BOSE Headphone Mods
Jul 21, 2010 at 11:01 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 35

peli_kan

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BOSE headphones are everywhere.  ARE THEY SALVEGABLE?!
 
Most people entering the drunken world of headphonia are faced with a dilemma, where they have to either stick with their old, misguided purchases or discard them to spend even more money on superior gear.  Either way, there is a level of ickyness that'd be good to avoid, which is where my idea comes in.
 
If we could develop legitimate mods for BOSE's products, we could ease newcomers into a better transition.  Perhaps they'll be happy, and rightfully so, with their improved BOSE headphones and not feel the need to upgrade further.  Alternatively, maybe they'll love their modded BOSE's, and, understanding the difference that good hardware can bring, choose to explore amps, sources, and other headphones.  Either way, more people get to hear better music, and those who carry out the mods will have a much better understanding of the equipment they enjoy. 
 
Many of us know someone who has a broken Triport, snapped at the Y joining the cups to the headband.  I smell an opportunity here, a source ripe with housings and drivers that could make any modder salivate.  I suspect that with enough felt, cotton, and blue-tak, even a BOSE product can be saved. 
 
Jul 21, 2010 at 11:04 PM Post #2 of 35

MacedonianHero

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My favourite BOSE mod:
 
Step #1:
Sell them on Kijiji or Craigslist to a non-audiophile
 
Step #2:
Buy something better with the money from Step #1
 
biggrin.gif

 
Jul 21, 2010 at 11:19 PM Post #3 of 35

peli_kan

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They usually fetch only $40-$90, while they retail for $125+
 
If possible, I'd rather avoid eating that depreciation.
 

 
Quote:
My favourite BOSE mod:
 
Step #1:
Sell them on Kijiji or Craigslist to a non-audiophile
 
Step #2:
Buy something better with the money from Step #1
 
biggrin.gif



 
Jul 21, 2010 at 11:26 PM Post #4 of 35

TheWuss

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I will concede that a triport can maybe be saved. But i had the bose in ear phones, and i dont think they have a foundation to build on. They are truly horrible.
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 12:03 AM Post #5 of 35

Uncle Erik

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Let's see:

1. Remove drivers, throw away, replace with quality ones with a respectable frequency response.

2. Remove cups, throw away, replace with ones that don't sound muddy and compliment the better drivers.

3. Remove headband, throw away, replace with something not flimsy.

Of course, the perfectly adequate Bose cord will still be there to compliment your newly modded Triports.
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 12:58 AM Post #6 of 35

classakg

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Quote:
Let's see:

1. Remove drivers, throw away, replace with quality ones with a respectable frequency response.

2. Remove cups, throw away, replace with ones that don't sound muddy and compliment the better drivers.

3. Remove headband, throw away, replace with something not flimsy.

Of course, the perfectly adequate Bose cord will still be there to compliment your newly modded Triports.

 
The final result will be: New high quality headphones....and bose cans on the garbage. 
 
Actually laughed a lot with Macedonian post. 
 
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 1:14 AM Post #7 of 35

Goku

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Quote:
My favourite BOSE mod:
 
Step #1:
Sell them on Kijiji or Craigslist to a non-audiophile
 
Step #2:
Buy something better with the money from Step #1
 
biggrin.gif


FTW!
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 2:03 AM Post #8 of 35

peli_kan

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The fact remains:  there are many Bose headphone owners out there, and almost all would be reluctant to give them up without a better understanding of what constitutes a good pair of headphones, let alone what good headphones sound like.  These owners would not give up their headphones without a fight.  In that case, LET them fight, and give them a chance to push their headphones to the limit.  Only then would they be able to form a coherent upgrade path based on their new found knowledge on what works and what doesn't.
 
As much as I dislike Bose's products, it bothers me even more that we try to buy our way into "audio nirvana," happily circle-jerking til our wallets run empty.  While there are many strongholds of DIY resourcefulness here on head-fi, for the most part we display the worst traits of the consumerist cue-urge-reward cycle of addiction, ready to dismiss current possessions as unmitigated junk as we ready ourselves to swallow the next FOTM. 
 
