Review Price £599.95
How does the Wave Music System III sound? In fairness much like all Bose audio: a foundation of deep bass and thick radiating midrange coming somewhat at the expense of clarity and detail in the higher frequencies. There is no denying this approach is a crowd pleaser. It is a thick, rich sound signature in which you could almost stand up a spoon. This works particularly well for rock, hip hop and dance where it adds an extra layer of emotion. What it isn't is particularly accurate and while Bose has an uncanny knack of projecting audio across a room, it doesn't sound at its best at higher volumes where there is a sense of something missing.
This 'something' is treble and its sharpness and detail hold music together when you're doing your best to blast out the windows - not that you may notice in such a party-like atmosphere. What you do become aware of over time, however, is that your music sounds rounded off - you are not hearing everything that was recorded - and when positioning a product at this section of the market missing out on that is controversial. Equally controversial is the Wave Music System III doesn't use a DAC for external sound sources so your £600 system takes its audio processing straight from your MP3 player or phone's circuit board. Not ideal.
All of which brings us to price. That the Wave Music System III sounds good is beyond question, but the unit is not judged in isolation and where it stumbles is against the ruthless pricing of today's class leading docks. The likes of the excellent Arcam rCube and Monitor Audio i-deck 200 (with integrated DAC) were £500 and £400 respectively at launch, but received official price cuts to £350 and £250 and easily match if not best the Wave Music System III's audio. These docks may lack CD and radio playback, but do you need either when our music sources are typically devices capable of playing back lossless audio and Internet radio?
Step further up the range and you have the hugely popular £500 Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air and £600 Libratone Live, both with integrated AirPlay for wireless audio streaming and the latter whose casing is constructed from wood, chrome and cashmere. So again we ask the question: how much do you like CDs?
In isolation it is difficult to dislike the Bose Wave Music System III. It has a warm, powerful and crowd pleasing sound while the flexible BoseLink connector adds in Bluetooth, an Apple dock or CD multi-changer functionality. The trouble is the Wave Music System III is not judged in isolation and its audio performance is bested by products half its price which also pack in more functionality. Bose has long traded on premium performance at premium prices, but in today's brutally competitive audio sector those prices will need to drop if the halo long held above its brand isn't going to slip.
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