Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

The 3•2•1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems by Bose

1. Innovative products through systematic basic research


The Bose 3.2.1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems are the results of the cross-disciplinary, complex research and development work performed by the Bose laboratory in Framingham (Massachusetts) (Fig. 1). 2) 3) The Bose Corporation was founded in 1964 by Professor Dr. Amar G. Bose of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)(Fig.2).4) The basis are his patents and research findings in the fields of acoustics and non-linear systems. Ongoing basic research and extraordinary design ideas have enabled significant innovations to be achieved – this is how the Bose Corporation has set standards for realistic sound reproduction and has grown to become one of the world's leading develpers and manufacturers of audio technology. 5)


Since 2002, the 3 .2.1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems product line has added to the Bose brand image as a meaningful complement to the Lifestyle Systems that have been a success since 1989, to the Wave Music Systems and to the variety of the Personal Audio product range. 6) The Lifestyle Systems build upon the best possible matching of the technological parameters of the individual system components. 7) The designers focus on how to ensure the highest possible level of intuitive operation and on the compact system components to come in an elegant design (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4). 8) Likewise, the unique design of the Wave Music Systems with their groundbreaking Waveguide technology impresses by combining the harmonic proportions of a compact shape with the highest ease of use (Fig. 5). 9) 10) Having been expanded several times, the Personal Audio product line offers a complete range of multimedia audio solutions. It includes multimedia speaker systems, headphones such as the 'Bose On-Ear Headphone',or the 'SoundDock Digital Music System' (Fig. 6, 7 and 8). 11) 12)


Following this brief overview of the innovative Bose product lines, the next chapter will give a short description of the 3 .2.1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems manufactured in the past. The third chapter will characterize the essential steps in the development of the Series I 'Media Center', whereas the fourth chapter will do the same for the 'Speaker Arrays', the 'Acoustimass Module', and the 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays'. These will be followed in the fifth chapter by the Series II 'Media Center' and, in the sixth chapter, by the novel uMusic Playback System and, last not least, the remote controls. The appendix is deliberately comprehensive in order to support the characterizing statements about the individual system components with detailed evidence. The historical design context given at the end of the fourth chapter allows for an instructive comparison with the Braun 'studio 1000' system launched in 1965, an uncompromising amalgamation of all technological possibilities available at the time and an impressive design.


2. The '3 .2.1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems' product line


The development task for the '3 .2.1 DVD Home Entertainment System' project team headed by the project managers Mike Costa and John Roselli is both complex and difficult to realize: to take into account recent findings of psychoacoustic research and the use of digital data processing such as to make two loudspeakers and a bass module deliver realistic surround sound. 13) Furthermore, the project definition given by the Bose 'Corporate Design Center' also demands that this system, in terms of its form, shall have a standalone appearance but must not renounce Bose's basic design principles such as elegant styling, highest ease of use, and a system component design reduced to the essentials. 14)


From the very beginning of the project, industrial designer Seth Green has been involved in the development work – it is through his activity that the shaping and styling of the individual components becomes an integral part of the development of the overall system. This enables the project team to simultaneously discuss how certain technological changes of the system components or the packaging of individual elements will impact the design. 15)


In 2002, after several years of thorough research and development work, Bose presents the '3 .2.1 Digital Home Entertainment System' of the new product line (Fig. 9). 16) 17) In this system, the compact 'Media Center' designed by Seth Gree integrates a tuner, DVD player, and amplifier and plays DVD videos, AM/FM with RDS, CD, CD-R/RW, and MP3 CDs. 18) The realistic surround sound is ensured by two small 'Speaker Arrays', the hideaway 'Acoustimass Module' and a carefully tuned combination of various Bose technologies (Digital 5.1 Decoding, Videostage 5 Decoding, Automatic Tonal Adjustment, Active Electronic Equalisation, and Digital Dynamic Range Speaker Compression). 19) The distinguishing features of the system are its technological and formal autonomy, the high design quality, and a clear and functional product language. For the development team, the meaning of the term functionality includes, among others, utmost ease of installation, high visualization quality of the operating instructions, and optimum cooling of the technological components. 20)


In 2003, the product line is expanded by the '3 .2.1 GS Digital Home Entertainment System' (Fig. 10). 21) 22) In this system, the combination of the 'TrueSpace Surround Digital Processing' conceived by Bose and the further reduced size of the 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' delivers even more realistic sound.


