Bose systems are well-known for their tiny speakers capable of producing good-quality sound. The lastest top-of-the-line model is no exception. Included in the Lifestyle 48 are five Jewel Cube satellite speakers, each only 11 centimetres high and consisting of two rotatable speakers stacked one on top of the other. The Acoustimass module, responsible for the bass, looks somewhat like the case of a large PC. It measures about 40 centimetres high, 60 centimetres deep and is all-black with a metal grille at the front.
The heart of the Lifestyle 48 is the Bose Media Center - a sleek silver and black unit that has round edges at the top. For its rather small size it's quite heavy. It features a flip-up transparent panel to access the controls and DVD tray. The Media Center's irregularly shaped round top and front lift-up lid is a slight hindrance as it makes it difficult to sit other components on top, like an Xbox or digital set top box. Otherwise the design is close to flawless with the inconspicuous Jewel Cube speakers blending in with the dÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©cor of most living rooms.
During setup, the user manual is a good reference for initial speaker placement and connection tips. However, where the Lifestyle 48 really shines is in its ADAPTiQ audio calibration system.
The two DVDs that are bundled in the ADAPTiQ calibration package introduce users to the Bose Lifestyle 48 and set it up for optimal performance. The first disc includes an initial setup chapter containing an interactive demonstration on where to place each of the five Jewel Cube speakers and the Acoustimass module. It then plays a test loop through the front left and right, centre, rear left and rear right speakers to ensure you've got all the cords in the correct place. Once the basic setup is complete and verified, you are prompted to enter the second DVD.
The second DVD asks you to choose five locations around your room where you are most likely to be listening to music or movies. You are then asked to insert the ADAPTiQ headset to the auxiliary input of the Media Center. The headset looks similar to a set of headphones but instead of housing speakers it has two microphones that sit above your ears to measure the sound from the Bose speakers. The system then plays more test sounds, analyses the levels as you sit in your five chosen listening locations and adjusts the speaker settings accordingly.
Bose also introduces a technology called uMusic, which allows the Lifestyle 48 to store hundreds of CDs (up to 340 hours of music) from your collection on the Media Center's hard drive. Once stored, you can rate songs by pressing "+" on the remote control (for a song you like) or "-" (for a song that you don't particularly like). By comparing attributes from these songs through the built-in Gracenote database, the Lifestyle 48 "learns" your tastes in music and can select songs to play back accordingly. For example, it might find music of similar genres, artists or composers to songs you've rated highly.
For high-resolution TV sets, the Lifestyle 48 supports progressive scanning output for DVDs and the also supports CD, CD-R/RW, VCD and MP3 files.
The user manual outlines how to best get surround sound by reflecting the Jewel Cube speakers to bounce the output around the walls of the room. Instead of placing the rear surround speakers directly at the centre of the room, bouncing the sound off the rear and side walls creates more atmosphere, especially in smaller rooms.
During our play back of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, we hadn't heard such good sound since seeing this blockbuster at the cinema. Even when we nudged up the volume for the battle for Isengard scene, the Lifestyle 48 reproduced perfect surround sound and bass free from distortion. Sitting in the five locations we'd chosen for setup, it was hard to determine the source of the deep, pounding bass as it seemed to radiate around the room. The crispness from the staggeringly small speakers is astounding.
For audio connectivity, the Lifestyle 48 has four main A/V inputs: TV, VCR, cable/satellite and auxiliary. Each of these supports a set of analog audio jacks and a digital coaxial connection. There is also a digital optical connection.
For video output, when playing a DVD, Bose includes composite and S-Video connections. It is surprising on such a high-end system that there is no component or digital video output, such as DVI or HDMI, for higher quality connections.
The white remote control is relatively large but doesn't go overboard with a insane amount of buttons. One of the best things about the remote is that it doesn't rely on line-of-sight infrared but instead uses radio frequency (RF) so it can work through walls from adjacent rooms and even outside.
Bose includes all the cables to get your Lifestyle 48 set up straight out of the box. Component video adapters, S-Video and composite video cables are included alongside antennas for AM and FM radio.
The elite Lifestyle 48 produces purely stunning sound but with an AU$8,000 price tag, it certainly isn't for everyone.