I think Bose products are BAD, no way around it.  Even so, you can't ask every single owner to sell theirs and buy a better one.  Many can't afford to.  Many more can't be bothered to.  The most we can ask of them is to learn by using what they have, fostering a deeper understanding of why a pair of headphones sound the way they do.  Careful upgrading, hand in hand with the gradual exploration of different headphone setups and the learning it entails, is a great thing.  Upgradeitis isn't. 
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 2:58 AM Post #9 of 35

Ishcabible

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Oookay, as much as I'd like this to have worked, aren't the cups weird inside? I vaguely recall that there are three different chambers, hence the name Triport. It would probably be tricky to mod correctly. I wouldn't mind someone sending me a broken Triport to experiment with though.
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 3:19 AM Post #10 of 35

Bilavideo

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Bose cans are moddable.  In the case of the Bose On-Ear, I would perform surgery on those bean bag cushions with the pee-hole sound outlets.  If you open these up, you'll sacrifice bass to get a more open presentation.  Since the Bose On-Ears have ridiculously bloated bass, that would be no sacrifice at all. 
 
As far as the Triports are concerned, the most obvious problem is the acoustic silliness of putting drivers into aviation cups with inadequate sound damping.  Those aviation cups are too small.  With no vents and no serious damping, it's like listening to music inside a literal can.  Bose can't open these up without sacrificing its chief marketing angle: isolation.  The size of the cups aggravates the problem.  Bose doesn't seem to care, as long as it makes a product that looks good to consumers.  Its "research" probably tells it that customers want the isolation suggested in an aviation-cup design but they also want something sleek, with a low profile.  The cups are small to be cute and make the sale, not to provide the customer the best possible sound.
 
I actually owned a pair of Bose In-Ear Phones, for at least as long as it took to remove them from the package, listen to their awful presentation and head back to the Best Buy that sold them to me.  When I returned them, I explained that these were possibly the worst in-ear phones I had ever heard.  I was being nice.  Bose's problem may have been another case of style over substance.  If Best Buy is selling these for $99, Bose must be unloading them for much less.  I'm sure these plastic nightmares don't get stocked unless the margins make them worth the store space.  That being the case, Bose doesn't have the same cost-in-materials of any major player in the world of IEMs.  Nor is the ear canal much of a location for expansion of the Bose philosophy of psychoacoustics.  If Bose thought it were, it would probably have multiple drivers firing off multiple signals all over the place to confuse the brain into processing all these bizarre signals into some kind of artificial spatiality.  
 
Bose's room units operate on such principles, which is how Bose gets away with selling a truckload of paper-cone drivers to create the kind of spatiality simulated with a comb filter (where notch filters cancel out frequencies A,C,E,G on the left and frequencies B,D,F,H on the right - to give the illusion that  two separate signals are being heard, because the two channels fit like puzzle pieces).  But you can't do that if all you're supplying is a single driver - a dynamic - in each ear.  Dynamics tend to be bigger and have fitness issues.  Their saving graces are soundstage and bass.  Mine were boomy and muddy - with such a lack of clarity I couldn't explain why I'd paid $100 for the experience.  They reminded me of Koss's $5 headphones at Walmart.  Without a doubt, Bose supplies these to fit a market niche.  Maybe that's why, in the years since I bought that rotten pair, I've not seen Bose come out with a single innovation in its in-ear phones.  We've seen new products from UE, Westone, Phonak, JH Audio, Audio Technica, Etymotics, Sennheiser and even Klipsch.  Bose, on the other hand, seems frozen in time.  I suspect it's because Bose's heart is really not in the IEM game.  Bose just wants to have a product to fill a niche.  It doesn't care whether its product is even remotely competitive.
 
Bose makes cheap stuff you can sell at a mall, or a Best Buy or a Target, etc.  The general public isn't that into headphones.  Many of these people can't hear the difference, anyway.  They just want something to plug into their Nano or Zune.  They are Bose's bread and butter.  Bose makes its cash by knowing the limits of their pocketbook, which is why it has products to fit certain low-end tiers.  What's more, to get these people to spend more - in what is essentially a race to the bottom - it tells them how discriminating they are, since they spent a little more to get "the best."
 
Here is where I think any attempt to mod a Bose product will run into problems.  The people who buy Bose believe, or want to believe, that the world is simple.  They like it simple.  They are buying a lifestyle product that has everything figured out for them.  When, therefore, someone comes along and tells them this or that could be tweaked, it's not exactly a message they want to hear.  Not only do they fail to appreciate the help (sometimes unable to hear the difference, anyway) but they actually feel like their little bubble has been popped.  They had perfection incarnate.  Then you showed up and ruined it.  You introduced complexity.  You showed them that their headphones are not made with unicorn tears and white magic.  You reminded them that everything works because of things we usually don't see, but which are extremely important - and complicated.
 
