Bose Builds A New Headset


For as fun as airplanes are to fly, it’s even more interesting—at least to me—to contemplate how they’re built. And I don’t mean how a rib is riveted to a wing, but how the builders of these things organize the production of airplanes into an orderly flow. In other words, the economics of serial production.

The thought required to produce many of any kind of thing applies as equally to the accessories as it does the airplane itself. People who do serial production for a living will tell you that developing the product in the first place is one thing; building a bunch of what you’ve designed so it will work as intended, won’t break, has no hidden flaws and won’t bankrupt the company with unsustainable production costs is something else entirely. While the designers kick back and admire their creations, it’s the production engineers who sweat the details to bring genius to the store shelves.

And so it is with Bose’s new ProFlight headset, which is covered in today’s Sun ‘ Fun 2018 news video. Ahead of the product launch today, Bose pulled back the curtain and gave us a daylong tour of its homeport facility in Framingham, Massachusetts. You surely know that Bose is primarily a consumer audio company and has produced high-end audio equipment of all kinds since the early 1960s. At $4 billion a year, it’s a big business that, surprising to me, is bigger than Garmin by about a billion bucks. That’s a lot of Wave radios.

When we were touring the labs, it occurred to me that Amar Bose, an MIT grad who founded the company in 1964, was interested in all kinds of things that related not so much to audio, but to the cyclical nature of the sort of vibration that defines the science of acoustics. One of the things he invested the company’s intellectual capital in was an electronic automotive shock absorber—really a kind of active vibration cancellation for cars. Like much of what companies such as Bose pursue in the name of pure research, the device never made it to market. But it foretold the electronic shock absorber I have on my motorcycle today and which is common on cars that have adjustable suspension settings. But the technology was morphed into a product that did find a market: Bose Ride is an adaption of vibration cancelling for truck seats that reduces the wear and tear on drivers who must occupy them for thousands of miles a year.

Obviously, products like these require extensive testing before they ever make it to market. For its consumer products and its aviation headsets, Bose subjects them to all kinds of torturous testing to include squirting them with EMI, temperature and pressure variations, UV exposure, drop and vibration testing—in short, all the stuff customers would likely encounter in the everyday use of any product. Bose even has a rig to test the product packaging because industrial history is replete with examples of products bashed to bits because of a poorly designed box or pulled from the shelves because the box collapsed when stacked. The idea is to never have a “I-didn’t-think-of-that” moment.

As for the headset itself, it’s typical Bose, with obvious evidence of careful attention to mechanical design, especially the earbuds, which are quite comfortable. Although you can’t hear it in the video, I paired the ProFlight with my iPhone and the music performance is exceptional. I’d almost buy one just for that. In the meantime, we’ll be getting a test sample and we’ll report on that later. If you have a turbine you’d like to give me a ride in, I’m available.