Wireless audio systems might have revolutionised the way people listen to music at home, but there's no denying that the products launched to date have been on the expensive side. Indeed, the previous two models in Philips' Streamium range (the WACS700/05 and WACS7000) have cost upwards of £550, putting them beyond the reach of less affluent buyers.
But Philips has changed all that with the launch of its latest Streamium audio centre, the WAC3500D, which sells for under £300. At this sort of price, even those on a tight budget can experience the wonders of wireless audio networking - and with almost everyone now using compressed audio files on a regular basis, this is most definitely a good thing.
The WAC3500D features an 80GB hard-disk drive, which can hold up to 1,500 CDs' worth of music. The tracks can be transferred onto the hard-disk either by ripping CDs inside the unit - which eliminates the hassle of having to boot up the PC every time you want to add new music - or by sending them over a wired or wireless network from your PC. Once the tracks have been stored on the hard-disk, they can be streamed to up to five Wi-Fi stations located around your home.
Alternatively, you can stream music wirelessly to the WAC3500D from a PC or any device running UPnP compatible software (such as Windows Media Player 11). You can also access the WAC3500D's hard-disk remotely from that UPnP device, in order to transfer or arrange tracks.
Incredibly, the audio options don't end there. You can also connect the supplied DC1050 iPod dock or a USB flash memory device to the relevant front-mounted port and play your music through the WAC3500D's speakers.
With its main unit and two separate speakers, the WAC3500D looks like a traditional micro hi-fi, as opposed to the more daring upright design of the WACS7000, which boasts built-in speakers. As a result it's nowhere near as attractive as its pricier predecessor, but cost cuts had to be made somewhere. That's not to say it's ugly though - the main unit's half mirrored, half brushed aluminium fascia gives it a pinch of pizzazz, while the central backlit LCD screen looks great.