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Bose VideoWave hands-on preview

Bose VideoWave

Bose has unveiled what could arguably be the most dramatic home theater product introduced since the Blu-ray Disc player. The new VideoWave Entertainment System is a 46-inch LCD HDTV with an amazing sound system built into the back. It uses advanced speaker design and DSP technologies to create an outstanding 5.1-channel experience without a forest of speakers scattered around the room. Not only that, the VideoWave has a newly designed remote that’s as clean as can be for controlling your attached sources (see photos). Hit the Click Pad and only the commands for your specified device appear onscreen, then you make the adjustments you’d like. The remote looks like a throwback to the ‘60s but it’s as advanced as can be as it can handle DVRs, set-top boxes, iPods and BD players. You can play with it yourself at Bose stores October 14th.

Bose brought a group of around 35 press people from 10 countries to their HQ on The Mountain in Framingham, MA to get a sneak preview of the VideoWave. Sitting in the demo room, the initial shocker was seeing a 46-inch LCD HDTV mounted on the wall with a Bose logo—a first for this audio company. Then we were told how the home theater is only in 30 percent of U.S. homes with one of the biggest obstacles to greater acceptance being the hassle of controlling all of the devices simply. Santiago Carvajal, business director of Bose Video Products, showed us a newly designed remote and how easy it was to control a TiVo box and an iPod. He then stated the obvious–Bose wouldn’t haul us here for a new universal RF remote. He then proceeded to play a variety of music and movie soundtracks with the screen as the centerpiece. The demo room had five black cloths that looked as if they were covering the typical five speakers of a 5.1-surround system. He then lifted the subwoofer resting in the corner, showing it was hollow. He then tore the cloths down revealing the excellent sound was coming from the back of the HDTV, nowhere else—there was nary a speaker in sight. I admit to being rather jaded, having seen many, many introductions and demos over the years—but this one was a killer. Great sound, good picture, easy to use, no wiring hassles. How bad is that? After about three hours of technical presentations, we found out how bad–how does $5,349 sound?

Click pad remote controlBefore you keel over, realize you’ll get white glove delivery service where they’ll set it up and take your old TV away, if you’d like. The set-up is not simply connecting wires as the VideoWave uses ADAPTiQ technology to adjust the system to the specific acoustics of your room (it takes about 15-30 minutes to do it right).

Bose is never known for doing anything bargain-priced, witness $300 noise-canceling headphones and $400 clock radios. But $5,349 is a breathtaking number. Bose executives candidly admitted this was hardly for everyone and you’ll never see a VideoWave on the “TV wall” at WalMart. Initially it will be available at the 130 Bose stores in the U.S. The execs thought the VideoWave would do well in Japan and Europe where space is a premium.

As for America, the challenge is a bit more daunting. A 46-inch Mitsubishi Unisen LT-46265 1080p LCD HDTV with a built-in sound bar costs around $2,499. The Mits is edge-lit and has built-in Wi-Fi while the Bose has no Internet connection and uses CCFL backlighting (it still was an excellent picture). The Unisen does not have the very cool Click Pad remote/interface nor the dramatic 5.1-sound feel. Still that’s a very big price difference. But I can easily imagine the VideoWave positioned neatly on the wall of wealthy urban dwellers who want good performance and high style.

The VideoWave Entertainment System—the result of 10 years of research according to Bose–consists of the screen and a console that’s connected to it via a proprietary cable. You then attach your sources to this box and interact via the remote. It accepts five high-def devices. The audio system integrated into the HDTV consists of 16 speakers, 11 switch-mode amplifiers and 11 channels of digital EQ. It uses a new variation of the WaveGuide system found in Bose table radios to pump out very solid bass. Given all the gear and materials needed to prevent the screen from vibrating, this HDTV is 6-inches thick, not nearly as svelte as the recently reviewed Sharp Quattron. Hanging on the wall or sitting in the supplied stand, this depth shouldn’t be an issue.

Five grand for a television is a lot of money but you owe it to yourself to experience the VideoWave Entertainment System. It’s a true breakthrough.