Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand

Bose Lifestyle 20 Music System 2)

In 1964 Prof. Dr. Amar G. Bose of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) founded the Bose Corporation (fig.1) based on patents and results of extensive investigations that have been made in the fields of acoustics and non-linear systems. The combination of research with unusual constructional ideas succeeds in significant innovations in the field of audio products - the Bose Corporation became one of the world-leading audio manufacturers 3). The Bose Lifestyle 20 Music system significantly embodies the Bose product philosophy (fig. 2)4): the innovative audio technology, the elegant harmoniously proportioned centre figure and the precisely worked Jewel Cube loudspeaker; the system sets standards for future generations of music systems 5).


The 'Cricket Speaker' Project

The leading idea being the basis for three years of research and development for the 'Cricket Speaker' project arouse from the gathering that involved Lou Genatossio (head of the Bose design team), Dave Hanson (senior development engineer) and Prof. Amar G. Bose. It was a discussion about the possibilities of producing an extremely small yet sleek loudspeaker housing (fig. 3)6). The sound reproduction of a loudspeaker largely depends on the precision of the motion of all mechanical components. Only mechanical parts with a mobility towards zero and a reduced cone surface ensure a perfectly symmetrical linear cone movement and thus distortion-free function. Lou Genatossio describes the team's highly set aim: "The conception of an extraordinary small speaker with Bose quality sound while the design was to visually express the technology" (fig. 4)7). He is concerned that "because of the speakers' extreme small size consumers would consider it as a mere 'toy' instead of a high-class loudspeaker"8).


The Jewel Cube - An aesthetic Sound Sculpture

The Jewel Cube was based on the Bose loudspeakers Type 901 first introduced in 1968 which had been the first with the direct/reflecting technology resembling the reproduction of a concert-like distribution of direct and indirect sounds by the speakers in a room (fig. 5 and 6)9). The circular port caps and the exactly placed opening in the cylindrical port body underline the very important operative function of the Jewel Cubes: to create a truly realistic sound reproduction in any surrounding by rotating the cubes to different directions in order to accomplish the direct/reflected sound. The design features are self-explanatory (chain of association: round - joint - turn) (fig. 7)10). Solely the use of the rare magnet material Neodymium Iron Boron allows the utilisation of a magnet voice coil unit of a small diameter and yet powerful stroke. The stroke moves large quantities of air. Normally, for a frequency of 190 Hz a port system of 10 cm length and 1 cm in diameter would have been required (fig. 8). This however wasn´t possible to combine with the idea of the extremely reduced loudspeaker dimensions. Osman Isvan of the Bose Design team solved this problem by integrating the acoustic port in a twisted way into the back of the cube (fig. 9 and 10). An ingenious idea inspired by the form of the housing of the so-called 'Nautilus Snail' (fig. 8). After several trial runs the conical opening was smoothly fitted into the 'Nautilus port' in the loudspeaker housing. The Jewel Cube is characterised by a sharp, harmoniously proportioned basic form (height 11,3 cm, width 5,6 cm, depth 8,2 cm). The selected radii not only presented quite a challenge for tool manufacturers and blow mold manufacturers, they also represent technical precision and innovative audio technology. This is further supported by high quality craftsmanship, perfect surface structure and fine metal mesh speaker grilles. The Jewel Cubes produce the impression of a highly aesthetic, accurately shaped small sculpture - they set utility value standards 11). Their formal design shows Lou Genatossio's appreciation of a more neo-functionalistic design approach resembled in the design of Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams that have been an example for his work 12).


Remote Control

The remote control is operated on the basis of radio frequencies (fig. 1). The complete system can therefore be controlled from nearly anywhere. By means of a optional system extension two different programme sources can be received simultaneously and controlled by just one remote control. The specific functions have been reduced to a minimum of keys.
In comparison to the Jewel Cubes and the Lifestyle Music Centre the remote control does not appear to be as thoroughly designed. Therefore Bose will be introducing a new remote control regarding shape and technology on the 1999 IFA13).


The Lifestyle 20 Music Centre

The Lifestyle 20 Music Centre with its sleek profile, reduced size and interesting setting of the elegant appearance closely resembles a previous model (Lifestyle 10,1990), designed by John Grinkus (fig. 11 and 12). The flat centre with the strictly proportioned radii reminds of the similar features of the 'Divisumma', a calculator designed in 1972 by Mario Bellini for Olivetti (fig. 13)14).


The formal and technological integration of the six CD changer was critical to resolve. However, Paul Warren separated the CD changing unit and the housing - this made the combination of the compact constructional features with a tremor-free operation possible (fig. 14). The team designed a distinct notch with an exactly chosen angle at the top of the system (fig. 15). The operation of the six disc cassette was facilitated by a receding base which added an appearance of lightness to the entire centre.


The slanted desk-shaped panel of functional elements and the symbols used have been arranged underneath the protection lid for easy and comfortable access and usage. This also applies to the insertions on the back of the centre that can easily be connected to different system components thanks to the graphically well-marked connections.


The dark display contrasts to the brushed metal surface in an intriguing way (fig. 16) 15). Its silvery gleam harmonises perfectly with the black, slightly grooved, carefully inserted side parts. Choice of material and surface structure underlines - as already demonstrated in the Jewel Cube - the music centre's formal perfection and elegance, harmonising with any ambience.
Being in operating mode varying shapes and the clear arrangement of the green digits and symbols underneath the display cover ensure their legibility - another feature for the functionalism down to the smallest detail.


Lou Genatossio's design renounced all short-lived design trends. His design team does neither try to express professionalism by using a variety of shapes reminding of an aeroplane cockpit nor to include amusing gags by installing e.g. motorised doors or similar design gimmicks. This design of the centre as well as the Jewel Cube underlines the innovative audio technology of the Bose Corporation. It will be lasting into the beginning of the 21st century.


Text: Hartmut Jatzke-Wigand
Photos: Bose, J. Klatt



Jatzke-Wigand, H.: Bose Lifestyle 20 Music System. In: Design+Design 49, Hamburg 1999, 4-11

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