The Good Doesn't look like a radio; convenient handles for transporting the system from room to room; easy to use; decent sound quality on light classical and acoustic music; lots of add-on options; achieves high volume without sound breaking up.
The Bad LCD display on top (you can't see it from across the room); no XM support; no HD radio support; very expensive; performance doesn't live up to the price; only 6 AM and 6 FM presets; no alarm or clock; no bass or treble controls.
The Bottom Line Although some people will love its design and simplicity, the Bose Acoustic Wave Music System II doesn't offer the sound quality or features of its competitors--and it's way more expensive.
Bose Acoustic Wave Music System II
Bose used to have a virtual lock on the high-end tabletop radio market, but in recent years competition has stormed onto the scene from companies such as Cambridge SoundWorks, Polk Audio, Boston Acoustics, and Tivoli Audio. Bose's new top-of-the-line system, the Acoustic Wave Music System II, sits somewhere between the realm of tabletop radios and home-theater-in-a-box systems, and according to the company's Web site, aims to provide the sound of a larger stereo system in a single, portable package. For less critical listeners with big pockets, who--most importantly--trust the Bose name, the system will probably meet their expectations from a performance standpoint, while still looking pretty on the mantel. On the other hand, we personally didn't feel the Acoustic Wave Music System II packs enough punch on music and lacks in features--especially considering its $1,079 (!) retail price. If you're looking to stay within the Bose family, we think most people will make out better with the Bose Wave Music System, which offers similar functionality, reasonable audio quality, and is almost half the price.
The Bose Acoustic Wave Music System II may be particularly attractive to those who dislike electronics in the living room, simply because it doesn't look like a piece of audio equipment at all. While the front panel of most tabletop radios is graced by speaker grilles, an LCD display, and buttons and knobs, the Acoustic Wave Music System II has a minimalist look, distinguished mostly by plastic grating on the front that makes it look more like an air purifier than a device that plays music. That grating is marked by sculpted curves that align the hidden speakers to point away from each other, rather than straight ahead.
The LCD display, along with the rest of the controls and the CD player, are located on the top of the unit, which is what enables it to keep its sleek look from the front. On a more utilitarian note, having the LCD display on the top does present a bit of a practical problem--it forces you to get up to look at the display if you want to know what track you're on or what station you're tuned to. This is an unusual move for a tabletop radio--in fact, a quick perusal of our tabletop radio top products list reveals that almost every other product puts the display in front--including Bose's other tabletop radio, the Wave Music System. If you like to throw on a CD and always listen straight through the disc, it might not be a problem. But, if you're the kind of person who knows your favorite songs by track number and doesn't always listen in order, you might have a tough time. Also, if you happen to throw a CD-R filled with dozens or hundreds of MP3 tracks (yes, the CD player supports MP3 playback), it's very difficult to navigate said disc without looking at the display.