Bose and Mazda’s supreme sound system
For anyone who loves to turn the stereo up while driving, the latest collaboration between Mazda and premium audio brand Bose is surely music to their ears.
8 minute read
Available across Mazda’s new generation of vehicles, including the Mazda3 and CX-30, Bose’s sound system is packed with high-performance speakers and cutting-edge technology, intended to lift you straight out of the car and into a live concert. “You can enjoy listening to music that sounds exactly as it was intended by its creators,” says Atsushi Hinokidani, acoustic engineer at Bose. Koji Wakamatsu, assistant manager in Mazda’s Electrical & Electronics Performance Development Department, agrees. “The acoustics are a lot clearer than in previous models, and you can really feel the expansion of sound.”
A WORLD FIRST
From the start, Mazda made it clear to Bose that the new sound system would be a key feature in the car design. This commitment resulted in a world first: moving the woofers from their traditional position in the front doors to the sides of the front cowl. This positioning near the corners delivers a “powerful, tight bass”, Hinokidani says, and also dramatically reduces the buzzing, rattling sounds that often come with woofers set in door panels.
This was Hinokidani and the Bose team’s proudest achievement. “At Bose, we’d always wanted to place the woofers in the corner of the cabin to improve the acoustics,” he says. “But for many years there had been a strong perception that they should be placed in the doors.” As it turned out, the cowl side was “prime real estate”, as Hinokidani puts it, so they had to work with different departments to secure the space they needed.
In the end, the new layout worked well across the board. Only the smaller mid-range speakers, designed by Bose specifically for Mazda, were placed in the front doors. This reduced the amount of sound leaking outside the vehicle, while improving the door pocket design and making it easier to get into and out of the car. As Hinokidani says, “We ended up with a real win-win collaboration.”
“Moving the woofers from the front doors to the sides of the front cowl had never been done before.”
It was a unique challenge to design a sound system for listeners seated within the relatively small space of a vehicle, as each person is close to a different speaker.
This kind of pioneering spirit can be traced back 30 years, to when Mazda and Bose first teamed up and Bose adapted its Acoustic Waveguide technology for the 1992 RX-7. “It uses the principle of the pipe organ, but in the RX-7 the long pipe-like parts were re-designed to bend multiple times to fit into the trunk of the car,” says Hinokidani. “Until that point, no cars on the market had speakers mounted in the trunk like that.”
INNOVATION AT EVERY STEP
Fast-forward to the present day, and Hinokidani recalls the innovations made in designing the sound system for the Mazda3. “A big woofer enclosure with a larger diaphragm is good for bass, but we had to work within the size limitations that naturally arise in a car interior,” he explains. They also customized the sub woofers, placed in the rear of the car. “The unique nature of the car cabin reduces the acoustic pressure of mid-bass sounds right down,” he explains. “So we needed to achieve a balance between the limitations of the space and acoustic performance.”
Meanwhile, Wakamatsu is particularly pleased with the aluminium grille fitted over the mid-range speakers, which he says contributes to both the interior’s premium look and sound quality. “The grille protects the speaker, but it causes complex vibrations between the two and affects sound direction,” he explains. “To minimize this, the grille needs to be thinner and feature more holes, and we achieved both.”
NO MUSIC, NO DRIVE
As the driver, you can turn on some new functions in the Bose sound system to play the music exactly the way you want it. Driver Mode makes it sound best from the driver’s seat, while Centerpoint gives a surround sound experience. If you’re in noisy traffic, AudioPilot counteracts background noise by automatically adjusting over three levels. Personally, Hinokidani loves cranking up the volume on Santeria by American ska punk band Sublime, while driving alone at night on the highway. Wakamatsu grooves to a lot of pop and R&B. “It’s impossible for me not to listen to music while I’m driving. No music, no drive!”
“Driver Mode makes audio sound best for the driver, while Centerpoint gives a surround sound experience.”
Bose test tracks
The sounds and songs Bose uses to fine tune its Mazda sound system are a well-guarded secret, but based on our time with Atsushi Hinokidani, Mazda Stories suggests giving the following tracks a spin to appreciate the musical range and diversity the Bose system can deliver.
Eagles: Hotel California (Live)
Use this classic track to check the system’s sound field, continuity and consistency. The live recording offers the speakers quite a challenge, and ensuring the band’s instruments sound their best while delivering the ambience of a live concert is not easy.
0:04 The opening guitar sounds fantastic while also giving a sense of the crowd and the venue’s size.
5:33 Listening to the guitar solo and the other instruments in tandem gives confidence that the mix sounds its best.
Dave Weckl Band: Wet Skin
This is a great song for ensuring instruments sound distinct from each other across the sound spectrum, and that the depth of audio is just right. The instruments are panned distinctly left and right too, so it’s useful to ensure the system is faithfully reproducing the spatial signature of the song.
3:28 The guitar, organ and bass operate at different frequencies on the audio spectrum, so this track is great to check the system is reproducing the full spectrum correctly, and simultaneously.
This Jamiroquai hit is perfect for checking the ”attack” of the bass drum and the power and clarity of the bassline. It’s important for a great sound system’s bass to have real presence without overwhelming the mix, and this song confirms that is the case.
0:50 The bass powers the song along without detracting from the other instruments that dance above it.
2:43 Hear how the bass doesn’t overwhelm the high-frequency cymbals playing in the right channel.
Blue Man Group: Piano Smasher
A good sound system should faithfully reproduce a track’s low tones, not an easy thing to do as they often sit low in the mix. This Blue Man Group song oozes low, growling synth and is perfect for confirming that the sound system does the low tones justice in terms of volume and sustainability.
0:05 The low tones have impact and volume when they arrive.
1:35 Despite the guitar solo, the low tones can still be clearly heard.
Bose and Mazda’s relentless pursuit of audio perfection is entering its fourth decade as a partnership, and innovation remains a cornerstone of the relationship’s success. One of the most recent innovations is BassMatch. This technology moves the sound system’s woofers from the side doors into corner of the front cowl, providing a more powerful, tighter bass. Watch the video below to find out how BassMatch was developed, and how great it sounds in the all-electric Mazda MX-30.
Words Mariko Kato
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