Hearing really great sound is a bit like falling in love – it is a otherworldly sensory experience that is beyond your control, impossible to explain to others, and addictive to the point of gibbering madness. Like any act of perceiving the world, it is an entirely personal experience, but one most easily shared with others. Indeed, it is a most regular experience for many of us to bond with other people over a particularly exceptional sounding piece of music. And given the distinct lack of listening parties and cotillions making up modern life, these shared musical experiences most often come when sharing a car ride with someone. The automobile has truly become our listening parlor of choice, and this movement began in the yesteryear of 1983.
The Cadillac Seville might not flood your memory with warm feelings of nostalgia, but it does represent a tectonic shift in both the automotive and sonic fields. This car represents the very first time a premium audio company entered the automotive market. Bose was the company to do it, and their vehicle division – Bose Automotive – has stubbornly continued to push additional sonic envelopes with each new generation of their vehicular hi-fi systems. They invented the branded car audio system, and during CES this week they debuted an absolutely stunning four(!) vehicle lines that you will be hearing, and sharing with others, in the coming year.
The Advanced Technology Series
This is it, the big daddy of the Bose Automotive lineup. The Advanced Technology Series (ATS) is not the kind of stereo system you can option into your Honda or a branding exercise that’s all off-the-shelf parts. Bose is only going to be coming out with an ATS system every few years, and to be included in a car Bose needs to have access from the very beginning of vehicle design. We’re talking a 4 year lead time for this product line. Why is all this necessary? How does the fact that with unprecedented access from the frame up, Bose can create the absolute best system for that vehicle strike you? This is why Advanced Technology Series systems will not be available widely, will only be in one specific vehicle at a time, and will only be coming out every few years. Look for their first such system, the 34 speaker Panaray system, in the upcoming Cadillac CT6.
Small Vehicle Series
Up to this point in all of recorded human history, branded hi fi audio systems didn’t exist in the smallest of compact cars. These typically beginner cars make due with paper cups posing as speakers due to the segment’s bargain pricing. But once again, Bose is stepping into uncharted territory with their Small Vehicle Series. As the name suggests, these systems are exclusively for the heretofore sonically unloved A and B segment cars. And the genius here is in the packaging – bringing high end audio at a price small car buyers can afford. The boffins over at Bose Automotive played some clever tricks with their speakers and placement to create what I can easily and happily describe as the best stereo I’ve ever heard in that segment of car. Car rides with your poor cousin are about to become much more bearable.
Where other audio companies have certainly played is in the luxury and sports car market. Here, you have a wealth of choices depending upon car brand. So it is beyond obvious that Bose would play here as well, and this is where their Performance Series sits. This is their system of choice for your luxury sedans, face-melting super cars, and those that blend the two. While not a full Advanced Technology system, the Performance Series still represents the top shelf of Bose Automotive technology and implementation. From the visual elements to the invisible sound staging, these systems are world class. My personal favorite touch was the distinct placement of every instrument on the invisible stage on the dashboard.
The bread and butter of Bose Automotive – the Premium Series – is likely how you associate Bose and vehicles. These are the systems that are in a frankly amazing 9 manufactures’ vehicles. No other audio company can claim such a feat. The Premium Series will continue to be the cornerstone of Bose’s push into the automotive world, and expect to see the advancements of the ATS and Performance lines trickling down to everyday cars each year as tech progresses.
Bose forged a brave new world in 1983, bringing high fidelity audio out of the living room and into the car. Now in 2016, with their announcement of 4 lines poised to push new boundaries, the future has never looked, or sounded, so bright. It is a good time to be an audiophile, and an even better time to be a driving one.