In 2005, the Bose Corporation presents the '3 .2.1 GS DVD Home Entertainment System' featuring 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' and the '3 .2.1 DVD Home Entertainment System' with two 'Speaker Arrays' (Fig. 11 and Fig. 12). 23) This is followed in autumn 2005 by the '3 .2.1 GSX DVD Home Entertainment System' featuring the complexly programmed uMusic Intelligent Playback System – enabling intelligent digital storage, compression, archiving and organization of up to 200 hours of music in the 'Media Center' based on individual user profiles. 24) 25) The design of the Series II 'Media Centers' is fundamentally reengineered by Richard Carbone. He updates it with a slimmer design, and the modified visual appearance is characterized by the enlarged dark housing and a high degree of formal accuracy in the modelling of details.


3. The '3 .2.1 Media Center' (Series I)


The (Series I) '3 .2.1 Media Center' with its gently curved front and strongly rounded side edges has an architectural shape (Fig. 13).26) In this shape, industrial designer Seth Green translates essential impression qualities such as stringency, elegance, harmony and proportionality into compact volumes (39.9 x 10.4 x 26.0 cm). The front face is dominated by the matt silver front mask and a display window built harmoniously into this mask. The high quality of the design is also evident in details such as the narrow, perfectly shaped righthand or left-hand notches in the front mask. The front and upper face of the slide-out DVD/CD tray has been accurately modelled by the designers. The angular notches on both sides of the tray have been precisely positioned and therefore formally support the integration of the DVD/CD tray into the front mask (Fig. 14). This solution and other detail solutions have been achieved by the designers only after various drafts and after thorough discussions of different prototypes (Fig.15 and Fig.16). 27)


The rear connections were combined into groups, their graphic labelling is exemplary (Fig. 17). The trouble-free installation of the 'Media Centers' with the 'Speaker Arrays' and the 'Acoustimass Module' is made even easier by custom-designed connecting wires.


The current status of operation is shown in large, easy-to-read numbers and symbols on the display panel – an important contribution to enhanced ease of use. The sloping control panel and the button arrangement allow for uncomplicated operation of all basic functions without using the remote control. The height of the device is visually reduced by the large radii of this sloping panel in matt silver and the slightly arched upper surface of the unit. The appearance of the 'Media Center' is that of restrained elegance so that it can be placed in a bookshelf and – this is a typical Bose feature – fits any décor. It is this design quality that was acknowledged, among others, by the 'red dot award: product design 2003'. 28)


4. 'Speaker Arrays', 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays', and 'Acoustimass Module'


When it perceives sound, the human sense of hearing basically reacts to two essential factors: it registers thevolume of the sound reaching the left and the right ear and simultaneously notes how long it takes the sound to pass the distance between the sound source and the ears. 29) This psychoacoustic knowledge has been used by the Bose engineers.30) Two 'Speaker Arrays' use a well-balanced combination of two technologies to create the spatial surround sound (Fig. 18). 31) In order to reproduce the sound and dialogue that relate to the action in the middle, these speaker arrays deliver one and the same sound information by providing a signal with the same frequency composition, phase and volume level –thus creating a simulated center speaker that can be perceived only acoustically.


Each 'Speaker Array' uses it mid-high range speakers arranged in the defined radiation angle to radiate the sound into different directions. Both the volume and the sound travel time are controlled by integrated circuits in relation to the original sound information. These different acoustic signals reach the listener. 32) At the sides and in the rear of the listening area, they give him or her the illusion of hearing the sound from a left or right speaker. 33)


The shape of the 'Speaker Arrays' is reduced by the designers and engineers in a closely coordinated development process (Fig.19). The modelled form follows the size and packaging of the components and is conditioned by the internal volume required for the desired spatial sound according to the laws of physics. 34)


The deep frequencies are transmitted by the 'Acoustimass Module' not directly through diaphragms but through so-called acoustic masses. This results in powerful bass reproduction without any signal losses and distortion. 35) As the listener can not locate the source of the Acoustimass modules, they may be hidden anywhere in the room. Nevertheless, the module was carefully designed by Seth Green. He relates the formal details of the individual components to each other in order to highlight their aesthetic value. 36)


