Rich Warren: Glimpse of Bose's new whole-house sound system

A dozen years ago while building a modest house in Champaign, I wanted music everywhere. Rather than the assortment of stereo systems and radios used in my previous home, I paid Bose to wire the house for its whole-house sound system and wrote about it in this column.

The swell sound went to the new owner when I sold the house a year later. I liked the sound but disliked the house. In the next house, my current home, I returned to the hodge-podge of sound systems. Wiring an existing structure proved well beyond my finances.

Broadband Internet and Wi-Fi were novelties a dozen years ago.

When I moved to my current home, broadband was as dependable as the weather forecast. Today, broadband is almost as reliable as electricity, and nearly everyone on my block uses Wi-Fi.

Thus, Bose recently introduced a whole-house alternative to wired sound that uses your existing Wi-Fi system. It joins a crowded market of companies promising wireless sound.

The new Bose SoundTouch Wi-Fi music system simplifies the concept while fitting most budgets and all spaces, even the backyard shed.

Ease of installation and use sets SoundTouch apart from the competition. Simply touch a key to set up the system. Six numbered keys adorn the top of each unit, representing your six favorite music (or talk) sources.

Hold down a key for a few seconds to create a preset, then tap the key to instantaneously hear your desired entertainment. That can be a variety of Internet channels, such as Pandora, or if your home computer is running, anything stored on your computer, whether PC or Mac.

The AirPlay-compatible SoundTouch also works with Apple's iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone as sources. Even better, you can listen to different sources in different rooms simultaneously.

On Oct. 10 Bose introduced the $699 SoundTouch 30, a compact (10-by-17-by-7-inch) but substantial speaker designed for large rooms as well as places you want the widest range of sound.

The somewhat smaller $399 SoundTouch 20, about two-thirds the size of its larger sibling, still delivers plenty of sound. The $399 SoundTouch Portable, powered by lithium ion batteries, easily carried in one hand, fits and works just about anywhere.

Unfortunately, existing Bose products lack forward compatibility.

However, next year nearly all Bose products, including Wave Music Systems, VideoWave TV-entertainment systems, and Lifestyle Home Theater systems will be compatible with SoundTouch when you purchase an optional adapter.

The supplied remote controls will offer the same ease of use as with the dedicated SoundTouch units.

Bose offers a free app for iOS and Android phones and tablets that allows them to function as simple remotes or more elaborate remote controls that permit additional adjustments to the SoundTouch systems. Bose also will offer continuous updates and improvements to SoundTouch via the Internet and Wi-Fi.

The press introduction revealed impressive sound with the promised ease of use. The SoundTouch units easily find your Wi-Fi system, or if there are multiple ones from your neighbors, you must choose yours. Then you enter your password and the rest is entertainment.

Bose restricted SoundTouch to the crowded 2.4-gigahertz Wi-Fi band, rather than the roomier, less used 5 GHz band. Thus, depending on your home and neighborhood an occasional conflict could crop up. At the same time, all Wi-Fi routers transmit in the 2.4 GHz band, while older ones lack the 5 GHz band.

SoundTouch delivers the flexibility and sound quality of a wired sound system, while being easier to use than the average dishwasher. Best of all, the next time I move the sound goes with me, as portable and easy as a toaster. I'll offer a complete evaluation as soon as Bose makes review samples available.

Note: Bose underwrites the syndication of my radio program from WFMT. The radio station is responsible for that arrangement, and I am not involved.

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

Topics (1):Music

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