This is where the improvements come in. That hard drive is bigger than before, and the encoding rate is also up on the maximum the WACS700 was capable of too. More significantly, wireless music streaming has now been added. With the first system you were limited to ripping discs to the base station’s hard disk. So if you’d already ripped a few thousand tracks to your PC, you then had to copy the whole lot across to the base station’s hard disk with the bundled Ethernet cable in order to listen to them. Either that or rip everything again, disc by disc.
Of course you can still do this with the WACS7000 if you want, but far better to use the new UPnP functionality, which is built into both satellite and base station units. This allows you to stream music from any UPnP compatible server software or NAS box on your network. Install something like TwonkyMedia on the serving laptop or desktop and you can even use the system to tune into internet radio. And the new functionality means you can even access the base station’s hard disk from any other UPnP-enabled hardware on your network, so you don’t necessarily need to stick to Philips hardware should you want to expand into another room at a later date.
Also among the improvements is a USB slot on the top of each player, which enables you to plug in a thumb drive or your iPod, browse, play and copy tracks to and from the base station’s hard disk, with a dedicated iPod cradle available as an optional extra. Sound quality is said to have been improved too, and while we weren’t able to compare the sound quality directly with the original WACS700/05 and verify these claims, it’s certainly highly acceptable. The flat panel speakers capture a surprising amount of detail and the subwoofer built into each unit does a good job of fleshing out the bass notes. Both boxes go pretty loud as well.
It does sounds a bit on the boomy side if you crank up something that’s heavy on the bass – a bit of Jamiroquai, for example, or Niti Sawhney – but at mid-volume levels the sound is surprisingly agile. The smaller satellite unit is especially impressive, given that it retails for around £200 as a standalone unit.
Unfortunately, there’s still plenty that Philips could and should have changed and didn’t this time around. The music browsing system, for example – a weakness of the original – has, disappointingly, been left largely alone.