If you've always fancied the idea of multiroom music, but have been put off by the complexity and price, the Philips WACS7000 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 £700 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 £200 per system.
The core of this Philips system is the 'Center'The heart of the system is the larger of the two units. Dubbed the ‘Center', it's a micro hi-fi system, including a CD player, FM tuner, digital amplification rated at 40 watts per channel, and a neat arrangement of flat NXT speakers, supported by a bass-boosting subwoofer.
The Center also includes an 80GB hard disk, giving it the ability to store up to 1000 CDs using MP3 or WMA compression. Using sonically superior 256kbps files that capacity drops to around 650 CDs, which is still impressive, given the unit's price.
More after the break
Filling your Center with music is an easy process: just load a CD into the drive, and the system uses its pre-loaded Gracenote software to automatically recognise the disc, providing you with artist, album and genre details. (You can periodically update this database as new CDs come out.) Then decide if you want to record the whole album, or just your favourite tracks.
You can also connect the system to your PC, using the company's Media Manager software, and stream music content from your computer directly to the Center, and on to the other wireless unit. If you already have CDs burned onto your computer, you can upload tracks to the Center via an Ethernet connection.
This other component of the WACS7000 is the so-called ‘Station'. Essentially, a stripped-down version of the Center, the Station has neither CD player nor hard disk, while power is also less, at 20 watts per channel. What it is able to do is communicate wirelessly with the Center and play music from either the radio, the CD, or the hard-disk.
The Center can then stream music to a maximum of five Stations (costing £200 per extra unit) from its 80GB hard disk. The two units ‘talk' wirelessly, using the 802.11g wi-fi standard.
You can listen to different tracks in different rooms, or distribute simultaneous music to every room in the house at the same time.
And the Philips works superbly, too: its wireless connection is 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 a bit thin and nasal.
However, they stand up well against many budget micro hi-fi systems and, given the simplicity and effectiveness of the rest of the package, the package is well worth four stars.