Rich Warren: Bose gets it right again with VideoWave II

Rich Warren: Bose gets it right again with VideoWave II

Garrett Oostdyk, proprietor of Picture Perfect Sound in Champaign, maintains a calm disposition. After all, exciting a guy who has the largest video projection screen in town takes some doing.

However, he sent me an email urging me to stop by to see the Bose VideoWave II. Bose impressed me with the original VideoWave when the company introduced it a couple of years ago, but press demonstrations and the real world sometimes differ. I mentioned it in this column at the time, but there were no local dealers so you would have had to travel more than 120 miles to see one. Now you can drive to Springfield and Duncan in Champaign.

Oostdyk's store lacks smoke and mirrors, so what you see and hear is what you get. Bose tweaked the VideoWave since I last saw and heard it, which is why it's now the VideoWave II. It comes in two screen sizes: 46 and 56 inches. Picture Perfect Sound displays the 56-inch model, which is 5 inches deep. Those 5 inches buy you a complete seven-speaker surround-sound audio system with bone-shaking bass.

The VideoWave II arrests you with two improvements over conventional TVs and home theater audio systems. The entire sound system hides within the TV. Yet using proprietary technologies, Bose creates the illusion of genuine surround sound. You won't hear sound behind you, but you will hear sounds to your side, far from the screen. It also lacks an external subwoofer.

Somehow Bose crams the thunder into the TV enclosure. If you can't install surround-sound wiring — or just detest wires on principle — the VideoWave II brings joy.

The remote control demonstrates the other major improvement. It's small, simple and once you grasp the concept, very easy to use. It turns the edges of the TV screen into the graphic board game of control. A hybrid between a trackball and touchpad zoom around the easy to understand graphics to control the TV and anything connected.

If you buy a Blu-ray player and plug it into the VideoWave II, the VideoWave interrogates the Blu-ray player, learns its remote control codes and then displays functions on-screen for you to operate with the Bose remote.

Of course, these advances mean little without a smashing picture, which the Bose delivers. Rumor relates that the LED-illuminated LCD panel comes from Samsung, a world leader in quality panels. Bose prefers not to reveal its source. After assembling the set Bose calibrates the picture to Imaging Science Foundation standards. ISF calibration insures you see the most accurate video, which if you're a movie fan is essential.

In a variety of demonstration sources, which included standard HD satellite, the picture looked astoundingly good. I was sitting just a few feet from the screen. A solidity of image and trueness of color pulled me into the video. The picture adjusts to different light levels so the brightness and contrast remain nearly perfect for any viewing environment.

Nothing great comes cheap. The 56-inch VideoWave II retails for about $6,000 plus about a $300 installation fee. Picture Perfect Sound doesn't merely deliver the set, it makes sure you are fully satisfied. Bose likes to call it a white-glove installation.

The 46-inch model costs $5,000 with the same installation fee. Most people buying these sets would not be interested in self-installing them, even though they are far easier to install than most TVs. After all, the only external wires are the HDMI cables to your cable/satellite box and/or DVD/Blue-ray player, and perhaps a TV antenna. Oh, and you have to plug the VideoWave II into an AC outlet.

In full disclosure, Bose underwrites the national syndication of my radio program. However, my impression of this product comes from viewing it at a local dealer in real-world conditions.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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