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Mazda fixes MX-5 Miata's worst fault for 2016

If you ever owned a Mazda Miata, you know what its worst drawback was.


Let’s start with some perspective. I live near Bose. Friends and neighbors of mine, mostly the smart hard-working ones, work for Bose. When I was in college getting an ME degree, the EEs aspired to work for Bose. I’ve owned the Wave radio, compact and over-the–ears headphones from Bose that were so much better than the competition it was just silly. Yet, the Bose audio in the outgoing, third-generation Miata was absolute crap. It was the single worst defect in that car. I know, I owned one for four years. Today Mazda promised in a press release that it has fixed that abomination. We’ll see.

Anyone with a convertible knows some audio tricks. Enabling the automatic sound level adjustment they all have is only part of the process. For top-down driving, you need to push up the bass and treble. When you favorite song comes on, you roll up the glass to get more depth of sound. And you replace that weak, terrible, ridiculous Bose system in your 2006.5 through 2015 Mazda Miata if you have any sense at all. Today Mazda vowed you won’t have to do that for the new generation starting with the 2016 MX-5 Miata about to drop late summer in the U.S. market.

Marc Mansell, vice president, Bose Automotive Systems Division is a person I don’t know, but who may be my neighbor (I live that close to Bose). He said, “So, we wanted to make the sound system for the new MX-5 better than it’s ever been. We improved audio quality, and for open-air driving, the experience is thrilling. You’ll feel and hear the difference the first time you listen.” Mazda says that the new Miata will be the very first car with a pair of 2-inch (50mm) Bose UltraNearfield speakers. They will work with Bose TrueSpace sound technology. Hopefully, this means the audio will be loud, clear, and have “soopa’bass.” One could barely hear the old system, which was at max volume if I remember correctly at setting 18 in my 2007 Grand Touring Miata. Above that it was just noise. Below that it was inaudible.

Feel free to write in below and tell us all how “the sound of the engine is the only sound-track you need.” Maybe. But when you’re on a long road trip, if you don’t have a craving for good tunes I submit to you respectfully that you may have no soul. If you had a Mazda Miata and found the sound lacking let us know if you took action, and what you put in.


Justin (not verified)    May 20, 2015 - 9:45AM

What? The Bose stereo in the NC Miata sounds pretty damn good, actually. It's a whole heck of a lot better than a lot of other cars in the price range.

JeffS (not verified)    May 20, 2015 - 1:32PM

In reply to by Justin (not verified)

Good day Justin, I do not think what is being suggested is that the system doesn't sound good. However, when compared to what Bose has to offer for its home stereo equipment, their car systems to date are somewhat a disappointment in comparison. By the same token, not everyone is looking for, "Concert hall" quality in their cars and that is just a matter of personal preference. In the case of the Miata it seems Mazda got enough negative feedback to upgrade the system. As Mr. Goreham reports, Mazda is touting a better quality sound in the new Miata and that is a Good thing. Be Well.

JeffS (not verified)    May 20, 2015 - 12:02PM

Good day John. I have had a couple of cars with Bose factory installed systems and like you report on the Miata, they were pretty poor considering the, "Bose" name. I have listened to Bose headphones and home systems that are remarkable. I wonder why they, "Fell down" on there car systems. I'm guessing it was the cost restraints given to them by the manufacturers. Be Well

Conrad (not verified)    May 21, 2015 - 12:14AM

I had a 97 miata touring. I replaced the two bose door speakers with a three-way powered by an amp mounted behind the driver's seat. I had a custom box of two 12 inch woofers in the trunk with a seperate amp mounted behind the passenger's seat. And I had a capacitor in between the two amps right above the arm rest storage bin. All other sound solution including the JBL stealth box was just too weak for the top down cruising at 60 to 70 mph. And it's really the only way to enjoy the top down with the exhaust high itch revving, wind whipping, tires squelling, being fully immersed in your favorite music wishing the feeling of your drive to work would last forever.... if not, then at least you longed and waited for the drive back home.... with great open sound in the miata, I missed the look of everyone else stuck in traffic giving me their thumbs up, wishing they could be as free and fun like me.... cheers...

Woofus (not verified)    July 9, 2015 - 8:27PM

In reply to by Conrad (not verified)

Wow. I had a Miata. I got the thing to toss around corners, wax lumbering SUVs and clock rolling armchairs in the twisty bits. How its audio sounded ( or not) was of no concern to me. The worst thing about the Miata was that it handled better than its horsepower allowed. So, rather than dink about with the sound system, I had a supercharger installed. Instant 245 hp and a power-to-weight ratio nearing Corvette country.

