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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bose 901 Refurb

The Bose 901.  A legendary and controversial speaker, to say the least.  First released in 1968, the 901 lives on today and looks outwardly very similar to the original design.  Inside the newest 901's - according to Bose - are over 300 improvements over the original.  But the central premise is the same as ever: in my experience the Bose 901 is the only Bose speaker to truly achieve the goals of the Company's much-touted reflected sound technology.

I bought a pair of 901 Series VI's just before Thanksgiving of 2009.  The tops were scratched terribly, but otherwise they were pristine.  When I set them up in my new listening room, they sounded terrible.  Only when I took them over to my old apartment - the dreaded "reflection coffin" - did I discover what Bose has been talking about all this time.  The 901 is in a class by itself - apart from the rest of the Bose line and certainly apart from the rest of the world's known speaker species.  The 901 does earn Bose a spot among history's great speaker companies.  Not because of the sound quality, per se, but because of the 901's unique quality of sound.

After two hours of fiddling, I found the sound of the 901's "acceptable".  After half an hour of typing to the music, I awoke to something amazing happening in front of me.  I was in the reflection coffin, but it sounded like I was outside at a huge music festival.  I decided then and there: these speakers needed to be returned to their brand-new glory - or better.

And this time, I would take video of the process....

As I mentioned, the tops of my 901s were badly scratched.  I had picked them up for $300, and decided to sand out the scratches, re-stain the cabinets, and replace the burlap grillecloth up front (somebody had spilled drinks - repeatedly - on both grilles).  If the scratches proved too deep, I had two rolls of cherry wood veneer to cover the whole tops anew.

First up was to mask the grilles. At first, I left the front grilles on because I couldn't figure out how to get them off. But I did remove the back grilles, exposing the nest of 8 blue drivers that make the alleged "magic". Then I covered them with masking tape and plastic trash bag squares.

Here is a pic of the nest:

The fronts were masked in the same way, until I decided to replace the grillecloth as well and cut if off the grille itself.

Here is a pic of the front grille by itself:

Once I cut off the grillecloth, I could see staples in the grille. These staples, it turns out, are what holds the grille to the cabinet. Here is what the 901 looks like without the front grille:

Seems like a lot of speakers these days do a good job with just something like that, let alone the 8 rear-facing drivers, right? Hmm...

Removing the front grille allowed me to sand and stain all the way into the cabinet edge. Quality :)

Once we had them sanded, we stained with some "white oak" stain. The cabinets took on a rich, reddish color all the way around. Looks nice, but certainly different from the original color.

My friend helped me and we used his tools. We sanded the cabinets, and found that the scratches in the tops were too deep - they went through the veneer. So we had to sand them down and put on our new veneer.

Here is a video of the 901 Series VIs, all nice and stained :)

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