Bose’s New SeatCentric Technology

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Bose new OEM system

Richard Truesdell

Bose is at it again, with a new OEM system for automobiles. It uses headrest speakers and then adds active noise-cancelling to create individual audio zones where mom and dad and passengers can each listen to different audio sources at the same time.

Dad can talk on the phone privately while mom listens to music without disturbing dad. And kids can listen to the soundtrack of a movie without hearing the music in the front seat.

So how does this technology work and what does it mean for the aftermarket?

Bose calls this SeatCentric Technology.  Harman Automotive is working on a similar technology called SeatSonic. For an in-depth explanation, click here.

Bose Seat Centric


Bose places speakers in headrests rather than throughout the cabin to create what it calls a more immersive experience.  It calls these ultra near-field speakers. It also provides each listener with their own volume control.

Each occupant can experience different things. The driver and the front seat passenger each can listen to two different music programs at different volumes. And when a phone call comes through, it can be directed to just the driver while the front-seat passenger can continue to listen to music.  All four occupants, using sophisticated signal processing, can interact with four different programs, each with meaningful isolation between them.

To make it all work, SeatCentric will employ sensors already installed in the vehicle, like those used to sense proximity to obstacles. To make this work seamlessly, Bose will need to work other OEM suppliers.

To get an expert aftermarket perspective on what this means, we turned to long-time industry veteran Andy Wehmeyer, president of Audiofrog, Inc.   He said, “I think this presents an opportunity for an approach that’s gaining traction already.”


Harman SeatSonic
Harman SeatSonic technology

Wehmeyer explained, “Here’s what I’m talking about. For some customers, sound in the headrests isn’t going to be enough—it isn’t going to be ‘normal’…Maybe for some traditional audio customers, they’ll want a regular system.”  Wehmeyer said there are always going to be car owners that appreciate good sound, and for these, the aftermarket can actually add the traditional four speakers and a subwoofer, and a digital signal processor (DSP) or a DSP/amplifier.  The user can bring in their phone or a digital audio player as a source unit.

He added, “I think this opportunity might be a great one for the aftermarket, especially at the high end where we can deliver something truly great and dramatically different than what can be delivered over a pair of small near-field speakers.”

If the past is prologue, SeatCentric will first appear in luxury cars. Given the lead times involved in the launch of a new vehicle platform, two to three years, if Bose is currently working with an OEM partner, don’t expect to see this technology appear on showroom floors any time before the 2027 model year in the Fall of 2026.

Bose, through a spokesperson, was unable to add any further information. In the world of OEM/supplier relationships, this would indicate that Bose is close to announcing its initial OEM partnerships.

In the meantime, the aftermarket manufacturers will find upgrade paths as they have done virtually every time the OEMs have tried to lock us out of the signal path. This has been the reality now for more than four decades. Don’t expect that battle to change.

One last note, as a car buff, I can’t help adding a little history behind this technology.

The current trends in individualized sonic presentations in automotive environments can be traced back to two innovations. In the fall of 1983, in the pre-digital/pre-DSP era, Pontiac introduced its Fiero two-seat “commuter car” for the 1984 model year. One of its innovations was a pair of full-range speakers installed in the headrests on Fieros equipped with the optional Delco ETR radios.

The next piece of the technology puzzle was from Bose, which has had a huge presence in OEM audio systems going back to 1983 when it launched its first premium-branded systems in three GM vehicles–the Buick Rivera, Cadillac Seville, and the Oldsmobile Toronado.  In 2000, Bose introduced its first consumer-grade noise canceling headphones.

Fast forward 15 years. As vehicle infotainment systems evolved, Bose, which sees itself as a technology company as much as it is an audio company, started working on combining in-headrest speakers with active noise cancellation.

Rich Truesdell

Rich Truesdell

Rich is an industry veteran and longtime automotive photojournalist   He has served as an installer, a 12 volt retail store owner, and a car audio and automotive journalist.

Truesdell founded Kartunes Mobile Electronics in New Jersey in 1976 with a retail storefront from 1980 to 1992. He’s contributed to publications including Motor Trend and has been a full-time automotive journalist since 2000 to more than 30 magazines around the world.  He is also the co-author of three books with collaborator Mark Fletcher; Hurst Equipped (2012), 1970 Maximum Muscle (2021), and Hemi Under Glass (2021). Truesdell even appeared on Jay Leno’s Garage!

Truesdell welcomes questions from readers and he hopes to connect with colleagues from his many years in the car audio industry at [email protected]

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