For the engineers and designers, the product development of the highly compact 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' from the first draft to series production status has been a major challenge (Fig. 20). In general, the sound reproduction delivered by a loudspeaker depends on the diaphragm size and on the level of movement precision achieved by the speaker's mechanical components. Symmetrical, linear cone excursion and distortion-free sound can only be guaranteed if the movable components are as small as possible and have a reduced diaphragm surface. This is why the Bose engineers develop a solenoid coil unit with a diameter of not more than 25 mm in order to move the speaker diaphragm. By using the rare magnet material Neodymium Iron Borone, a magnetic field is created that is ten times stronger than with traditional strontium ferrite magnets. This enables high speaker excursion in spite of the small size of the magnet.


For the 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' to deliver lifelike sound reproduction, it is also necessary to identify the optimum radiation angle required for their speaker arrangement (Fig. 21). The first prototype has the two ports on the front (Fig. 22). The ports allow for the regulation of the air flow – which is an indispensable prerequisite for clear, room-filling sound without any distortion. Time-consuming tests finally create the possibility to place the ports at the rear (Fig. 23). This enables the size of the 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' to be reduced even more (W 14.0 x H 6.4 x D 14.5 cm) (Fig. 24).


Seth Green clearly aligns the formal shaping of the 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' with their functional structure. The arrangement of the two loudspeakers, for example, is conditioned by the curvature of the front face. The shape of the 'Gemstone Speaker Array' is highly distinctive and visually easy to grasp because of its harmonious proportions. 37) The well-chosen curvature radii of the edges are matched to each other (Fig. 25). The metal grille covering the speaker has subtle perforations, and the Bose logo, in terms of detail design, size and placement, was carefully integrated into the front face. Given their formal perfection and high level of technological quality, the 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' actually set a utility standard. 38)


Esthetically, the 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays' express a value that has an equivalent counterpart in the technological qualities of the 3.2.1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems. Compared to the Braun AG's 'studio 1000' hifi system unrivalled in 1965, these systems strikingly confirm the design trend prognosticated in the early 1990s when the consistent use of microelectronics was predicted to lead to a miniaturization and also to a dematerialization of electronic products. 39)


A historical design context – the 'studio 1000' hifi system by the Braun AG

In 1965, the Braun AG presented the components of the 'studio 1000' hifi system and, in doing so, impressed the expert community: the 'PS 1000' record player, the 'TG 60' tape recorder, the 'CSV 1000' hifi stereo amplifier, the 'CE 1000' tuner and the 'L 1000' speaker units (Fig. 26 and Fig. 27). 40) This system "uncompromisingly puts into effect all of the technical possibilities available at the time and, according to the standards of those days, offers spectacular sound quality." 41)


Dieter Rams – head of the Braun AG product design department – designed the individual components of the 'studio 1000' hifi system as cubes dimensioned such as to match each other. The components may be arranged either side by side or one on top of the other. Each element of any component relates to all the other elements of the hifi system in an orderly way. This order is supported by uniform radii and reference lines. The junctions and transitions were accurately and suitably chosen. The front plates are made from deep drawn aluminium with rounded edges. It was the first time for this solution sought by Dieter Rams to be realized at the desired level of quality whereas this had been impossible before because of technological problems. 42) The sides of the components are protected by dark textured lacquer – and, due to this grey and black colour, appear more compact.


To a very large extent, the operation of the individual components is self-explaining. Dieter Rams designs the control elements with utmost care, arrays them in a neat arrangment and a clear pattern for enhanced ease of grip. This design, which is well thought-out even in ergonomic terms, and the big scale as well as the easily understandable product graphics both deliver information and facilitate the handling.


The front side of the 'L 1000' loudspeaker unit comprising thirteen speakers is covered with an anodized aluminium mesh. Slender housing edges looking like parts of a picture frame create an impression of lightness. The 'studio 1000' hifi system, which is now a coveted collector's piece, was a convincing solution in 1965 because it was reduced to the essentials and offered formal unity, high value, and technological consistency.


