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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Bose Wave Music System review:

Bose Wave Music System

You can store up to six AM and six FM stations into memory, and the Wave, like its predecessor, is a proficient clock radio that gives you the option of awaking to a CD or a radio station. In contrast to Bose's SoundDock for iPods, this model has an auxiliary input (minijack) so that you can not only connect an iPod but any other playback device as well, including a DVD player. On the back you'll also find a headphone input, a jack for an external antenna (not included), and a Bose Link jack that allows you to connect the Wave to select link-enabled Bose Lifestyle systems and turn it into a Zone 2 stereo speaker. (A separate cable is required to engage the Bose Link functionality.)

The only major drawback to having to control everything through the remote is that tiny remotes are easy to misplace or lose. Imagine the alarm going off and not being able to silence it right away or hit the Snooze button (the Sleep button on the remote) because your clicker mysteriously disappeared. Grrrr. We therefore recommend you purchase an extra remote (about $10) to have on hand in case the included one pulls a D.B. Cooper.

Now on to the thing that really matters: Does this Wave sound better than the original? Yes, it does, though we found that it sounded a little different in each room we placed it in, so it's worth experimenting with different locations. (Bose offers a handy 30-day trial period.)

Small as it is, the unit can fill fairly large rooms with sound. CDs ranging from Frank Zappa's orchestral extravaganzas to the fury of rock duo White Stripes shined over the Wave. Bass was full and rich, though we sometimes wished the unit had bass and treble controls to compensate for recording variability. The Wave's AM and FM tuner pulled in all of our favorite stations, including most of the hard-to-receive ones.

At the suggestion of the Bose folks, who changed this model's name from the Wave Radio/CD II to the Wave Music System to better express (read: market) the full range of its capabilities, we next hooked up the Wave to a DVD player's audio outputs. The sound easily bested the speakers built into most TVs, particularly flat-panel displays. True, its stereo imaging was confined to the space between the Wave's two speakers, but the Master and Commander DVD sounded remarkably clear and present. Just don't expect miracles from this tabletop system. The DVD's naval battle scenes lacked the visceral impact you'll get from better HTIBs and component systems, but the Wave certainly didn't embarrass itself or overtly distort sound. We imagine it will provide yeoman's service in cozy dens, bedrooms, or kitchens.

We'll finish by pointing out what may be an obvious stumbling block for some buyers: the $500 price tag. All we can say is, sticker shock aside, the Wave's a good-looking, good-sounding tabletop radio/CD player. In other words, while you'll be overpaying for the right to own one, you won't feel terribly ripped off.

Editors' note: Freelancer Steve Guttenberg contributed to this review.

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