CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Philips Streamium WACS700 Wireless Music Center and Station review: Philips Streamium WACS700 Wireless Music Center and Station

Philips's wireless music center will run you the better part of a grand, putting it in direct competition with the digital music kingpin, Sonos. Is this Streamium worth a premium?

Nathaniel Wilkins
4 min read
Philips Streamium WACS700/37
The Philips Streamium WACS700/37 ($1,000) is the company's latest addition to its Streamium line of digital media receivers. It comprises two components: the main Music Center and the smaller Station, each of which includes an AM/FM tuner, an integrated amplifier, and built-in flat panel speakers. The Music Center incorporates a 40GB internal hard drive for music storage and playback, as well as slot-loading CD player/ripper, which is located on its top panel. The smaller Station is a more basic client device designed to stream audio from the Music Center's hard drive. The two automatically set up their own wireless link with each other--separate from any home network you may be running--but you can, in turn, hook them into your home Ethernet or Wi-Fi network. You transfer music onto the Music Center's hard drive either by ripping tracks from CDs or by copying them from your PC (if you've opted for the aforementioned network connection). With additional units available for purchase at $300, the Music Center is capable of simultaneously streaming music to up to five stations while its local playback is also active. Oddly, you can't stream audio from your PC's hard drive or the Internet to the Music Center, but you can stream from your PC to the Station. Moreover, it doesn't support copy-protected audio files such as those purchased from iTunes and Napster.

The Music Center and the Station have generally similar appearances, although at 24 by 12 by 7 inches, the Music Center is considerably larger than the 14-by-11-by-5-inch Station. Both units come with desktop stands and wall-mounting hardware. Each has a full assortment of front-panel controls and its own remote. The Music Center's remote is a well-designed, two-way unit featuring a backlit LCD. The station's blister-button remote is much more basic but nonetheless adequate. All in all, navigating both devices is intuitive, thanks to four-way keypads located on each unit's front panel and remote. Music can be navigated by all the usual categories, including playlists, artists, albums, genres, and all tracks. The Music Center has a 2-by-2.5-inch screen, while the Station's measures 1 by 1.75 inches; both are backlit.


Philips Streamium WACS700 Wireless Music Center and Station

The Good

The Philips Streamium WACS700/37 is an expandable two-room wireless digital audio system that is compatible with--but doesn't require--a PC or a Wi-Fi network. The server and client units have integrated speakers and an AM/FM tuner, and the main unit includes a CD player/ripper, a 40GB internal hard drive, and a two-way remote with an LCD. Flexible playback options allow for the same music in multiple rooms, multiple different streams, and a "follow" function from room to room.

The Bad

The device's format compatibility is poor--it doesn't play DRM-protected audio files, it can't stream Internet radio or Rhapsody, and it can't broadcast music from CDs. The PC connectivity is clunky, CD ripping is slow, and the 40GB hard disk is small compared to similarly priced music servers.

The Bottom Line

The stylish Philips Streamium WACS700/37 can stream digital music throughout your home without a PC, but considering its high price, it's hard to overlook some basic feature and performance shortfalls.

Connectivity isn't extensive. The Music Center offers an analog stereo input and a matching stereo output as well as a headphone minijack. The Station has only an analog stereo auxiliary input and a headphone minijack. The Music Center's amplifier delivers 13 watts to each of its two flat panels and 22 watts to each of its two bass drivers, while the Station's amp provides 4 watts to each of its two flat panels and 8 watts to its single bass driver.

Initial setup was essentially automatic, but things got hairy after we changed the Music Center's configuration to connect it to our wireless network and transfer some tracks from our PC. In a nutshell, it took a couple of tries to connect both units simultaneously to our wireless network and each other, but we eventually prevailed.

For files located on the Music Center's hard drive, support is limited to MP3s and nonprotected WMAs. By contrast, many less expensive digital audio receivers offer broader file-format support. The Music Center can play audio CDs as well as home-burned CDs containing nonprotected WMAs and MP3s, though it can't stream CDs to the Station. The rated CD-ripping speed of 4X is glacially slow by PC standards. Files are ripped to the MP3 format at only 128Kbps or 160Kbps. You can use the Music Center's remote to create playlists, or you can compile them in the Digital Media Manager software for transfer to the Music Center. Using Digital Media Manager, you can also import PLS and M3U playlists from your PC's hard drive.

Both units include six EQ presets, programmable bass and treble settings, and a bass-boost feature. There's a broadcast feature that syncs the playback of the two devices and another that transitions the music from one device to the next so that the tunes move from room to room with you. On the flip side, the system can support up to five separate audio streams (if you purchase additional stations), so people in different rooms can listen to different music. A smart-EQ feature determines the EQ preset according to the genre of the audio file that's being played. Repeat and shuffle modes round out the music options.

In terms of audio performance, the system was generally solid, although the Music Center sounded much larger and less boxy than the Station. With both units, treble and midrange frequencies sounded clear yet not brash, but bass performance was fairly boomy, especially with bass boost enabled. The station periodically had issues streaming tracks from our PC; sometimes it worked with Windows Media Connect, but we could never get it going with other Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) PC software servers such as Musicmatch.

In the final analysis, the Philips Streamium WACS700/37 has too many limitations to justify its high price. Although it might be a decent solution for CD-centric users looking to make a computer-free transition to wireless audio, we prefer the Sonos Music System products for their greater range of audio-streaming capabilities and overall user-friendliness.


Philips Streamium WACS700 Wireless Music Center and Station

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 5