5. The Series II 'Media Center'


The Series II 'Media Center' is the central system component of the '3 .2.1 GS DVD Home Entertainment System' featuring two 'Gemstone Speaker Arrays', the '3 .2.1 DVD Home Entertainment System' with its two 'Speaker Arrays', and the '3 .2.1 GSX DVD Home Entertainment System' featuring the uMusic Intelligent Playback System (Fig.11 and Fig. 12). The Media Center integrates a tuner, DVD player, and amplifier and plays DVD videos, AM/FM with RDS, CD, CD-R/RW, and MP3 CDs. 43)


In re-engineering the 'Media Center', Bose's Lead Industrial Designer, Richard Carbone, had in mind three main design objectives: further reduction of the housing shape, integration of the DVD/CD tray into the front-side housing, and uncompromising formal modelling of all details. This 'Media Center' that was about to be designed was intended to convince the user by virtue of its clarity, well-balanced visual image, and formal autonomy. 44)


After many idea sketches, thorough studies, and test series, the team develops several options for the shape of the Center (Fig. 28, Fig. 29, and Fig. 30). The options I and II show a symmetrical, slim shape with a dark housing. The draft with an inclined front side is discarded by Richard Carbone – without inclination, the shapes appear clearer and more uniform (Fig. 31 and Fig. 32).


The front side of option I with its silver front mask, partitioned cover for the DVD/CD tray, and its display already shows the dominating design characteristics of the new 'Media Center'. What is still missing, however, is the alignment of the radii and the proportions of the shape's individual surfaces. Furthermore, the ends of the lower part of the front side are flush and prevent the air circulation necessary for the dissipation of heat. In spite of the curved housing, the shape of option II appears edged. The recessed base ingeniously makes the volume appear smaller.


The desired reduction of the housing shape (8.3 x 34.9 x 25.4 cm) requires well wrought packaging of the main components and electronic assemblies in the chassis of the 'Media Center'. After computer-based evaluation of experimental designs of various component packages and thermal simulations using the Flo-Therm software, the development engineers achieve a very tight structure. 45) In spite of this structure, the heat of the chassis components can be dissipated very well without using a fan. An electromagnetic shield for the main components is provided by a steel jacket. Additional radiation protection for the electronic circuits is ensured by housings made of punched sheet metal.


Optimizing the individual housing components for the manufacturing procedure of the 'Media Center' is the last important step in the working process. 46) The data set of the Center's shape created by the design team with the Alias 3D software is used by the engineers as the basis for the final conception of the various housing parts in terms of production engineering.


The gently curved and dark shining polycarbonate facing, framed by the accurately modelled silver front mask, is the signature design feature also of the Series II 'Media Center' (Fig. 33). Richard Carbone decided to integrate the slide-out DVD/CD tray into the left part and the display window into the right part of the unit. The facing of the tray has exactly the same dimensions as the display window.


The user therefore can not identify the DVD/ CD tray when it is closed. What Richard Carbone is particularly satisfied with is the realization of the very narrow, almost imperceptible joint between the individual parts of the facing. 47) This design allows for the tray to have a sliding system working with high mechanical precision (Fig. 34). The elegant appearance of the center is further accentuated by the contrast between the silver shimmering front mask and the dark high-gloss facing. 48) Beyond this, the facing and the front mask establish a formal connection to the dark surface of a switched-off LED or plasma screen of various manufacturers.


All the radii and details of the 'Media Center' have been carefully proportioned and modelled. 49) The difficult-to-shape transition between the front mask and the facing, for example, is set in precisely the right angle by the notch on the left and right hand side (Fig. 35). The proportions – such as the height of the device base in relation to the edge of the mask and to the width of the facing, for instance – were chosen so as to form a harmonious whole. 50) The top view also shows radii harmoniously arranged in relationship to each other. Here, the gently curved profile of the rear part makes reference to the edge of the control panel (Fig. 36). The semicircular buttons of the control panel are arranged in a linear order. By placing these control functions on the top side of the device, it was possible to keep the aesthetic simplicity of the front side. The designers deliberately decided not to use a lot of control elements, which would signal to the user some superficial impression of professionalism.


The current status of operation is shown by the green, high-contrast numbers, symbols, and letters on the three-line display. Easy to read due to their size and graphic design, they fulfill another requirement for ease of use. The connections on the rear are combined into groups on a white background and marked both with colours and by graphic means (Fig. 37). 51) Furthermore, the Bose Link connection can be used to connect the '3 .2.1 GSX DVD Home Entertainment System' to any compatible Lifestyle System and thus to make it part of a home entertainment network for the entire house. 52)


All the complexity of the 'Music Center' described here can hardly be perceived by the user. Beyond the enjoyment of the high-quality sound and the intuitive operation, however, the user will identify with the aesthetic qualities of the industrial product and experience it as a pleasant part of his or her every-day culture.


