gently curved (fig. 11). The built-in cover for the DVD player is harmonically proportioned to the display, fitting with it perfectly. The contrasting green numbers, symbols, and letters of the 20-place VFD display (vacuum fluorescent display) are easy to read.
The designers have arranged the connections on the back of the center clearly, in groups. Their exemplary labelling by color and graphics makes problem-free hookup with other system components and external devices much easier.
The RC 28 remote control
Remote control devices are the main interface between electronic systems and their users, and their design poses challenges for interface designers. The goals for the Lifestyle 35 system's remote control were to make the control of not only all functions of the system, but also those of the television, videorecorders and satellite boxes, as simple and self-explanatory as possible (fig. 12).
The outstandingly-designed RC 28 remote control works with radio frequencies, allowing the entire system to be controlled around corners or through walls; additonally, non-system components can also be controlled by infrared signals. Its slender, ergonomic design with soft radii looks striking, is easy to pick up and lies well in the hand.
Division of the buttons into separate fields for on/off/mute, source and enter, system menu, reproduction controls, and audio controls make control of the system easier. The designers have place the most-often used functions, such as tuning and volume, in the center of the unit so they can easily be reached with the thumb (Fig. 13) 15). The buttons and menus within the fields are easy to read and logically configured. Their shape, size, color, and labels achieve the desired simplicity of use. An additional menu (OSD-display), visible on the screen of a television hooked up to the Lifestyle 35 system, makes further basic system adjustments possible through systematically arranged and explained sub-menus.
The Acousticmass Module
The main slogan for the Acousticmass Module (fig. 14 and 15) is "Developed for the ears, not the eyes". But its compact, well thought-through design, with its impressive front, is convincing on its own. The designers have taken care that all grooves and edges are exact. The design reflects the fundamentals of the Acousticmass technology. The front surface features elliptical, well-proportioned, convex covers for the sound exits.
Its careful design makes this module seem like a beautiful object; thus the Acousticmass module can and should be placed freely in the room. Its sculptural qualities are reminiscent of the Braun subwoofer SW2 or minimalistic sculptures like 'Marguerite and Philibert' by Richard Serra (fig. 16) 17).
Design-historical context: the 'SW2' subwoofer
In 1983, Peter Hartwein designed the subwoofer 'SW2' for Braun AG (fig. 17). Because the human ear cannot locate the source of low-frequency tones, the subwoofer 'SW2' is sufficient for stereophonic sound, when combined with the smaller satellite speakers 'LS 40' 18) 19). A 3-way amplifier (1x140 W and 2x70 W) for both the bass speaker and the satellite speakers is built into the subwoofer.
The simple basic design of the 'SW2' demonstrates Peter Hartwein's economic way with shapes. The Braun design team, under Dieter Rams, sought (and achieved) aesthetic effects through clear proportions and configuration of idividual elements, rather than through ornament. Elements relate to each other according to a strict system; thus the design looks peaceful and the shape harmonically balanced. Clearly, this design also corresponds to Richard Serra's artistic works (fig. 18) 20).
The Jewel-Cube - an aesthetic sound sculpture 21)
The Jewel-Cube is based on the 'direct-reflecting' principle, introduced in 1968 with the Bose '901' loudspeaker: the speakers produce both direct and indirect sound within a room, just as in a concert hall. The round port caps, and the cylindrical port bodies, accentuated by the exactly-placed cuts in the housing, embody the Jewel-Cube's most important user function: to ensure 'direct-reflecting' reproduction, tuned exactly to the space, through rotation of the individual cubes in relationship to each other (fig. 19). The Jewel-Cube is characterized by a strict, harmoniously proportioned basic shape (11.3 cm x 5.6 cm x 8.2 cm). The exactly chosen edge radii (a big challenge for tool makers and blow mold technologies) give an impression of technical precision and point up the innovative audio technology. The Jewel-Cube seems like an aesthetic, precisely-formed little sculpture, and qualifies as a standard-setting product 22). Its quality is confirmed by the coveted 'red dot award: product design 2001' 23); more awards will surely come for the innovative Bose 'Lifestyle 35 Digital Home Entertainent System...
Text: Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand
Fotos: Bose Corporation, Braun AG und Jo Klatt
Jatzke-Wigand, H.: Neuer Standard für die Audiotechnologie: Das Bose 'Lifestyle 35 Digital Home Entertainment System'. In: Design+Design 62, Hamburg November-February 2002/2003, 8-13