You might as well have sung to them in Ugaritic.
 
If you managed to sustain their attention long enough to show them that their headphone is actually a system, with parts working together as a whole - and then showed them that their system needed this tweak or that - their attitude would now be one of dismay.  Why?  Because simple people have little tolerance for shades of gray.  It's either good or bad, right or wrong, worth having or worth replacing.  When you find fault with a lifestyle product, panic ensues.  The reaction is either denial or disillusionment.
 
Take, for example the brouhaha over Apple's iPhone 4.  In many ways, this is an awesome new phone, the best Apple has ever made, but is it perfect?  As with any device, it's a little buggy.  There's a tender spot where a left-handed user would short out the antenna.  This is because the antenna is on the outside of the phone, wrapping around its sides like a snake.  Antennas, like other electrical appliances, have positive and negative sides, which you don't want to cross.  If a person were to bridge the gap separating the two ends of the antenna, it would cancel things out and the signal strength would drop dramatically.  As AT&T has a service prone to such problems, the iPhone 4 has had issues with dropped calls.
 
Immediately, such news brought dual orthodoxies into an immediate collision.  On the one hand, there were those who said the iPhone 4 was defective crap and should be immediately chucked, even if a host of right-handers didn't have any issues with it and if one could fix the problem by simply not giving the phone a kind of "death grip," as it is a device whose antenna would work better without being covered up.  On the other hand, there were the iNuts, going into hysterics to defend the sanctity of a consumer product.  Bitter diatribes were launched against YouTube videos where the iPhone 4's deathgrip issue was displayed.  This was before Steve Jobs gave his Friday speech, basically saying that the other cell phones have their own death grip.  After the speech, when YouTube videos switched - from Jobs' list of 3 less-than-latest-release phones to the 7 top-of-the-line/latest-technology contenders - Apple true believers became incensed when it was shown that the real problems were coming from Apple and Samsung.
 
Now, for most users, the "death grip" isn't an issue.  For the left-handers, a strip of Scotch tape would do the trick, and that's if they didn't want to simply watch where they held the phone (since the divider between the two sides of the antenna is pretty hard to miss).  But for the extremely simple, this was either a non-event or a deal-killer.  Not only can't you tweak a "perfect phone"; you shouldn't have to.  Simple people don't like to be reminded that the world is far from simple.  Bose makes its money off such people, which is why I doubt they'll be receptive to a lesson in practical acoustics.
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 3:56 AM Post #12 of 35

kingtz

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Quote:
Bose cans are moddable.  In the case of the Bose On-Ear, I would perform surgery on those bean bag cushions with the pee-hole sound outlets.  If you open these up, you'll sacrifice bass to get a more open presentation.  Since the Bose On-Ears have ridiculously bloated bass, that would be no sacrifice at all. 
 
As far as the Triports are concerned, the most obvious problem is the acoustic silliness of putting drivers into aviation cups with inadequate sound damping.  Those aviation cups are too small.  With no vents and no serious damping, it's like listening to music inside a literal can.  Bose can't open these up without sacrificing its chief marketing angle: isolation.  The size of the cups aggravates the problem.  Bose doesn't seem to care, as long as it makes a product that looks good to consumers.  Its "research" probably tells it that customers want the isolation suggested in an aviation-cup design but they also want something sleek, with a low profile.  The cups are small to be cute and make the sale, not to provide the customer the best possible sound.
 
I actually owned a pair of Bose In-Ear Phones, for at least as long as it took to remove them from the package, listen to their awful presentation and head back to the Best Buy that sold them to me.  When I returned them, I explained that these were possibly the worst in-ear phones I had ever heard.  I was being nice.  Bose's problem may have been another case of style over substance.  If Best Buy is selling these for $99, Bose must be unloading them for much less.  I'm sure these plastic nightmares don't get stocked unless the margins make them worth the store space.  That being the case, Bose doesn't have the same cost-in-materials of any major player in the world of IEMs.  Nor is the ear canal much of a location for expansion of the Bose philosophy of psychoacoustics.  If Bose thought it were, it would probably have multiple drivers firing off multiple signals all over the place to confuse the brain into processing all these bizarre signals into some kind of artificial spatiality.  
 
