entertainment/bosecomp3.jpgYou may know Bose as the “sound people.” Their audio systems have enhanced the enjoyment of millions of music lovers over the last thirty years. The outstanding sound quality of their small footprint Acoustic Wave radio has achieved global acclaim.

Now Bose enters the computer world with a Wave radio that attaches to a computer. This concept may seem unusual, but in reality it is a highly useful product. In fact, with this product, Bose has hit a home run in two important areas, functionality and ease of use.

Basic Functionality

When I received the Bose Wave/PC, I didn’t really understand the idea behind this invention. After all, what good is attaching a radio to your personal computer? As I used the product, however, I quickly recognized its value and convenience. The $449 Wave/PC is a free standing Acoustic Wave radio, comparable to the $349 Bose radio complete with AM/FM reception, clock, alarm, and the famed Bose acoustical sound system. Attach the radio to a PC using the included serial cable, install the software, and you have created a comprehensive entertainment resource. The Bose radio becomes, in effect, your computer speakers with, of course, much better sound quality than the average PC system. You can now play CDs on your computer and hear them on your Bose Wave radio. This increases the functionality of the radio to make it equivalent to the $499 Wave radio with CD player. The Wave radio also becomes a way to play Internet radio as well as any music you have stored on your hard disk. The included software even allows you to easily transfer music from CDs to your computer. You can perform all of these functions seamlessly while you work on your computer.  Bose home run #1!

Ease-of-Use

Home run #2 is for ease of use. The Wave/PC's developer, Santiago Carvajal, made simplicity his primary goal in developing this product, and it shows. The instructions are well written, the software installation easy, and, best of all, the interface is straightforward and simple to navigate. Music choices include AM, FM, CD, Web, and Music Files. Clicking on any of these choices allows you to make your music pick from the PC screen. You can also easily make this selection from the radio itself or with the included credit card sized remote control.

Bose makes it amazingly easy. Mr. Carvajal told me that during development and pre-launch testing Bose used people with absolutely no experience with Internet radio or digital music. You don’t have to know the difference between a wave file and an MP3 to use the Wave/PC. Just a few clicks, and you are both playing and copying music.

Advanced Functionality

There are two things that I really enjoyed about the Wave/PC. First, it is so easy to copy a CD to your hard disk. After inserting the CD while on the Internet, the identity of the CD, the artist, and the title of each track is listed on the screen. Click on the tracks that you want to record, click “Record CD,” and the music quickly transfers to your hard disk. If you want to control the size and quality of the recording, just click Setup.

Now that you have copied some music to your hard disk, either from CDs or the Internet, the fun with your Bose can begin. It’s easy to create personal playlists of your favorite songs by artist, music type, mood, or any other criteria. Drag that playlist to one of the six preset buttons on the computer screen. To play those songs, click the preset button on the computer screen, the radio itself, or the remote control. You can also drag the name of any artist to a preset, press that preset number, and the computer will scan your hard disk and play all the music by that particular artist that you have stored on your hard disk. You can do the same with different types of music. It’s so easy to both organize and personalize your music. Not only is the end result beneficial, but the process is also fun. After a few hours of playing with the Bose, I can now press #1 to listen to my jazz selections, #2 to hear my favorite country music, and #3 when I’m in the mood for James Taylor. The Wave radio enables you to view music by song name, CD, artist, composer, music type, or by your own custom playlists, which makes organizing your music quite easy.

The second thing that I really enjoyed was listening to Internet radio. After installation, pressing Web Radio will bring up a list of Internet radio stations along with information about the type of music/talk that station transmits. Connect to the Internet, choose a station, and listen. Bose can pick up any station that uses the popular RealPlayer format. Adding a station is also easy. Being from Chicago, I miss listening to WGN, Chicago’s premier talk radio station. Hooking up to WGN through the Internet used to be a hassle. Now it is #1 on my Web Radio presets.

Doesn’t Interfere

One nice thing about the Bose Wave/PC is that it doesn’t interfere with anything you are doing on the computer. It runs in the background while you work. When you need to answer a phone call or address someone in person, you don’t even have to access the computer screen. Just use the remote control to mute the music.

Limitations/Future Changes

The Wave/PC currently uses a serial hookup to the computer. If you are using your serial port for a PDA or other peripheral, you’ll have to wait for the USB adapter that is due out this September. A Bose representative explained that currently the Wave/PC uses the computer’s sound card to help generate the audio. The USB version will completely eliminate the use of the sound card and will produce digital output that will, in some cases, make the Wave/PC sound even better. If you purchase a Wave/PC now, you will be able to use the USB adapter when it is available.

The Bose Wave/PC must be located within fifteen feet of your computer, but cannot be set too close to the monitor. This is a slight limitation, but not a problem for most office or home users.

Sound Quality/Price

The sound of the Bose radio is outstanding. The price, however, will be out of reach for many. Yet, I know folks who have spent hundreds of dollars on optional PC speakers. This Bose product offers great quality and sound, ease of use, and unique features. If you have always wanted a Bose radio and you own a PC, this is your dream come true.