6 The uMusic Intelligent Playback System


The uMusic Intelligent Playback System is an innovative product feature characteristic of the 'Bose 3.2.1 GSX DVD Home Entertainment System'. 53) This complexly programmed uMusic Intelligent Playback System is an integrated part of the 'Media Center'. uMusic allows for digital storage, compression, intelligent archiving and organization of up to 200 hours of music and plays it based on individual user profiles.


It takes approximately five minutes to store one CD. 54) During this process, uMusic reads the audio information on the CD such as song title, artist or style, and then compares these data with the Gracenote and All Music Guide databases integrated into the system. 55) Further details such as speed, rhythm, dynamics, or tone colour are assigned as unique artist-related parameters to each individul song. Thirty different parameters per song form the basis for archiving and for the future interaction of the user with the system.56)


Then uMusic creates the individual and automatic music choice for the user in up to nine different profiles and also registers the ratings relating to certain artists, music styles and songs that the user may enter into the remote control. This is how the system intelligently recognizes the individual preferences, selecting pieces of music that match the mood or the taste of the recognized user profile. Here the Bose engineers successfully developed a clever alternative to time-consuming searches in the CD collection or to the computer-based management of huge music libraries.


7. Operation


The system setup and operation of the different 3 .2.1 Music Systems is easy to understand and therefore uncomplicated. Each system comes with a brief system setup instruction summarized on a clearly structured sheet, easy-to-understand operation instructions with detailed drawings, and a setup and demo DVD (Fig. 37). 57)


As a DVD player, unlike a CD player, requires a variety of specialized functions, an enlarged control panel is necessary for the DVD player. 58) The aim of the Bose designers is to achieve the highest possible level of intuitive usability through the shape, size, and arrangement and also the graphic labelling of the control elements.


All the system functions of the various 3 .2.1 Music Systems are controlled via an infrared remote control that is the central interface of the system. The arrangement of the control elements on the remote control is based on their functions. On/off and mute, source selection and menu navigation are located in the upper part. Frequently used functions such as the volume control are comfortably placed in the middle part of the key panel so that they can be operated by the thumb. Via the onscreen menu of the connected television set, the user can customize numerous further audio and video settings if necessary. 59) According to his own words, Seth Green is satisfied with the formal modelling of the remote control. The design process from the first draft to the CAD model proceeded without any problems (Fig. 38). 60) The remote control can easily be picked up and is pleasant to grip because of its slightly wider sides with their smooth radii (Fig. 39). This haptic quality is perceived as very pleasant also by the elderly, whose specific interests are otherwise rarely taken into account by designers. The remote control can also be used to operate television, video sources such as cable or satellite receivers, and most external accessory home entertainment devices.


The remote control for the '3 .2.1 GSX DVD Home Entertainment System' is equipped with further control elements for the operation of the uMusic system (Fig. 40). 61) The Store button can be used to select the music sources stored in the system, whereas the Library button provides direct access to the music based on search parameters such as artists or music style. The specialized control buttons have a grey background in order to facilitate the operation of the uMusic system. In order to highlight the importance of these buttons placed in the lower part of the control panel, the designers give a particular shape to the uMusic button and the important rating buttons necessary for creating the personal user profile.


This is how Mike Laude, director of the Bose Corporate Design Center, characterizes the challenges that the Bose designers had to take: "It is the technologies that constitute the unique and distinctive character of our products. That is why our designers have the task to give appropriate expression to these technologies." 62) In the award-winning 3 .2.1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems, the designers live up to this statement. 63


Author: Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

Photos: Bose, Braun, and Jo Klatt



The author thanks, Mike Laude, Seth Green, Richard Carbone and Jürgen Imandt for their energy and patience in compiling the information and the photomaterial.



Jatzke-Wigand, H.: The 3-2-1 DVD Home Entertainment Systems by Bose. In: Design+Design special 3, Hamburg, June 2007, 2-27

powered by webEdition CMS