The Bose FreeSpace 3 system is a bit of a classic. No matter where you live in the world, you’ve probably been in a retail outlet, restaurant or some kind of shop that has this system installed.
The system sports a very distinctive design with “cube” style satellite speakers, accompanied with a passive subwoofer – whether this is the box style Series I subwoofer or the ceiling mounted Series II subwoofer.
Doncaster’s Superdrug store interestingly has one of these systems and that would set the chain of events that made me interested in this particular system, purely because of how it (seemingly) defied what was possible. The store has these tiny cube speakers situated all over – but with no sign of any subwoofers at all despite the strong bass response present throughout the store. The answer as to why this was, was not clear until I was much older and somewhat wiser. When the system was installed, it would have been in the late 90s/very early 2000s when the store was still part of the original Arndale centre before the “Frenchgate” revamp, which saw the shopping centre it was part of gain a multi storey roof top car park, an integral bus interchange, an enourmous three story Debenhams store which the whole new extension was modelled around (this store sadly closed it’s doors in 2021, being the shopping centre’s flagship store since the extensions opening in 2006). Bose hadn’t released the Series II variant of the FreeSpace 3 system at this point in the late 90s when the system was likely to have been installed in the Superdrug store. This means that there wasn’t such a thing as ceiling subwoofers at this point, and the solution was to actually mount the box style “Acoustimass” module subwoofers (similar in design to the domestic version, albeit with 100V line tappings and outputs for 4 satellite speakers) above the ceiling. In the Superdrug store, they are hidden behind small rectangular vents with the bass ports facing at the vent. However, it isn’t obvious because the store doesn’t have a ceiling grid, but instead a solid plasterboard ceiling.
Having explained above how this system originally sparked my interest, I recently installed the same exact white system in the Edge FM studio for background/foreground music (no, not studio monitoring, we use headphones for that!). If that wasn’t enough, I sourced 2 of the subwoofers online, but I only had 2 of the satellite speakers, despite when it was sold, each subwoofer would have come with around 4.
In true Yorkshire fashion, I wasn’t prepared to pay £150 for 5 black cube speakers to more or less complete the set. Instead, I bought 5 silver ones, resprayed the cabinets, recovered the grilles with black material (which was intensely fiddly and involved a lot of swearing burning my fingers on the hot glue gun!). Needless to say though, the end result was great, and I’m sure it was still cheaper than actually buying the 5 black cubes. Well, at least I’d like to think so anyway.
So that’s it, the Bose FreeSpace 3 system. Maybe not the best system on the planet, by no means the best value for money when new either, but when acquired second hand, it offers a sense of that the big sound is seemingly flowing from the tiny cube speakers no matter where you install it – so long as you place the Acoustimass module in a corner of course.