Review: Bose Wave music system with SoundLink

My parents sent me a Bose® Wave® music system with SoundLink for Christmas. It arrived a bit early so I took it into my office and set it up. I listen to music while writing software into the early hours of the morning. This isn’t something I would have bought for myself, but it was a well-appreciated gift as I’m listening through some small Altec Lansing speakers currently.

I took a couple of notes about the product below:

  • Aesthetics – The system looks like an oversided alarm clock. If I were frozen in the 80’s to be thawed out today, I would have reason to believe that nothing had changed as far as alarm clocks go. That said, this is more than just an alarm clock so this is slightly forgiven. I was surprised to see that the SoundLink device was an external device. It seems to me that a SoundLink receiver could easily be internalized into the main radio appliance. While the Wave music system is more than an alarm clock, you wouldn’t know that much by the clock interface on the front. The big LED numbers with an AM/PM indicator and accompanying LED indicator of the source seem out of touch with the realitiy of a device this costly in this modern era. Compare the aesthetics of this device vs the elegance of other devices costing the same. I think you’ll agree that ‘looks’ were likely the last thing on the Bose technicians’ minds.
  • Setup – This was likely one of the easiest devices I’ve set up in ages. I expected there to be, at the minimum, some software to install and some cumbersome UI to work through to get sound pumping from my computer to the appliance. This wasn’t the case. I literally plugged the power and the SoundLink device into the appliance, plugged the USB transmitter into my computer and I was off to the races! That said, I was confused why the SoundLink device had a DC power input, but no DC power cord. Perhaps there is something I’m missing in why the input is needed but it wasn’t a big deal since the system works without one.
  • Use – The appliance itself has no buttons on it which bothers me a bit. Perhaps Bose was trying to avoid the complete appearance that this was just an alarm-clock radio. That said, the concern is that if I lose my remote control, I’m screwed till I find a replacement. Since this device is sitting on my side desk (literally right beside me) the effect of using my remote control to use the device seems absurd. This wouldn’t be so bad if Bose had thought to make the remote control dockable to the system and allow you to use the remote as a front or top panel control when docked as such. Setting the time and alarms on the system is also very archaic. This uses that same tired ‘rewind/fast forward’ type alarm setting that your clock radio does — again reinforcing that this is just an expensive version of the same. Apart from that, I was happy with how easily my music just seemlessly streams from my computer to the appliance. I don’t need to configure my software. I just run my normal apps (Zune Software, iTunes, etc) and it just works!
  • Sound Quality – When I first plugged this in, I was quite happy with the sound. However, shortly into my first song, I started hearing frequent cracking and popping. I didn’t have the device cranked. I’m at work so I couldn’t possibly put it above 50% output on my computer with 30-50 on the device itself without the music starting to waft out of my office and into the hallways. That said, the cracking and popping was actually louder than the music which makes the device output more annoying than soothing. I tried listening to a variety of music from classical to heavy metal. I tried adjusting the volumn. I even tried cranking it a bit higher at other times of the night when no one else is here. No matter the volumn levels on the computer or the radio, the crackling and popping persists making this device practically useless for my purposes. Looking at the website, this appears to be a regularly enough occuring event that they included it in the FAQ. Their solution was to ‘reset’ the device by recycling the power. I tried this and the popping persisted. Lest you think this is was just a bad unit, start searching the internet for other unhappy users and you won’t have to look far. On top of the cracking and popping there appears to be an occasional ‘skip’ in sound. I haven’t yet determined if this is caused by the SoundLink transmission or the radio itself.
  • Summary – The Bose Wave radio is, in my opinion overpriced for what it provides. The aesthetics are behind the times. Their is no ‘wow’ feature to the device and that unfortunately includes the sound which is the primary purpose of the system. The remote-only controll of the device is scary. There is a lot of wasted potential here.

My recommendation to you :

Buy a regular clock radio. At least if it crackles and pops, you won’t be out so much money.

My recommendations for Bose: 

  1. Integrate the SoundLink receiver into the main appliance or make it work over Bluetooth or WiFi. No reason to have a proprietary extra device just for transmission — particularly since it doesn’t appear to be doing your sound quality any good.
  2. Make the remote control dockable/lockable into the top of the system so it can be used as a front/top panel input on the device itself .
  3. Bring the front-instrumentation of the device into the modern era with some music visualization options and a less static LCD-centric display.
  4. Fix the primary purpose of the system. There is absolutely no reason why I should spend several hundred dollars to hear this when there are many other lower-cost music-listening options at my disposal.
  5. Allow me to set alarms a bit more reasonably than scrolling through a 60-minute-times-24-hour-rolling interface. Perhaps put Bluetooth (again) in the device and let me set it through my phone or computer. Or just give me an easy hour-then-minute-then-am/pm interface.
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    7 Thoughts on “Review: Bose Wave music system with SoundLink

    1. “My recommendations for Bose”? wow – you really go the extra mile. They should thank you for that.So, back to Bang&Olufson Radio? 😉

    2. Thanks man. I don’t like to give random criticism. I like to give companies a little help in their thought process.

    3. Thanks Tobin! I was thinking about getting one of these, but I’ll look for something else. Bose needs to be careful about its reputation — even loyal customers will eventually leave if their quality drops too low. Do you think the cracking and popping could have been cell phone or some other kind of interference?

    4. @Tom Caswell
      I don’t think it’s due to cell-phone interference. I started moving everything that was around it. I even went so far as to unplug the phone that was sitting next to it and move it out of the room for testing. It is isolated to use through the computer / soundlink system, however. If I use a CD or just listen to the radio, everything works out just fine. I’ve tried using different computers (I have three laptops and a desktop in this office). I have no tried it from my Mac yet though. I might try that later and report back. Thanks for asking!

    5. Dave G. on February 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm said:

      Nice review – another “oops” is the fact that while Bose sells Soundlink for the computer and also an iPod dock system, you cannot set the alarm to wake you to anything other than 1) AM/FM Radio or 2) CD. While they let you wake to a specific TRACK on a CD, they should have included the ability to wake to an Auxiliary source. I have a Sirius tuner connected to my Aux port, and I want to wake to Howard Stern (#100) on the Sirius unit, and I don’t mind leaving the Sirius unit on and tuned to Howard 100. For the $600-odd dollars this whole rig cost me, it should be up to me if I want to wake to an external source and take the chance that the source will fail, in which case I’ll be waking to white noise – and will likely not wake up at all. I agree with the author – for what it is and what it does, although it sounds beautiful, it is way, way overpriced. I should have bought another Apple Xpress WiFi adapter and cobbled something together with one of those 70-style, old-school rotary timers! Live and learn…

    6. Ruchir Bhatt on May 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm said:

      Just bought the device. Setup, like you said, was easy. Bluetooth takes 2 minutes tops to connect. However, I need to find out how to toggle between my phone to the computer bluetooth link, which is not to be found in the manual.
      The sound – all I can say is WOW! All across my 3000 Sq Ft. home, I can hear it as if I am walking around with it even if I am on the other side of my house.
      Only my iPhone and my Garmin GPS were so easy to use and setup. For my money it does not get any better then Bose Wave System, LifeStyle V30 and 3 Series speakers!

    7. pablojack on June 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm said:

      So are you saying that you can’t set the alarm to wake you up to an I pod?????
      I’m actually on my way now to buy one and the main reason was so I could wake up to my iphone. Ill double check with the salesman but if I can’t do that then I’m not interested.

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