View Full Version : Do BOSE Car Stereo Speakers Differ From Ordinary Speakers?

10-07-2009, 08:36 AM
BOSE audio equipment has been roundly criticized for being:
1) expensive-sometimes 5-7 X the price of other comparable stuff
2) not exception sound quality
3) rather cheaply made
My question: BOSE seems to have a good grip on high-end car stereo-makes like Lexus and Cadillac offer BOSE audio systems in their cars. My question:are the Bose car speakers materailly different from other high-end car audio maker's speakers?
And, are the BOSE car systems really better?

10-07-2009, 08:49 AM
Never used or owned Bose products, but one thing Bose does well is integrating speaker and amp components for a specific sound "environment" and this approach is exactly what you need to do in cars. The (non-Bose) multi-speaker factory sound system in my 2003 Denali GMC SUV sounds 10X better than any expensive aftermarket system I have ever listened to because the speakers and amp configuration is very specifically tuned to the sonic parameters of my car interior.

Bose has the technical know how and hardware to do this and so for many car companies they are a good solution. I don't know that the "hardware" speaker for speaker is any better, but they certainly have more capability than most other audio companies to deliver package "solutions" for integrated car audio systems.

10-07-2009, 09:51 AM
Bose offers a "good enough" sound quality for a low price to the auto maker. They have also succeeded fairly well in brand awareness in that the public knows the name "bose" and that "they're good". As a semi-audiophile I find bose systems very annoying in cars as they place the amplifiers with the speakers which makes upgrades difficult. You basically have to rip everything out (head unit, speakers and wiring) and start over if you want to upgrade.

10-07-2009, 10:18 AM
Well, without getting into audiophile territory, which is madness, usually Bose is a step above the factory default speakers. As to whether its worth it really is up to you to decide as its largely subjective. I find factory speakers just lack some basic woofer/subwoofer range and if added sound just as good as high end systems.

I think Bose's greatest strengths are probably in marketing and not in engineering.

10-07-2009, 10:18 AM
My brother-in-law is an audio engineer, and he routinely criticizes Bose for producing "better sound quality thru marketing", and says this is a common opinion in his profession. IMO Lexus and Cadillac are trying to capitalize on consumer awareness of this marketing.

Kent Clark
10-07-2009, 10:23 AM
It's a marketing thing. People associate Bose with sound, whereas...

The (non-Bose) multi-speaker factory sound system in my 2003 Denali GMC SUV sounds 10X better than any expensive aftermarket system I have ever listened to because the speakers and amp configuration is very specifically tuned to the sonic parameters of my car interior.

But who associates Delco with a premium sound package?

10-07-2009, 10:45 AM
I've always been suspect of all the "factory aftermarket" speaker kits. I'm not too experienced on this stuff, but my impression is that "branded" speakers in factory cars (I've also seen Infinity and Harmon Kardon) aren't the same as off-the-shelf components from these brands and are more about slapping a known audio brand onto the marketing materials. People I've known who are "into" car audio have universally told me that anything currently offered on factory systems will be lower quality than midrange aftermarket stuff, simply because the factories simply know that most people aren't audiophiles and they know it'd be a waste of money to compete in that space. Take this with a grain of salt, but I'm pretty sure I've been told that those logos often mean "Approved by" not "Made by." In other words, some guy at HK/Infinity/Bose gets a sheet with the specs of the system and says, "Sure, you can put our logo on there."

As for the ability to sonically match the amp and speakers to the car -- I'm not sure about that one. I'm not an audio specialist by ANY stretch, but my impression has always been that a good speaker and a good amp are always a good speaker and a good amp provided they're sufficiently powerful. Matching to the environment is handled by adjusting the processing, not by swapping out the hardware. But, again, I could be wrong.

I wouldn't be surprised if the aforementioned Denali sounded great not because the speakers are perfectly tuned to the interior, but simply because the interior has really good acoustics. My mother has an Acura RSX. I know the sound system isn't composed of amazingly high-end components but it sounds great because the car's interior acoustics are awesome.

