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Bose Acoustic Wave Music System II review: Bose Acoustic Wave Music System II

Bose isn't known to market its products toward an early adopter audience that expects all the latest and greatest features, so we didn't necessarily expect the Wave Music System II to be loaded with stuff such as HD Radio or XM Radio support. But an increasing number of competing systems, including the Polk Audio I-Sonic come equipped with this extra functionality and cost much less. (The I-Sonic also features a built-in DVD player with a video output, though it's currently the only tabletop radio to do so.)

Bose tries to make up for the features deficiency by offering a bunch of add-on accessories for the Acoustic Wave Music System II. If you look on the company's Web site, you'll find the previously mentioned rechargeable power pack and cigarette lighter adapter, as well as a five-disc CD changer ($300) and a premium backlight remote ($40). An Acoustic Wave Connect Kit for iPod, which consists of the Apple iPod Universal Dock, a Griffin Dock Cable, an iPod-friendly remote, an AC adapter, and some audio cables, will also be available soon (we tried it out), but unfortunately it forces you to use the only analog input on the system, thus limiting your connectivity options.

A basic feature set is a lot more forgivable if the audio product you're testing sounds great. We love extra features but definitely have respect for products that know how to do one thing--and do it well. Unfortunately, we thought Acoustic Wave Music System II's performance was a bit mixed. We matched it up against the I-Sonic and listened to a bunch of tracks, ranging from hard rock to classical to jazz. We quickly grasped the meaning of "acoustic" in the Acoustic Wave Music System II: it handles light acoustic and classical music much better than hard rock and did a better job of spreading the sound around the room than the I-Sonic.

However, on rock and pop tunes, the Acoustic Wave Music System II came up short. The I-Sonic rocked us much harder, with a tighter and more musical bass sound than the Acoustic Wave Music System II. We would have liked to turn up the bass to see if we could get more out of the system, but alas, there wasn't any sort of EQ--not even basic bass and treble controls (we suspect this has something to do with Bose's desire to keep things simple for users).

We had better luck when we connected the audio outputs of our DVD player to the line input on the back of the unit and watched a few action-oriented scenes from movies--such as the launch sequence in Apollo 13. Sure, the Acoustic Wave Music System II didn't deliver the full home theater punch one would expect from a separates-based system or even a home-theater-in-a-box system, but we felt as if plenty of people would have found it perfectly acceptable, especially coming from such a small package.

As part of our testing, we fired up the system in a variety of rooms and placements relative to the wall. Where you place the unit can make a significant difference in sound quality, so make sure you experiment with a few locations to get the best sound. In the right spot, with its volume cranked to close to the max, the Acoustic Wave Music System II can get pretty loud, and it won't have a problem filling small and some medium-size rooms with sound. Our sound quibbles aside, we did admire that it was able to handle itself at full volume without much distortion. That may not be worth a thousand bucks, but it's certainly a plus.

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