Love or hate Bose, the manufacturer has built quite a little empire around its Wave Music System. Maybe it’s the convenience of good sound in a small package. Maybe it’s the little kiosks at the airport. Whatever it is, many manufacturers have tried to copy the company’s flagship tabletop without much success. (Good luck—it’s shrouded in more mystery than McDonald’s special sauce.) But while others are preoccupied working on the method, Bose is busy taking the tabletop beyond its radio days. The Wave SoundLink combines the company’s greatest hits (radio and CD playback in the infamous Wave chassis) with wireless audio streaming from any computer, much to the device’s benefit.
Features and Design
The SoundLink comes in a big package, but has very few pieces. This makes setup a snap. Inside the box, there is the Wave unit, the SoundLink adapter, a USB key for your computer, a remote control, and the Wave’s power cord. The manual and other miscellaneous papers are packaged in a nice big envelope, which has the quick start guide right on the back. The SoundLink also has its own chunky manual, because existing Wave users can purchase an upgrade kit separately ($149.95). Also, the company was also nice enough to include a test disc, with six demo tracks.
Weighing in at about 8lbs, the Wave is a bit of a beast. It’s obvious that Bose doesn’t want to mess with its flagship product, so it builds them to last: You’d need some heavy hardware to crack this chassis. The back panel, however, is not so tough to comprehend. There’s the power jack, a slot for an FM antenna (not included), headphone and auxiliary inputs, and a spot that says BoseLink.
The SoundLink adapter has a cord permanently affixed. To get started with it, simply plug the cord into BoseLink jack and the Wave into an electrical outlet. Afterwards, plug the USB key into your computer and fire up your music program of`choice. Then press the AUX key on the remote and you’re in business. It’s that easy to get up and running.
All of our content from iTunes streamed extremely well, with no drops or other issues. We streamed everything from Herbie Hancock to Hank Williams in terms of music selections as well as several videos we had downloaded from the service. We checked out movie trailers on IMBD.com as well as our punk rock channel from Pandora. Whether or not you’d need it, it’s very nice that the system can stream any and all audio – there are no file or format issues to deal with.
Even better still, the system sounds good when used to play back a variety of genres, and at a selection of sound levels. This is appreciated because you can actually sit in front of the unit and enjoy music at both an everyday listening volume and one that might make your hair move as desired. If you decide to go into the kitchen, the bedroom or out to the backyard, you can crank up the Wave and still enjoy music without getting any kind of feedback from the unit as well.
To test out overall volume levels and clarity, we popped in the demo CD. Each of the tracks included are designed to show you what the unit can do, as well as completely freak out any pets you may have. The disc jacket says that the material is best enjoyed at volume level 80 to 85, a setting at which the music proved quite enjoyable. Granted, the rooster and horse noises featured on the disc came across as a little loud, but were also impressive. Overall, we received excellent sound quality, which is par for a Bose product. Worth noting: Some of the videos’ volume settings needed to be turned up a few notches for better results. However, across the board, music seemed consistent and clear.
As a manufacturer, Bose has its lovers and haters. Small wonder: We like what the Wave SoundLink does, but its $599 price tag is a kick in the teeth. There’s no denying that the Wave SoundLink would be a fun addition to any office, bedroom, kitchen or other area that could need a little musical lift. However, unless you’ve got serious loyalty to the brand, let’s be realistic: You should be able to find plenty of competitors offering similar solutions at a fraction of the cost.
• Sturdy, surprise-free design
• Very good sound quality
• Can be added to any existing Wave system
• Insane $599 price tag
• USB sticks out like sore thumb
• Only provides volume control for computer sources