If you’ve always fancied the idea of multiroom music, but have been put off by the complexity and price, the Philips WACS700 wireless music system is for you.

It has been specifically designed to be as simple and easy to live with as possible, and its initial set-up cost is fairly modest, too. The $1699 price quoted above buys you a ‘starter’ pack of two components, giving you the ability to both replay music in your main living room, and wirelessly beam it into any additional location you desire. Subsequent upgrade costs are also reasonable: adding additional kit to support more rooms in your home costs $549 per system.
The essence of the system is the larger of the two units you can see above. Dubbed the ‘Center’, it’s a micro hi-fi, with a CD player, FM tuner, digital amplification rated at 40 watts per channel, and a neat speaker arrangement of flat NXT panels, supported by a bass-boosting subwoofer. More notably, the Center also includes a 40GB hard disk, giving it the ability to store up to 750 CDs using MP3 or WMA compression. Using sonically superior 256kbps files, that capacity drops to around 400 CDs, which is less impressive (but still ‘enough’, given the unit’s pricetag).
Setting-up is as easy as pie
Filling your Center with music is an easy process. Simply load your CD into the player: the pre-loaded Gracenote CDDB (compact disc database) software built-into the unit takes care of the rest. It will automatically recognise your CD, providing you with artist, album and genre details. All you need do is decide if you want to record the whole album, or just one or two tracks. You can also connect your Philips to your PC, using the company’s Media Manager software, and stream music content from your computer directly to the WACS700, if you so desire.
The other core component of the WACS700 is the so-called ‘Station’. Essentially a stripped-down version of the Center, it omits both the CD player and the hard disk fitted to its sibling, while power is also reduced, to 20 watts per  channel. The Station works by  ‘streaming’ the music stored on the Center’s hard-disk using wireless technology.
So far so good – and the Philips works superbly, too, its wireless connection being very ‘robust’ and free from drop-outs.  The only shame is that sonically, neither the Centre or the Station will pull up any trees. The Center is passable, with a lack of punch being the chief flaw, while the Station, chiefly due to its reduced power, sounds more thin and nasal. However, many micro hi-fi systems are no better – and, as we’ll see, the same applies to some much pricier kit. Given the brilliance of the rest of the package, we think we can be forgiving.


Philips WACS700/22 | $1699 |

For: Stylish, easy to set up and simple to use; good value; very clever, too

Against: Sonically, it’s more OK than oh-wow

Verdict: Terrific – makes multiroom audio a realistic possibility even for users on a tight budget

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