Bose's room units operate on such principles, which is how Bose gets away with selling a truckload of paper-cone drivers to create the kind of spatiality simulated with a comb filter (where notch filters cancel out frequencies A,C,E,G on the left and frequencies B,D,F,H on the right - to give the illusion that  two separate signals are being heard, because the two channels fit like puzzle pieces).  But you can't do that if all you're supplying is a single driver - a dynamic - in each ear.  Dynamics tend to be bigger and have fitness issues.  Their saving graces are soundstage and bass.  Mine were boomy and muddy - with such a lack of clarity I couldn't explain why I'd paid $100 for the experience.  They reminded me of Koss's $5 headphones at Walmart.  Without a doubt, Bose supplies these to fit a market niche.  Maybe that's why, in the years since I bought that rotten pair, I've not seen Bose come out with a single innovation in its in-ear phones.  We've seen new products from UE, Westone, Phonak, JH Audio, Audio Technica, Etymotics, Sennheiser and even Klipsch.  Bose, on the other hand, seems frozen in time.  I suspect it's because Bose's heart is really not in the IEM game.  Bose just wants to have a product to fill a niche.  It doesn't care whether its product is even remotely competitive.
 
Bose makes cheap stuff you can sell at a mall, or a Best Buy or a Target, etc.  The general public isn't that into headphones.  Many of these people can't hear the difference, anyway.  They just want something to plug into their Nano or Zune.  They are Bose's bread and butter.  Bose makes its cash by knowing the limits of their pocketbook, which is why it has products to fit certain low-end tiers.  What's more, to get these people to spend more - in what is essentially a race to the bottom - it tells them how discriminating they are, since they spent a little more to get "the best."
 
Here is where I think any attempt to mod a Bose product will run into problems.  The people who buy Bose believe, or want to believe, that the world is simple.  They like it simple.  They are buying a lifestyle product that has everything figured out for them.  When, therefore, someone comes along and tells them this or that could be tweaked, it's not exactly a message they want to hear.  Not only do they fail to appreciate the help (sometimes unable to hear the difference, anyway) but they actually feel like their little bubble has been popped.  They had perfection incarnate.  Then you showed up and ruined it.  You introduced complexity.  You showed them that their headphones are not made with unicorn tears and white magic.  You reminded them that everything works because of things we usually don't see, but which are extremely important - and complicated.
 
You might as well have sung to them in Ugaritic.
 
If you managed to sustain their attention long enough to show them that their headphone is actually a system, with parts working together as a whole - and then showed them that their system needed this tweak or that - their attitude would now be one of dismay.  Why?  Because simple people have little tolerance for shades of gray.  It's either good or bad, right or wrong, worth having or worth replacing.  When you find fault with a lifestyle product, panic ensues.  The reaction is either denial or disillusionment.
 
Take, for example the brouhaha over Apple's iPhone 4.  In many ways, this is an awesome new phone, the best Apple has ever made, but is it perfect?  As with any device, it's a little buggy.  There's a tender spot where a left-handed user would short out the antenna.  This is because the antenna is on the outside of the phone, wrapping around its sides like a snake.  Antennas, like other electrical appliances, have positive and negative sides, which you don't want to cross.  If a person were to bridge the gap separating the two ends of the antenna, it would cancel things out and the signal strength would drop dramatically.  As AT&T has a service prone to such problems, the iPhone 4 has had issues with dropped calls.
 
Immediately, such news brought dual orthodoxies into an immediate collision.  On the one hand, there were those who said the iPhone 4 was defective crap and should be immediately chucked, even if a host of right-handers didn't have any issues with it and if one could fix the problem by simply not giving the phone a kind of "death grip," as it is a device whose antenna would work better without being covered up.  On the other hand, there were the iNuts, going into hysterics to defend the sanctity of a consumer product.  Bitter diatribes were launched against YouTube videos where the iPhone 4's deathgrip issue was displayed.  This was before Steve Jobs gave his Friday speech, basically saying that the other cell phones have their own death grip.  After the speech, when YouTube videos switched - from Jobs' list of 3 less-than-latest-release phones to the 7 top-of-the-line/latest-technology contenders - Apple true believers became incensed when it was shown that the real problems were coming from Apple and Samsung.
 
