SVG Sit-Down: Bose’s Matt Ruwe Discusses the B40 Headset for Mission-Critical Applications

Based on aviation/military products, the device offers noise-canceling for production use

To most people, Bose is a leader in noise-canceling headphones for personal use, but less known is the work the company has done with the military, aviation, and other industries to deliver headsets that can keep communication lines open in noisy (and sometimes dangerous) environments. Bose Senior Product Manager Matt Ruwe sat down with SVG to discuss the SoundComm B40 headset, its development, and why it can make a difference in live sports-TV productions.

We’ve seen Bose headsets on the sidelines at NFL games and, of course, in airplane cockpits, where noise canceling makes a big difference. Where does the broadcast-production industry fit in?
Bose is focused on customers who need to reduce noise and have a very critical need for communication. In industries like aviation or the military, they can’t miss a call, and confidence is pretty important. And they want something that they can wear [comfortably] for a long time.

Think about the M1 Abrams tank or the Bradley fighting vehicles, [where] it is super noisy but communications are very critical. Those vehicles have Bose headsets. While comfort may not be something [the users] care about, we still try to make them comfortable.

Matt Ruwe says the Bose B40 headset excels in noisy environments.

What was the connection to broadcast?
We started to notice people using our aviation headsets connected to different types of cameras, different types of intercoms, and taking advantage of those benefits. The sports market is pretty broad. It’s not just camera operators, not just lighting professionals, not just producers or directors. We see [the headsets] being used, for example, with F1’s Mercedes AMG racing team and Chevrolet’s Corvette racing team for the first time this year.

We are producing a headset that we think is going to make a big difference for those people who need to be able to hear in louder environments and want to enjoy comfort. That’s our niche and where we’re trying to offer a product that differentiates us.

What do you see as the strengths of the B40 against other options for headsets?
The noise-canceling is where it hits it out of the park, because there are no other active noise-canceling headsets dedicated to this market. We also think that the other thing our product does quite well is that it has an active equalizer, and that makes the audio very clear.

And then, we have microphones that are really good at far-field noise rejection. If you can cancel the noise that is getting into the earcups, that is great, but, if you can’t cancel the noise in a way that keeps it from seeping into the microphone, then you’re essentially letting all that noise into the system. A far-field noise-canceling microphone has really cleared up the audio for our customers.

A lot of people in the industry already have Bose noise-canceling headphones for personal use. How does the B40 compare in terms of performance?
The B40 is built off our aviation and military products, and it must go through quite a bit more testing. By testing, I mean in environmental conditions that our Bose headphone customers would not ordinarily experience. We do rain testing, environmental testing, electromagnetic-interference testing, overload protection, and a lot more as this headset is meant to operate in louder environments.

We have seen people add a microphone to our consumer headsets, and they work great until they are in a more challenging environment. When it is 20 degrees and snowing in the NFL football stadium in Green Bay, WI, you need something different and more purpose-built.

Is the noise-canceling technology different from what we see in consumer models?
It’s similar and different. For example, [consumers] don’t have to have a compression system to deal with the loudest environment. If you ever get QC35 headphones into a noisy situation, you’ll hear it clip because the system cannot handle that much noise. For us to be able to make sure that we don’t have that audio clipping, we have to put in compression systems to prevent that from happening. It’s critical that a camera operator can get the director’s prompt to zoom in even with a loud crowd.

Do you think noise-canceling makes a difference in terms of stress and working for longer periods of time?
Yes, that is pretty clear. We hear two testimonials quite often about how customers find that, [after] hours and hours of wearing the headset, they don’t feel quite as fatigued as they [used to]. On World Tour Poker, [for example,] one of the camera operators bought one, and he didn’t realize how much quieter it was. It was like his cone of silence. And that’s clearly one of the benefits that we bring people who may not realize sometimes that, even in what they consider quieter environments, they can still be fatigued.

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