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AirVenture 2010: OSH Mini-Blogs

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Bose Marches Along

It seems hard to imagine, but when Bose introduced the first noise cancelling headset in 1989, it caused a stir that bordered on the scandalous. I can't recall if they did the actual product intro at Oshkosh, but the reaction was memorable: Are these guys kidding? A $1000 headset? Nobody is going to buy that.

Of course, reaction from the peanut gallery was wrong. Bose understood then and still understands that there's not just a niche market for high-quality audio products but one that represented substantial volume. In introducing the new A20 headset at AirVenture on Monday, Bose continues plying the high-end market with an improved product.

But is it really improved? It sure sounded like it during the brief product intro we attended on Monday morning. For dramatic effect, Bose had us compare the A20's performance with that of its former flagship, the Headset X, no slouch itself. I'm not sure I'd call the performance difference dramatic, but it's definitely noticeable enough to say…how'd they do that? They did it with substantial advances in processing technology and precision sensing and control of the noise-cancelling signal generation.

An observation about pricing. Bose's basic price point for new headsets has remained the same for 21 years—right around $1000. In 1989 dollars, the A20 would cost $556—a little more than half its 2010 price. Looked at the other way around, the original Bose headset would cost $1700 in 2010 dollars.

That shows at least two things: Competition has probably kept prices in order but the larger factor may be the relentless downward cost of manufacturing the chips that make these gadgets possible in the first place.

Barren North 40

I didn't get out to the North 40 at Wittman until Monday evening but, much to my surprise, it was still mostly barren of airplanes. EAA obviously decided to keep the area closed to arrivals which, frankly, puzzled me until we wheeled the AVweb Mobile News Unit—otherwise known as a golf cart—into the grass and promptly sunk up to the axles.

It's drying out, but it's still soggy. I give EAA credit for making the difficult decision to keep that area closed until it's negotiable. Nothing is worse than trying to extricate an airplane mired up to its gear doors in midwest loamy muck. I didn't hear any complaints from the campers who are occupying the high ground and the mosquitoes are loving it.

Lycoming's Technology Creep

Lycoming has traditionally been a company that moves at the blinding speed of a retreating glacier when it comes to technology implementation. Or so it used to be. But not anymore. The company announced Monday that its new O-233 LSA powerplant will have electronic ignition. That's not a full-up engine management system like the IE2 but a simpler capacitance discharge system best thought of as an electronic replacement for traditional magnetos.

Here's the part that makes the most sense about this: Lycoming realizes that the expensive and sophisticated IE2 is too big a hammer for small displacement engines, although its plan is migrate the system down into engines such as the popular O-360 line. But the more basic electronic ignition will also propagate up from the 233 into the middle of the line, too, so Lycoming will have a nice competitive edge with an overlap of the two systems.

Comments (7)

To me it's a pretty straight forward deal with regards to the Bose. I can get a trade-up to the Lightspeed Zulu and save myself $350 per headset (for a $700 savings) and get something that is just as good. I'm voting with my dollar and I would urge everyone else to do so.

Posted by: Brian Garrett | July 28, 2010 12:03 AM    Report this comment

Keep em coming Paul! I was supposed to be there but instead I am (according to google earth) 7710nm away.

Posted by: john hogan | July 28, 2010 3:01 AM    Report this comment

Hey Paul. Talk to Bose. They need to offer a trade deal. I would gladly trade my Bose 10 for Bose 20 at the right price point. I hate to jump to a brand not made-in-USA..... My 10 + 500 would do the deal.

Bill Pearson

Posted by: William Pearson | July 28, 2010 8:41 AM    Report this comment

What Paul doesn't mention is that the "show price" of the things is pushing $1100. My a/c partner and I went to the demo, and while impressive, I can save a LOT of money on two headsets for myself and my wife by going with Lightspeed. Lightspeed is also doing demos at their booth with the Bose side by side saying, "If you can hear a difference, buy the Bose." Seriously. We can completely re-upholster our 182 for the cost of two of these headsets. Which would add more value to our lives? Bose did a nice job on the tech, but at this price point, they've priced themselves out of the market for any but the most "non-economically conscious" aviation consumer. Way too much money, Bose. Thanks for the air-conditioned demo tent, though. Was nice to cool off and watch a demo on a product very few normal pilots who count their pennies will purchase.

Posted by: Nathan Duehr | July 29, 2010 1:39 AM    Report this comment

After more than 8 hours of flight time returning home from OSH in my beloved but not very fast 1963 172, I would have loved to have the new Bose (or for that matter, any other ANR headset)--but for most of my flying, an hour or two at a time makes it hard to justify paying for the equivalent of roughly 25 hours worth of avgas just so I won't hear the drone of my engine as much. Maybe if I was just getting started on my aviation "career", it could be a justification for protecting my hearing--but at this late stage, the damage has been done, I think.

Cary (one of many who provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner to thousands of those buzzing little buggers!)

Posted by: Cary Alburn | August 2, 2010 11:55 PM    Report this comment

Bose used to be something I aspired to and the computer speakers I bought a few years ago are really nice. Music sounds very crisp. But as time has gone on I have come to see them as more style than substance. If you love yours that's great - you got what you paid for, end of story. But audiophiles laugh at their gear and my FBO talked me out of a Headset X due to question marks over durability and the long term effects of ANR. Instead I bought some passive DCs for 1/3 of the cost and they have been fine.

Bose also has a reputation for controlling the demo experience in a way that makes their gear seem better than it is. They strictly control the retail experience both in their shop fronts and where they allow other retailers to sell their gear. I bet the Bose stand at Oshkosh was very posh, was enclosed and tightly controlled. I am not surprised that Zulu was offering direct comparisons. In some ways Bose is like fluoro lights - they trick your senses into experiencing things a certain way rather than providing the full experience.

Having said all that, plenty of discerning people love Bose and I am pleased with my computer speakers. I just think Bose gear is something you buy (or give) to feel special rather than to have the best.

Posted by: john hogan | August 3, 2010 12:49 AM    Report this comment

Since Bose did not offer any trade deals, I sold my Bose X for 500 bucks and bought a 20. I L O V E it. The 20 far exceeds the comfort and noise canceling of any other I have owned. I have near 25 hours using it in my Mooney with NO complaints. And, I Bought AMERICAN. Maybe even preserved a job or two. Important these days IMO. Bill Pearson

Posted by: William Pearson | November 25, 2010 9:25 AM    Report this comment

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