Well, to each his own.

Ed Carroll (not verified)    May 24, 2015 - 7:10AM

I have no faith in Bose. They've been coasting on their reputation for years, while falling behind their competitors. I have the the Bose option in my 2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring and, quite frankly, it sounds like crap. There's mid range is lacking. The door speakers are muddy, having to carry the base for a system that offers no dedicated sound woofer. It seems Bose has sold out and is happy to slap their name on anything.

JeffS (not verified)    May 24, 2015 - 10:34AM

In reply to by Ed Carroll (not verified)

Hi Ed. I am not bashing Mazda, (the Miata is a great little car), nor Bose. I think the, "sub-par" systems that Bose supplies to the auto industry is not entirely their fault. For many manufacturers, (not only electronic) the auto industry is such a lucrative part of their business, they will do almost anything to get a piece of the pie. That being said, when Mazda went shopping for an audio system for the Miata, they put a price range on their request for quote. The competition for the business is brutal and cut throat. So my guess as to what had happened, Bose lowered its standards to allow them to price the system low enough to be awarded the contract. Chances are, regardless of whom Mazda chose, there were going to be quality compromises made in order to meet the price point. Mazda, (just as with Acura, in my case) is really the culprit here. After all they were the ones who chose the system they were putting in their cars. Bose probably had the choice of, "cheapening the system" to get the order, or walk away. The bean counters won as they usually do. Bose still puts out some great home systems and equipment, but you pay for it. In a vast majority of cases, the old adage still holds, "You get what you pay for".

Rick C. (not verified)    May 24, 2015 - 12:49PM

Engineer here as well, with abundant experience in electronic design and integration (as well as optical and mechanical systems). Bose? I don't think they've developed anything earth shattering since the 90's. It's just a consumer name brand with an aging reputation attached to it. The flag raiser for this conversation is the fact they've become the mass produced OEM for a dozen automobile manufactures. They just became that low bidder at the lowest price point possible in the parts chain. Not very encouraging, not very exclusive, not much to write home about. The last sentence is just my opinion of course.

JeffS (not verified)    May 25, 2015 - 8:21AM

In reply to by Rick C. (not verified)

Good Day Rick. I agree with much of what you have to say when it comes to Bose's OEM car systems, however they still offer some kick-ass home equipment. For example, have you given a listen to their , "Lifestyle" systems? Although pricey, (as Bose has always been), it is has a, "Concert hall" quality of sound throughout the frequency range. Bose still puts out some very nice equipment. We all hear through different ears, so really it comes down to a matter of personal preference and is largely subjective, (e.g. I like a deep booming bass, my wife, clear crisp highs). That being said, I, "hear" what you have to say.

Bill Creamer (not verified)    November 5, 2018 - 2:40PM

In reply to by JeffS (not verified)

Deep bass is not "booming", or to put it another way. If your bass is "booming" it's not bass, that's mid-range being boosted so it booms. Real bass is not directional, and colors the sound, rather than overwhelming it.

Here is a test to try with your home system (I find Bose lacking there too.) Put on some music with some bass sounds. Sit in front of your center speaker, or if you don't have one, as close to the center of the sound stage as possible. Now close your eyes. Without opening your eyes, point in the direction that the bass is coming from. Still pointing, open your eyes. If you are pointing at a speaker, you don't have a real sub-woofer. As I said, bass is non-directional, so you should be unable to localize the sound. If you can, you are listening to boosted mid-range, not bass

michael (not verified)    May 25, 2015 - 7:42AM

I disagree, Ed. I also have a CX-5 grand touring, with the 9 speaker bose system. It sounds great. I've heard parts of songs on this system that I never heard with my previous 710 watt Rockford system. The one thing the bose system is lacking is a dedicated subwoofer, however, this system still has some pretty thumping base is you adjust the settings. I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement, however, this system is far from "crap."

JimD (not verified)    May 25, 2015 - 7:44PM

I replaced the Bose stereo in my 08 GT PRHT with a Pioneer AVIC-8100 NEX and couldn't be happier. The OEM system was ok - not great - but lacked bluetooth & GPS has never been a factory option. Not only did the Pioneer system fix those shortcomings but the sound quality is much improved. Even my better half who normally can't tell the difference in sound quality noticed the improvement. Wish I had upgraded years ago. BTW I've Bose home theater, computer speakers, & headphones for many years. Bose auto systems just don't measure up to their home equipment.