Now, for most users, the "death grip" isn't an issue.  For the left-handers, a strip of Scotch tape would do the trick, and that's if they didn't want to simply watch where they held the phone (since the divider between the two sides of the antenna is pretty hard to miss).  But for the extremely simple, this was either a non-event or a deal-killer.  Not only can't you tweak a "perfect phone"; you shouldn't have to.  Simple people don't like to be reminded that the world is far from simple.  Bose makes its money off such people, which is why I doubt they'll be receptive to a lesson in practical acoustics.

 
Very well said!
 
I was also about to comment on how the demographic for Bose products either will not want or refuse to see the benefits of a mod anyways, but you definitely said it much better. I also heartily agree with your sentiment about how simple people wanting simple products that have already been figured out for them, and how they won't want to think of headphones as a "system". Very well put.
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 9:02 AM Post #13 of 35

MacedonianHero

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Quote:
They usually fetch only $40-$90, while they retail for $125+
 
If possible, I'd rather avoid eating that depreciation.
 

 

 


Then there is always UncleErik's recommendation.
 
You can not turn a Ford Pinto into a Mustang....no matter how hard you try. Sometimes the cheaper option is to just get a new Mustang and pitch the Pinto.
 
And Bill's point of people who typically own Bose really don't care about good sound, so why bother figuring out a mod to make them better?
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 10:12 AM Post #14 of 35

peli_kan

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Quote:
Bose makes cheap stuff you can sell at a mall, or a Best Buy or a Target, etc.  The general public isn't that into headphones.  Many of these people can't hear the difference, anyway.  They just want something to plug into their Nano or Zune.  They are Bose's bread and butter.  Bose makes its cash by knowing the limits of their pocketbook, which is why it has products to fit certain low-end tiers.  What's more, to get these people to spend more - in what is essentially a race to the bottom - it tells them how discriminating they are, since they spent a little more to get "the best."
 
Here is where I think any attempt to mod a Bose product will run into problems.  The people who buy Bose believe, or want to believe, that the world is simple.  They like it simple.  They are buying a lifestyle product that has everything figured out for them.  When, therefore, someone comes along and tells them this or that could be tweaked, it's not exactly a message they want to hear.  Not only do they fail to appreciate the help (sometimes unable to hear the difference, anyway) but they actually feel like their little bubble has been popped.  They had perfection incarnate.  Then you showed up and ruined it.  You introduced complexity.  You showed them that their headphones are not made with unicorn tears and white magic.  You reminded them that everything works because of things we usually don't see, but which are extremely important - and complicated.
 
You might as well have sung to them in Ugaritic.
 
If you managed to sustain their attention long enough to show them that their headphone is actually a system, with parts working together as a whole - and then showed them that their system needed this tweak or that - their attitude would now be one of dismay.  Why?  Because simple people have little tolerance for shades of gray.  It's either good or bad, right or wrong, worth having or worth replacing.  When you find fault with a lifestyle product, panic ensues.  The reaction is either denial or disillusionment.
 


You are absolutely correct in characterizing Bose's fairy dust approach.  However, you're doing their customers a disservice.  Many of us here at Head-fi, whether we admit it or not, first got interested in high-fidelity audio through Bose.  To characterize Bose customers as ignorant and shallow would be a terrible mistake.  You are not defined by what you buy, and no consumer base is a monolith.  The fact is that we all start from a point of ZERO INFORMATION, and learn incrementally.  When we make missteps while figuring it all out, we shouldn't be judged for it.  Don't forget that we all came from humble beginnings.
 
Lifestyle brands, such as Starbucks, Mont Blanc, and Apple, are attacked from both ends.  From one side, they're criticized as decadent extravagances that try to cultivate their own demand through heavy marketing.  From the other, they're looked down upon as entry-level sellouts that manipulate consumers to buy inferior goods.  Whether they intend to or not, they become lightning rods for the sparks of interest that help drive the engines of these niche markets. 
 
In person, I'm one of the most vocal Bose haters that you'd ever meet.  However, that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to help create a silver lining for their unfortunate customers. 
 
Jul 22, 2010 at 12:09 PM Post #15 of 35

Ishcabible

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And in addition, if a Triport owner finds this site, it would mean they're most likely looking for alternatives no? The idea isn't to force modding down owners' throats right? We might as well let them make use with what they already have. Trashing headphones that cost so much (in a relative sense, to them) isn't really economical.
 

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