According to Bose, only one third of homes in the U.S. have a home theater system, leaving the majority relying on the decidedly average speakers built into many TVs. While the major TV manufacturers generally try to market their products in terms of picture quality - be it blacker blacks, 3D capabilities or the latest and greatest image processing engine - audio performance seems to take a back seat. Bose has taken a different tack for its first entry into the TV market by putting audio performance front and center - or rather, rear and center - with its VideoWave entertainment system that integrates a 7.1-channel surround sound system and amplifier into the rear of a 46-inch LCD TV.
Bose sees the the complicated setup of home theater systems as one of the biggest obstacles holding consumers back from a better audio experience to match the high definition pictures offered by their TVs. Namely, trailing cables to speakers placed around the room and the hassle of dealing with numerous remote controls. Bose thinks its VideoWave system can solve both problems. By packing a home theater system into the rear of the TV it has done away with the speaker cable problem and with a super-simple universal remote control, the problem of multiple remotes has been dealt with.
Now, you're probably saying that TVs have been offering built-in virtual surround sound for years now and universal remotes are so common they can be found at K-Mart for less than $20. So what sets Bose's VideoWave system apart? Well, judging from a demo that allowed us to lay our eyes - and more importantly, our ears - on the system as it is rolled out to markets around the world, Bose has managed to integrate an audio system into its TV that offers the kind of soundscape you'd only expect to get from a home theater system boasting the full complement of speakers placed around a room.
But with location of low-end sounds difficult to discern, it is Bose's new PhaseGuide sound radiator technology working in conjunction with the unit's seven-speaker array that is responsible for the VideoWave's surround sound magic. The seven-speaker array provides the mid-level frequencies, while the PhaseGuide array, which directs audio from two tweeters via six finely grilled openings, is able to direct the sound so it appears to be coming from all around the room.
Bose says the VideoWave can be placed anywhere within a room - including on a wall as the TV is VESA compliant - and the company's ADAPTiQ audio calibration system, which takes into account the size and shape - and even furnishings - of a room and adjusts the sound accordingly. However, since the VideoWave relies on a room's walls and ceiling to bounce sound around and provide the surround sound effect, the TV won't perform very well if placed within a cabinet.
The remote sports only volume and channel up and down, source input and an OK button surrounded by a directional pad, which is in turn surrounded by a clickable touch surface. With the dedicated buttons controlling the most basic (although most used) functions, Bose has shifted other source specific controls to a contextual onscreen display that appears around the edge of the screen and is controlled through the touch surface. To control the various source inputs, the console relies on a database of components that includes all the most common devices from the major brands along with the bulk of obscure names. Bose also plans update this database quarterly to ensure compatibility with as many devices as possible.
This is made possible through the console unit, which acts as the hub for connecting all your sources and connects to the TV itself with only one cable. With the console relaying infrared signals from the remote to the relevant source, all other components can be hidden away from view, within a cabinet for example. You will have to rely on separate components for all inputs however, as neither the TV unit nor the console include a built-in tuner. The console has four HDMI, two composite, two component and two USB ports, along with a dedicated connector for the included iPod dock. When playing music through the iPod dock it is also possible to turn off the display and video processing electronics to save power.
Although the major selling point of the VideoWave system is obviously its audio performance and simplicity, it would all be for naught if the picture quality was below par. And lined up against other CCFL LCD TVs, that's precisely what it is - on a par. Not super impressive, but no slouch either, with the 46-inch, 1920 x 1080p resolution,120 Hz panel providing deep blacks and vibrant colors. Bose won't reveal the manufacturer of the panel, but says it has provided its own image processing tweaks to tailor the panel for its own use. Bose also won't say if it has any plans to release the system in other screen sizes.
A conventional home theater system that might even produce better sound can be had for much (much, much) less money than what Bose is asking for its VideoWave Entertainment System. But audiophiles looking for reference-quality sound won't be the target market for the VideoWave system anyway.
The system is aimed at those with the money to afford something from a reliable brand that provides the simplest option in terms of set up and use, while still providing impressive sound. So if you're looking for a home theater setup that is easy to use and won't require the running of cables all round the room, then Bose's VideoWave Entertainment System is really your only option - as long as you've got deep enough pockets to afford it.
The display unit weighs 97 lbs. (44 kg) without stand and 106 lbs. (48.1 kg) with stand. It measures 44.3 x 26.4 x 6 inches (112.5 x 67 x 15.2 cm), while the console unit weighs 7.5 lbs. (3.4 kg) and measures 16.5 x 3.1 x 9.5 inches (41.9 x 7.8 x 24.1 cm).
Bose released the VideoWave Entertainment System in the U.S. the U.K. and Europe last October, where it sells for US$5,349, GBP6,000 and EUR6,998 respectively. It will go on sale in Australia in June for AUD7,999.
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