Bose Lifestyle 38

The Bose Lifestyle 38 home entertainment system plays favourites - yours. It can store up to 200 CDs and then it remembers what you like best and automatically serves up those tracks for playback.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read


With its latest home theatre package, Bose has decided to play smart librarian. The Lifestyle 38 can store and organise up to 200 CDs and then it will cater for the specific music tastes of up to nine different users.

It does this by something Bose calls the uMusic intelligent playback system. As each CD is being stored, uMusic attaches detailed information to each song from an embedded database - yes, the expected title, track and artist, but according to Bose, it also identifies attributes such as genre, an artist's roots, influences and even subtle characteristics like mood.  The song profiles are captured from a database compiled from both Gracenote and AMG,  two leading providers of descriptive music information. The database currently covers over 500,000 individual CD titles, and Bose has arranged a deal with Zomax to send out an update CD every quarter to cover newly launched titles.

The intelligent system is designed to learn a user's individual favourite songs, and then -- using its database-- select and play back tracks with similar attributes from their stored collection.  All of this is done automatically, at the touch of a button on the remote control.  

For example, '+' indicates a strong preference for a song, while '-' signals a strong dislike.  'Skip' tells uMusic not to play the track now but you may still want to listen in the future, while 'Encore' indicates to the system you want to hear music similar to the track currently playing. And with every choice made, your listening preferences are further refined and updated.

The Lifestyle 38 also features a new Boselink expansion capability which allows you to expand the system in up to 14 more rooms or outdoor areas. Listeners can use a local remote for independent mute and volume control and for selecting one of two available audio streams, including simultaneous access to two different uMusic system presets.

It includes the ADAPTiQ audio calibration system, a Bose proprietary technology that analyses and automatically adjusts the sound to account for each room's unique acoustics, no matter where the speakers are placed.

The Lifestyle 38 system comes with five small Direct/Reflecting cube speaker arrays, an Acoustimass bass module, a universal remote and a media centre that receives AM/FM radio and plays DVD-video, DVD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, PCM, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Digital and MP3 on CD.  Proprietary Bose Videostage 5 circuitry offers 5-channel surround sound from any source, including older, mono TVs.  


The tray only holds one disk and it takes about five minutes to copy each CD on the hard drive, so be prepared to spend a lot of time loading the system. Plus, if you're storing a disk of downloaded MP3 files, or a CD unknown to the database, you'll have to manually enter all the information into the preference files.

Or if you've rushed out to buy the latest hot new release, the database will not recognise it until your quarterly new music update arrives. The system is not set up for Internet updates.

Note too, that uMusic stores audio files only, so 'no go' on organising your DVD collection in a similar manner.

And while the Boselink expansion system sounds like a good idea, it will only work if the area you'd like to expand to has been cabled with Boselink cable to power a Lifestyle stereo amp.


If your CD library is a mess and you have the patience to set this up, the uMusic capability of the Lifestyle 38 could be a godsend. And if you don't think the Lifestyle 38 is big enough for your needs, Bose has also launched the Lifestyle 48, which reputedly stores 350 CDs (and this $7999 package comes with Bose's even smaller Jewel Cube speakers).