Think that a wireless multi-room music system would be too costly and complex to install? Philips' futuristic looking WACS700 Wi-Fi system is likely to make you think again. Its 'plug and play' approach means that there's no custom installation and no spaghetti junction of cables.
The system's Music Centre main unit incorporates a CD player and a 40GB hard disk drive capable of storing up to 750 CDs in 128kbps MP3 or WMA format. A higher quality ripping mode is available at 160kbps.
Music files can then be accessed from up to five Philips Music Stations placed around the home. The WACS700 package is supplied with one Music Station (WAS700), so you get a wireless music network from the moment you switch them on.
More Music Station systems can be added to the network (£200 each). The satellite Music Stations are slightly more compact models, but have matching aesthetics and functionality. The central LCD screen attempts to mimic iPod's iconic menu operating system and you can access music by track name, album, artist, genre and playlist etc, but it's not nearly as intuitive to use.
The main system remote incorporates a small LCD screen too, allowing you to scroll through and select tracks without needing to look at the main display, but it can be slow to access tracks and playlists, and there's often an irritating delay when skipping tracks.
Setting the tone
A smaller, less sophisticated handset controls the Music Station when listening in another room. PC installation software allows you to transfer music files stored on a computer using its Digital Media Management (DMM) system via the wireless network or Ethernet connection to the Music Centre.
Press the Music Follows Me button and the track you're playing will continue when you press the same button (within five minutes) on a Music Station in another room. Music Broadcast routes the same track to all units simultaneously, and is particularly useful for parties. Stereo speakers are built-in and both the Music Centre and Music.
There are plenty of tone settings to chose from, including three levels of DBB (Dynamic Bass Boost), and a Smart EQ button that automatically selects the tonal preset based on the music genre being played. The Incredible Surround button effectively widens the soundstage for a more expansive stereo image, but it doesn't exactly envelop the listener in a surround sound sense, and is no substitute for the real thing.
Aside from minor operational annoyances, the WACS700 works really well. It's easy to use, sounds great and is an affordable way to access your entire music collection from anywhere around the home.