A clever connection
The Wave/PC offers AM and FM reception and also connects to your PC in two ways: the serial cable lets the device control audio on your computer and accesses station call letters, while a normal audio cable sends sound from the PC to the device. As previously mentioned, the Wave/PC functions as the output device for all digital audio on your computer--streaming RealAudio files, MP3s, or audio CDs playing from your CD-ROM drive. All of these options can be controlled from the Wave/PC's software, which operates like an MP3 jukebox but has a radio tuner for both conventional and Internet stations. Even more conveniently, the small remote that comes bundled with the Wave/PC handles most functions, which alleviates the need to access the software while you're using other applications.
High fidelity, but the price is not nice
Installation is relatively painless: connect the serial cable to your PC's port, install the software, and you're ready to go. As is typical with many digital audio devices, the Wave/PC's software automatically detects all of the MP3 files on your hard drive and imports them into its library. (However, you have to manually add WMA files to the library.) The application can also find local radio information when you input your zip code, allowing you to search for AM and FM stations by call letter or genre. The Wave/PC can also serve as a hub for Internet radio stations, although Bose's partnership with RealNetworks means that the device supports RealAudio streams instead of Windows Media-based stations.
The software performs other chores that you've come to expect from jukebox apps, including ripping tracks from CDs into MP3 format (at bit rates from 64Kbps to 320Kbps) and easily creating and saving playlists. You can store up to six playlists as presets, which you can then access from the remote control. You also get six presets for each radio band, but given the large number of available stations--particularly on the Internet--this number seems a little meager.
As you might expect from a Bose product, the Wave/PC produces full, rich sound from a surprisingly compact unit. The company is so confident in its audio fidelity that it doesn't even offer any tone controls on the player or an equalizer in the software (though you can tweak PC-based sound by using your sound card's software). Bass was well rounded without any of the big, booming quality that a separate subwoofer would deliver. If the latter is your idea of how the low end should sound, you're probably not looking for a tabletop radio.
The success of the Wave line suggests that there's always a market for a cool gadget, regardless of cost. But some consumers will have a hard time justifying the Wave/PC's $449 price tag, regardless of the unit's sweet design, good sound quality, and the handy way it integrates broadcast and Internet radio.