If you've fancied the idea of all the music you've ever bought being available at the touch of a button, but don't want to mess around with a PC, this might be for you. The Philips WACS7000 Streamium Wireless Music Centre follows up from the WACS700, and is a wireless hi-fi setup comprising a central jukebox (the music 'Centre'), and a remote station (the music 'Station') that streams content from the jukebox. These two Wi-Fi-enabled network devices are sold together as a complete package, with additional Stations sold individually.
You can also buy the Philips Streamium WAK3300, a Wi-Fi alarm clock that streams content from the music Centre, which will be reviewed separately soon. So how does it work in practice?
Overall build quality of the main unit is satisfactory. In the centre sits a 48mm (1.9-inch) black-and-white LCD screen. Philips, unfortunately, didn't push the boat out to make this as nice to look at as Sony's Giga Juke NAS-50HDE, a similar system that was beautifully presented, however the display gives the info you'll need -- albeit in an unstylish fashion.
The most notable aspect of the design is the self-loading CD tray built vertically into the top of the system. This removes the need for any unsightly CD trays on the top.
The accompanying Station looks similar, but smaller. The layout is almost the same but the LCD display is not as big as the one on the Centre.
As a jukebox the music Centre itself is well featured, though as we'll see later, certain oversights left us with a distinct feeling of frustration.
It's got an 80GB hard disk inside, to which you can rip your CD collection in a variety of MP3 bit rates. You can also make use of your PC if you have a large collection of music on it, either by copying the files directly on to the system's internal disk or by hooking it up to your home network -- wired or wireless. Philips provides a really simple and foolproof application to set your computer up as a media server.
To help label your ripped CDs effectively, the information for 800,000 of the most popular CDs is included on the Centre's hard disk, taken from the Gracenote service. The Centre consults this database in order to correctly assign artist, album and track names to your albums. This worked for all the CDs we ripped.
The music Station works remotely and can stream any media from the Centre's hard disk. Sadly, it can't easily access any media that the Centre itself is accessing remotely, such as content on your PC or from any source plugged into the Centre's auxiliary input. This is a little annoying. You can get round it by hardwiring the Station into your network to stream from the PC itself. Oh, and there's an FM radio. Hurrah!
The 'Music Follows Me' feature is pretty snazzy. If you're moving from the room with the music Centre to one with a Station, hitting the 'Music Follows Me' button allows the music to be paused, and then continued on the Station in the other room. A well-designed, two-way remote control features an LCD screen that mimics the ones on the two systems perfectly. The system it controls can be altered manually on the remote itself.