Joseph Kort (not verified)    May 26, 2015 - 11:13AM

I have had convertibles for over 40 yrs now and never did I ever listen to tunes without headphones. I started with over the ear phones and Walkman with my MGB and currently use Havi B with my iPhone. This is the only way to listen to music in a convertible.

JD Howell (not verified)    May 26, 2015 - 4:26PM

We have a '14 Beetle Convertible with the Fender Audio package... it downright rocks !

Jim (not verified)    May 29, 2015 - 10:28PM

I have owned my 2002 MX-5 Miata since June of 2002. It is in near mint condition, and the last thing I give a damn about is how great the stereo is. The car is my roadster. And if people want all the bells and whistles in a car, get a sedan. This is a man's sportscar. The 5-speed stick shift, the rather hard ride, compared with my plushy VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen, is what makes the Miata a true sports car. I would not trade my 2002 dark-green Miata with black interior for any car on the market. And Mazda does not even offer the near-racing green anymore. So I will keep mine until I die. Mazda has let the Miata evolve into a "chick car." Sorry Mazda, but you have lost a good customer.

AZ Cowboy (not verified)    June 1, 2015 - 2:38PM

Disagree. I drive a 2008 GT PRHT and the Bose system is terrific. The only complaint I have is I wish the cd changer would play mp3 encoded disks. But other than that, the system rocks! Big sound with top up or down. The 2016 models have removed the 6-disk changer - for people like me it's a mistake. I'll never give up cds!

David Gay (not verified)    June 5, 2015 - 10:22AM

I retired from Delco Radio/Electronics/Delphi in 1999. The Bose DESIGNED systems were built in house with many in-house built parts. I don't recall a single Bose component, just Bose design credit. While theoretically "saving jobs" by ever increasing out-sourcing and pinching pennies and punishing suppliers, their quality declined but G M was still being rewarded by the explosion in dollar amounts for the ever increasing electronics volume per car. Most of the buildings are now empty or demolished and the local jobs saved are less than 10% of the previous highs. The industry now out-sources at very high levels with hardly surprising results such as the current air bag shrapnel problem. In any case, Bose probably still designs well but whoever executes and decides the final specifications no doubt bears the responsibility for the level of quality delivered to the car buyer.

Brent Clanton (not verified)    June 5, 2015 - 2:40PM

For the record, I've got to turn it up to 15 in my '07 GTHT when driving in town...I take it to 20 at-speed, and gotta crank some CD's to 25 to get the sound right. I hope they fix the rain guards inside the doors to protect those precious, new Bose 50's. I'm thrilled they're re-introducing speakers in the headrests (fact or fiction?)

George Goodman (not verified)    June 7, 2015 - 8:56PM

I have listened to dozens of Bose products and their reputation is far better than their quality. So, it is no surprise their auto products stink. I would never purchase a car with Bose Audio. I will not pay for that junk.

Andy (not verified)    June 8, 2015 - 1:03AM

Who needs a radio in a sports car?

I just bought a Honda 2000, most amazing thing I've ever driven, sound of the vtec is amazing, and you know what? I've had the car for about 2 weeks and I literally don't even know if the radio works. Just too busy enjoying the engine, chassis, whole car to even care about the radio.

It's a sports car guys, not a Cadillac.

Jim Ryan (not verified)    June 9, 2015 - 12:19AM

I bought my first Miata (a '93) in 1996, then followed that with a 1999, then a 2006. The '93 had the best stereo by far. I am not sure if it was a branded system or not, but each headrest had a pair of speakers in them (yes, two in each). Each seat had what amounted to a "woofer" built into it: a big voice coil, just no cone, but it caused the seat to thump quite pleasantly! If it had the power of the '06, it would have been the best of the three, and the stereos (both by Bose) in the later two never came close to the one in the '93.

Rob T (not verified)    June 9, 2015 - 6:47AM

i have never heard a Bose car system that sounded anything other than awful. Flabby, poorly defined bass lacking any kind of extension, and a lack of clarity throughout the spectrum. The inclusion of a factory installed system by Bose is actually enough to keep me away from a car.
Bose does 3 things well: their noise canceling headphones, the Wave radios - which sound darned good for glorifies clock radios, but are hideously overpriced, and marketing - convincing scads of Americans to fork over way too much money for low to mid-fi products.