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I inherited some 50+ year old Bose 901's. Should I bother?

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  • #16
    https://www.stereophile.com/standlou...425/index.html

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    • #17
      What series are they? I recall reading that some series of 901s had foam surrounds and others had cloth surrounds.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by zx82net View Post
        That's interesting, it reminds me of something I read about Bose headphones. Apparently the are kind of fragile, but if you ever make a warranty claim on a damaged set, they'll say it was abuse rather than a design flaw, but they'll sell you a replacement set of $300 headphones for $99 dollars. Some people have been through this loop multiple times, sort of like a subscription service, rather than buying a product outright...
        Maybe off topic a bit, but I have a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II wired headphones purchased five years ago for use on long consumer rail trips into Boston. The old cars are really noisy. I use them on airline flights. They do a fantastic job of cancelling the worst of the engine noise and are pretty decent sounding as normal headphones in that situation. Very comfortable, too. Run on a single AAA battery for several hours. When travelling I wouldn't be without them. As pure headphones there are better, but as active noise cancelling cans, they're among the best, I think. I'm happy with them.

        dlr
        WinPCD - Windows .NET Passive Crossover Designer

        Dave's Speaker Pages

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        • zx82net
          zx82net commented
          Editing a comment
          in my opinion, Bose were unassailable in noise canceling until maybe 5 or 6 years ago. They seemed to be the only people using feed forward noise cancelation rather than feed back. All of the other headphone I tried had this weird almost subsonic noise they would generate. I think at the time the Bose NC was analog, I may be wrong, that suspicion was based simply on the large number of discrete components on the PCBA.
          I never heard anything to rival the Quiet comfort, until I tried some Sony ear buds that had both feedback and feedforward microphones, and a little processing box close to the jack connector, they were great. I had those for a number of years, untilI got the AirPods Pro, which are at least as good with the added benefit of being wireless.

      • #19
        With respect to the deterioration of the foam surrounds that wasn't just a Bose problem, it happened to all of the first generation foam surround drivers. Once they started failing the surround manufacturers figured out why and they changed the foam formula.
        www.billfitzmaurice.com
        www.billfitzmaurice.info/forum

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        • zx82net
          zx82net commented
          Editing a comment
          ...I suspect it had nothing to do with bacteria unique to warm environments, whatever the sales reps may have been told!

      • #20
        So to the OP's original question. Some people love them still, but most people these days don't. Maybe you'll like them, but it's hard to say.
        Francis

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        • #21
          Originally posted by fpitas View Post
          So to the OP's original question. Some people love them still, but most people these days don't. Maybe you'll like them, but it's hard to say.
          Given their age, it's hard to imagine that the drivers are still in good shape.... it's a lot of work and expense to restore them, so I would only do so if the Shakespearean sonnets that were written about these things in the 70's were still thought to be accurate. Apparently not. The contrast is hysterical actually.

          I doubt that I'm going to like them. Lately I've been spoiled by some HiVi 3-ways with ribbon tweeters.... I can only imagine these will sound like they have rolled socks stuffed down their throats in comparison.
          Form does not follow function
          Form is simultaneous to function

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          • #22
            The short answer to the OP is sure, try to save them. Test each driver independently. If they're good and the surrounds are rotted, replace them yourself. It should cost under $120. You then have speakers someone will pay $300 for.

            As far as sound - one of my roommates in college had a pair of IVs. He thought they were the best. Sure, they were loud, really loud with all of that chest pounding 90hz (bass). In the college dorm scene in the late 70's, there were a lot of pretty good options for $200-300/pair, but the top of the envy heap was the 901 or the JBL L100, both at $600/pr. You had to pick one, just like Florida or Georgia, or Ohio State or Michigan, you had to be in one camp. For me, it was easily the JBLs at $600/pair, but I couldn't afford either.

            Years later and a few dollars in the bank, I bought both at garage sales and compared them in the same room. No comparison, even the stock JBL was much more listenable. I've since modded the JBLs with a real cross over and larger enclosure and they're really pretty good. But for a party by the pool, in a compact format, the 901s are pretty handy.

            They are actually a PA speaker and sound like it. Really, Bose paints them black, turns them around with 8 drivers facing forward, mounts them on a pole and markets them as Bose 800s.

            I worked in college in two stereo stores, one sold only Bose and the other sold 8 or so different brands. Bose is a master of marketing; high priced, no discounting, nothing else on the floor to compare them to, and very high and immediate sales commissions - spiffs. Originally, cash right out of the till, later changed to spiff points you could use at the company store. I think we got paid $100-150 cash for each pair sold. Think about the margins you'd have to be making to pay that kind of commission, to the salesperson, in addition to the store mark up. That process made for very loyal and enthusiastic sales people.

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            • zx82net
              zx82net commented
              Editing a comment
              That level of commission is incredible. I do love these stories of "behind the scenes" in the HiFi retail world. I always makes you pleased to be a DIY'er.

          • #23
            Originally posted by lunchmoney View Post

            Given their age, it's hard to imagine that the drivers are still in good shape.... it's a lot of work and expense to restore them, so I would only do so if the Shakespearean sonnets that were written about these things in the 70's were still thought to be accurate. Apparently not. The contrast is hysterical actually.

