Rear connections include colour-coded terminals for the speakers, an Ethernet port, stereo analogue input, an FM antenna input and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
When ripping CDs, the unit automatically adds track info from the built-in Gracenote song database, which saves you a great deal of time. The process is easy – check the boxes next to the tracks you want to rip and hit the Rec button on the remote. It uses the MP3 format, and lets you select bitrates of between 128 and 320kbps, but even though ripping is labelled as ‘high-speed’ it takes quite a long time to rip one CD.
Which brings us onto the subject of the WAC3500D’s limited format compatibility – the unit will play MP3 (including VBR) and WMA, but not Apple’s AAC format or DRM-protected WMA files. Also annoying is that you can only play WMA files encoded at bitrates between 16 and 128kbps.
There’s a range of audio features designed to enhance sound quality, including an array of six equaliser presets and Smart EQ, which automatically picks the best preset for the material being played. You’ll also find three Dynamic Bass Boost settings and Incredible Surround, which creates a wider stereo sound.
Setting up the unit on a wireless network takes a little bit of jiggery pokery, as you have to configure Windows Media Player 11 and key your WEP security code into the WAC3500D, that sort of thing. Once we rigged it all up, we found the user interface to be a little fiddly and unresponsive, while the track search mode takes an age to find the right song – criticisms we also levelled at the WACS7000. But on the plus side, the remote is compact and ergonomic with well-placed buttons, which is always helpful.
The WAC3500D performs very well. It kicks out 2 x 40W of detailed, well-rounded sound, packed with plenty of bass muscle that doesn’t stray into boomy territory. We played a selection of funk and soul MP3s, all of which require quick, nimble bass reproduction to get their point across, and the WAC3500D didn’t let them down. What’s more, the mid and top-end frequencies are given equal room to shine, resulting in a generally enjoyable performance even with the volume dial turned up high.
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