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It’s funny how so many things in life are cyclical. Just when you never thought something will never come back into fashion, it’s suddenly the next big thing. It happens in fashion, it happens in music, in literature and film.
Now, it seems, the comeback has finally hit the world of audio technology. So, just when you thought the idea of multi-room hi-fi had been consigned to the great bad ideas dustbin in the sky, back it comes with a vengeance. Everyone’s doing it: from Sky with its Gnome Wi-Fi radio to Sonos with its higher end wireless system.
To be fair, though, it’s not solely in the interest of reviving an old, worn-out idea that devices such as Philips’ WACS700 multi-room music centre have started to appear. Technologies such as Wi-Fi and music compression are making such devices practical in a way that they never were back in the Seventies and Eighties, when you had to have a way with a drill and cable clips to set one up in your house.
Philips’ WACS700/05 music system is truly multi-room hi-fi for the wireless generation. It consists of a base station with a CD player and 40GB hard drive built in, plus a satellite unit, which receives and plays back music streamed wirelessly from the base station via built-in 802.11g adapters in each unit. In fact you can connect up to five satellite systems to the WACS700/05 base station and play different music simultaneously on each one – an impressive feat. Oh, and each unit has an FM tuner built in too.
Being able to play whatever music you like without having to hunt through hundreds of badly organized CDs has always been one of the great benefits of MP3 players. But this system takes the convenience to a whole new level. You don’t even have to connect it up to an existing wireless network or PC for it to work properly – just drop in a CD into the slot on the top of the music centre, hit record and it will convert it to MP3 format for you. However, only 128Kbps and 160Kbps bit rates are available. The WACS700/05 has a copy of the Gracenote database stored locally, so it can apply track and artist names without having to connect to the Internet and this is upgradeable via connection with your PC.