10-07-2009, 10:58 AM
I have Bose in my car, certainly didn't affect the decision to buy the car at all. The sound is excellent and certainly better than my last.

10-07-2009, 11:45 AM
There are a number of Dopers, myself included, who have worked at Bose headquarters, "The Mountain", in Framingham, MA. They are one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. and Dr. Bose is a true genius, billionaire, and former MIT professor. The research facilities there are something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but for sound. Their products certainly aren't ill-conceived or cheaply made. The research costs alone are exorbitant.

Where the audiophile types get thrown off is that Bose doesn't focus on simple acoustics. It is all about psych-acoustics and the way the human brain processes sound rather than a simple readout on a piece of test equipment. Bose also focuses on integrating all components very closely and making it as small and simple as possible for the end user. It is basically the Apple of the sound world although Bose predates Apple so I guess that relationship should be reversed. They are an excellent marketing company but they also invest heavily in their own research science and it is very real. That is one of the biggest reasons their products are so expensive. You can build your own great sound system yourself with off the shelf components and probably cheaper but that isn't the niche they try to fill.

I don't want to take up for Bose too much because I had some bad experiences working there but I can see what they are trying to do and even a casual tour of the campus is pretty impressive.

10-07-2009, 12:12 PM
I don't particularly like Bose, but the majority of the premium factory installed sound systems I've heard have sounded better than the majority of after-market sound systems I've heard. The after-market systems are all installed with virtually no testing, ad hoc, sticking speakers wherever they fit. They're about volume and "thump", and I've never heard one that makes any attempt at imaging.

I used to work at an audio-video store that had a bay filled with award winning car stereo installers, and occasionally I'd head back to the installation area to listen to the latest install before they gave it to the customer. We're talking about installs that would take a week or more to complete, with custom designed speaker enclosures and electronics mounts, the whole nine yards.

Not once did I hear (after adjusting the equalizer to try to get somewhere near flat) sound that had a stereo image - that produced a sound field that allowed me to localize instruments in the mix. But I have heard excellent imaging from Bose, Mark Levinson, Infinity, Harmon Kardon and other high quality factory installed systems.

Getting good sound is very difficult in a car. It's a terrible listening environment. The huge sheets of hard, reflective surfaces, the high ambient noise level, the near-impossibility of getting speakers at ear level. But trying it when the car is in the design stage at least gives the designers a fighting chance.

10-07-2009, 01:45 PM
I find Bose stuff sounds ok for 10 minutes, but somehow gets tiring after half an hour, a bit like the Big Mac of the hifi world, ok at point of consumption, but you'll get indeigestion sometime later.

It's odd, why would it sound tiring?

10-07-2009, 02:02 PM
My latest car purchase came with a Bose factory system on it . Before I bought the car I didn't really listen to the system other than testing it to see if it worked. My main concern was handling/ride/ road noise etc.

I assumed being a Bose system that it would sound nice enough and, if it didn't, I would replace it with an after market system in a few years.

Later, when I had time to load in my favorite music, I was very surprised to find out that the system has sonic clarity, great instrument localization and it just plain rocks!

It clearly is the best system I've ever had in a car.

Bijou Drains
10-07-2009, 02:24 PM
Bose home stuff is OK. I am sure there is better stuff that costs more. I've heard more expensive stuff that sounds way worse. Many of the people who don't like Bose are in the group who hate everything popular.

Si Amigo
10-07-2009, 02:31 PM
And to address the OP many of the speakers that Bose produces for automotive applications are of lower impedance (1/2 -2 ohm) than what you would "normally" find in aftermarket speakers (4-8 ohms). This works to thier advantage when Bose creates an entire sound system coupled with an EQed amplifier and allows them to create low wattage systems with sound pressure levels that are on par with similar high wattage aftermarket systems. Having smaller/effiencant low wattage systems is attractive to auto manufactuers. Also, because of the low impedance of some Bose speakers (generally bass) an aftermarket amp would not drive them correctly, leading people to think that they are crap when they try to use them elsewhere. This is further complicated by the fact that Bose refuses to list any specs so that you could properly match them and this drive audiophiles nuts because they love to throw around specs in order to impress/confuse people.

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