Push-Button Radio Comes To The PC
By Jimmy Guterman

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Seasoned Internet audiophiles might at first want to make fun of the Bose Wave/PC, the hoary audiomaker's recent move into the digital music market. It's a $449 tabletop radio, with the same high-quality sound as Bose's successful (but expensive) Wave radio, which in turn sounds as rich as a good bookshelf stereo system. What sets it apart is that it also connects to a PC and lets you control all sorts of audio--including Internet radio, MP3 music files, CDs, and AM/FM radio--via an integrated software program. For people who manage their extensive MP3 collections using sophisticated programs like RealJukebox, Windows Media Player, and MusicMatch, the Bose Wave/PC might seem a bit basic.

But that's exactly what the Wave/PC is meant to be: a reliable (but, again, expensive) combination of hardware and software that aims to make PC-based music as easy to manage as music played via traditional audio components. Most of the companies that make computer-based audio products are computer focused, and they typically deliver products that emphasize features over simplicity and usability. Bose, in contrast, sells products that are designed to deliver all their features at the push of a few buttons. With the Bose Wave/PC, the company has made an easy-to-master digital audio system for those who don't need every new gadget feature.

The usability is apparent right from the installation process. You can install the Wave/PC hardware and software without opening a manual. A one-page, pictures-only set of diagrams tells you all you need to know, and the installation software is unambiguous. Anyone who has tried to install a PC sound card will be impressed at the Wave/PC's simplicity.

After you've got the software installed, you can use it to play CDs and encode them as MP3s or Microsoft-friendly WAVs, listen to standard radio stations or less dependable Web radio (via RealAudio streams), and manage the music files on your PC with relative ease. A small remote-control device duplicates many of the key software controls, but since the whole idea of the system is to manage everything through your PC, you won't use it much. Ditto the alarm clock function, which is fine if you have a radio on your night table, but not if it's in your office.

Especially at its price, the Bose Wave/PC isn't a peripheral for recovering Napster addicts who know the difference between variable and fixed MP3 encoding. But for those who have deep pockets and who want to enter the world of digital audio easily, it's a reasonable choice. Now if some of the more ambitious digital-audio peripherals, like Creative's Nomad Jukebox, took tips from the Wave/PC, we might have an ideal device that both cognoscenti and newcomers would enjoy.

--Jimmy Guterman