Bose products produce high-quality sound while staying small and stylish. They have very positive brand recognition among the general public. Guests are generally very impressed to see and hear a Bose system. Unfortunately, these benefits come at quite a cost. Bose products often cost as much as an equivalent professional-level product, but professionals stay far away – Bose uses many proprietary components, connectors, and standards, limiting interoperability with other equipment.
The Bose Wave Radio/CD is a standalone tabletop unit with an AM/FM radio and a CD player (as the name implies). The unit is short and wide, and comes in black or white. Included are an antenna wire and a very light infrared remote control with the approximate dimensions of a credit card, but about 1/4” thick. The buttons on the remote are covered by one large printed rubber pad that covers the entire top of the remote, so it is quite tolerant of dirt and small amounts of liquid. The remote looks and feels good. It has most music functions but no alarm or time functions except the sleep timer. The thin “button” battery is included.
The CD player supports standard playback, random, random repeat, repeat one, and repeat all modes. As with almost all of their products, Bose omitted a program-sequence mode on the CD player. The remote cannot change the playback mode.
The speakers are integrated into the main unit and cannot be detached. All controls are on the top of the unit, with the display and speakers on the front. The rear panel contains the antenna plug and RCA plugs for one stereo input and one stereo line-output connection. The unit also has the functionality of most alarm clocks, with the ability to use any of the sound sources as alarms, and a sleep/off timer.
Other tabletop stereos generally have far more features that aren’t present on the Bose unit. For the outrageous price, I expect at least a more functional remote and a headphone jack. That’s right. This unit doesn’t have a headphone jack. MP3 playback would also be nice for this price, but the unit was designed before MP3 capabilities were common in standalone stereos, so this deficiency is understandable.
What about sound quality? Bose is known for its excellent sound quality with a small footprint. Maybe that will justify the cost, as the feature set sure doesn’t.
The Bose Wave Radio/CD sounds acceptable, but it’s not nearly as good as their home theater or car audio products. Quality at low volume is only average. If you want to listen to music at high volume, you’ll probably want better stereo separation and frequency control. But the immobile speakers are only about 8” apart, and there are no frequency controls whatsoever. No bass or treble adjustments. No equalizer. The only sound control you get is the volume level, but you won’t want to turn it up very high, as distortion arrives fairly quickly in the low and midrange frequencies. I can’t tell for sure, but it sounds like the unit decreases the bass level as the main volume increases.
It’s not a terrible product. It’s a small and stylish AM/FM/CD alarm clock with better sound than any alarm clock I’ve heard. But it’s difficult to find an alarm clock for more than $100, and this unit retails for around $500. Ouch. At that price, it’s more expensive than most tabletop stereo systems offering far more features and better sound quality with only a slightly larger footprint. I’ve never even seen another tabletop stereo without a headphone jack and frequency controls.