            I doubt that I'm going to like them. Lately I've been spoiled by some HiVi 3-ways with ribbon tweeters.... I can only imagine these will sound like they have rolled socks stuffed down their throats in comparison.
            Yeah, ultra resolution was not what Bose was going for. Everybody likes something different I guess.
            Francis

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            • #24
              Originally posted by dwigle View Post
              The short answer to the OP is sure, try to save them. Test each driver independently. If they're good and the surrounds are rotted, replace them yourself. It should cost under $120. You then have speakers someone will pay $300 for.

              As far as sound - one of my roommates in college had a pair of IVs. He thought they were the best. Sure, they were loud, really loud with all of that chest pounding 90hz (bass). In the college dorm scene in the late 70's, there were a lot of pretty good options for $200-300/pair, but the top of the envy heap was the 901 or the JBL L100, both at $600/pr. You had to pick one, just like Florida or Georgia, or Ohio State or Michigan, you had to be in one camp. For me, it was easily the JBLs at $600/pair, but I couldn't afford either.

              Years later and a few dollars in the bank, I bought both at garage sales and compared them in the same room. No comparison, even the stock JBL was much more listenable. I've since modded the JBLs with a real cross over and larger enclosure and they're really pretty good. But for a party by the pool, in a compact format, the 901s are pretty handy.

              They are actually a PA speaker and sound like it. Really, Bose paints them black, turns them around with 8 drivers facing forward, mounts them on a pole and markets them as Bose 800s.

              I worked in college in two stereo stores, one sold only Bose and the other sold 8 or so different brands. Bose is a master of marketing; high priced, no discounting, nothing else on the floor to compare them to, and very high and immediate sales commissions - spiffs. Originally, cash right out of the till, later changed to spiff points you could use at the company store. I think we got paid $100-150 cash for each pair sold. Think about the margins you'd have to be making to pay that kind of commission, to the salesperson, in addition to the store mark up. That process made for very loyal and enthusiastic sales people.
              Recalling those times, the 901 was marketed as the trendiest thing ever. I talked to several cynical salesmen who hated them, but loved the quick sale and good profit. Say what you will, Bose knows how to make money.
              Francis

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              • #25
                Originally posted by dwigle View Post
                Bose is a master of marketing; high priced, no discounting, nothing else on the floor to compare them to, and very high and immediate sales commissions .
                They're a master of smoke and mirrors too. At one time they had Bose listening rooms, where the systems were set up by Bose, using what were at the time very expensive DSPs that were hidden from view, providing sound quality that buyers of the systems could not possibly duplicate. The stores were these rooms were placed were forbidden by contract from having any other brand in the room.

                I remember the original 901 very well. In 1969 my EE class got a hold of a pair, along with the passive contour network, and we reverse engineered it to make what might have been the world's first Bose Beater. We used Radio Shack/Fostex FE 103 drivers that went for $7.95. We made our own contour network optimized for the FE103s. The result sounded and measured better than the 901s.
                www.billfitzmaurice.com
                www.billfitzmaurice.info/forum

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                • #26
                  Originally posted by billfitzmaurice View Post
                  With respect to the deterioration of the foam surrounds that wasn't just a Bose problem, it happened to all of the first generation foam surround drivers. Once they started failing the surround manufacturers figured out why and they changed the foam formula.
                  I can only imagine it was a newly discovered type of bacteria...boses caci
                  "A dirty shop is an unsafe shop, if you injure yourself in a clean shop you are just stupid" - Coach Kupchinsky

                  The Madeleine
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                  • #27
                    To Bill's point, when I sold Bose in college we had subwoofers mounted in the walls. I'd never seen a 2.1 system at that time. And they were effectively infinite baffles that operated low, more like a tactile transducer vibrating the whole room. I never knew if Bose was behind it or if it was designed by the retailer. I was hesitant to ask.

                    It was funny when consumer reports did a review and described the sound image as "wandering around the room". Bose sued them for product defamation and lost, then won on appeal, then lost again at the supreme court. They're very litigious.

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                    • #28
                      And replacement drivers were $7 each and delivered in a box from Jensen, the car audio company.

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                      • #29
                        It's all been said, but I doubt I'd really love some of the older, good-for-the-time speakers I owned as a younger man anymore.

                        Todays technology is superior to the degree that the older stuff would almost have to sound pretty bad in comparison, at least with the gear I was able to afford. I guess the romance and nostalgia can't make up for the years of progress. Like you alluded to, It's hard to imagine a 5" speaker "tweetering" very well.

                        Someone would probably love to have them though. They have quite a reputation and have for decades.

                        TomZ
                        Zarbo Audio Projects Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEZ...aFQSTl6NdOwgxQ * 320-641 Amp Review Youtube: https://youtu.be/ugjfcI5p6m0 *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
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                        • #30
                          I would sell them as is, no warranty, NR. Plenty of guys my age have poor hearing and are very nostalgic. Based on the replacement driver price and the Ebay auction prices, they're not worth repairing just to hear them.

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