By Richard Menta - 6/25/01
One of the biggest changes brought about by digital music is the fact that computer systems now stand in for stereo systems when users access the music they have downloaded/converted or stream via Web radio. Because of the relative mediocrity of computer sound systems, this has produced a need for users to either find a way to conveniently connect their digital music collection to the stereo in the other room or improve the speaker quality in their systems itself to equal a good stereo. Leveraging the compact size of their superior Wave Music System, Bose has introduced an MP3 solution that provides the latter.
The Bose Wave/PC Interactive Audio System is the latest member of the company's Wave radio family, relatively small table radios that pump out high end sound through two inch speakers thanks to the remarkable Acoustic Waveguide Speaker Technology. Because these radios can easily fit next to or under any computer system, it made a lot of sense to endow a model with features specifically designed for people who access thier music from their hard drives and Internet Radio.
Anyone who has had a demonstration of Bose's Wave radio line knows the sound qualities their products emit are excellent. That means the Wave/PC should easily satisfy the needs of a user who want to listen to their music on something better than the tinny speakers that came with their computer.
The Wave/PC system includes a Windows-based software (no Mac version as of yet) that allows you listen to Internet radio, AM/FM, CDs, and MP3s through a Bose Wave radio. Selling for $449 on the Bose Web site, the unit sells for $100 more than the standard Wave radio and $50 less than what the Wave radio with CD sells for. Because the unit can access your computer's CD drive, there is no need for an internal one.
Bose software screen shot
The Wave/PC system comes with a remote and connects to your computer through the serial port. Some might wonder why the unit doesn't utilize a faster USB connection, but the Wave/PC doesn't download MP3 files internally, it only needs to draw an audio feed letting your computer handle the storage and Net access requirements. Minimum requirements for the unit is a Windows 98 machine with a 200 MHz processor, 32 MB of RAM and 200 MB of available hard drive space. The unit does not support Windows 95 or NT.
The Wave/PC plays music encoded in both the MP3 and WAV formats and Net radio streaming in the RealAudio format. It does not support Microsoft's WMA format which is the top competing format to RealAudio in Web radio broadcasting. The software can also rip your CDs into MP3s.
At $450 the Wave/PC is an expensive option, but one that can produce significant improvement to the listening experience. There are cheaper alternatives like the $100 US Robotics SoundLink, but the SoundLink was more a tool to conveniently transmit music to other rooms whereas the Wave/PC is a tool to reproduce that same music in the truest form possible. If quality is more important to you than portability, the Wave/PC deserves serious consideration. We plan to do a full review of the Wave/PC later this summer and we will relate the true user experience to our readers then.
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