First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Philips WAC5 Wireless Music Centre
- Easy to use, built in track naming
- Limited outputs on wireless station, not as pretty as its predecessor
An excellent system for anyone looking to stream music around the house.
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
Philips' WAC5 Wireless Music Centre is designed as an all in one music solution for your house. The built-in 80GB hard drive offers more than enough space to store all the music from an average CD collection, while the wireless connectivity and extra music station means music can be beamed to any corner of the home.
The WAC5 essentially offers the same functions as a previous Philips' model, the Wireless Music Centre, but utilises a slightly more conservative design and notably, does not include speakers. The package consists of two main components: the Wireless Music Centre and the Wireless Music Station. The Wireless Music Centre is the core of the system, containing the hard drive, a CD player/recorder and the primary wireless connection.
The first stage when using the system is to get music on to the Wireless Music Centre. This can be done in two ways. The easiest way is to simply place a CD in the WAC5's drive and hit record. After about five minutes the tracks are copied to the internal hard drive. One of the great features of the WAC5 is the built in Gracenote functionality. Gracenote is the company behind CDDB, a database attempting to compile every compact disc and song name in existence. This means that unless your taste in music is extremely obscure, the WAC5 can automatically name the songs, album title and artist for you. This is obviously essential as otherwise you'd end up with a thousand songs all titled as 'track', which may make things a little tricky.
The second way to import songs is slightly more complex, and requires delving into the depths of network technology. The WAC5 can connect to a PC (no Mac users unfortunately) using Wi-Fi, and then transfer songs over the network. Setting this up requires you to briefly connect your PC to the main unit with an Ethernet cable, install the included software, and then disconnect it again. The Music Centre is then found as a wireless device that the PC can connect to. It's actually a relatively straightforward process, much simpler than we anticipated and considerably better than we've experienced with other wireless streamers. Once the WAC5 is connected to the PC, songs in MP3 or WMA format can be copied over. It's also possible to copy over updated Gracenote database listings to ensure future titles are covered. We were slightly disappointed to see that the database file hadn't been updated for over six months though, so it's not so good for newer music.
Next it's time to connect the wireless station, which is again fairly straightforward. We had no problems linking the station to the main unit; it's simply a matter of pressing a few buttons. Once the whole network was set up we copied over a bundle of music and set about listening to it. Using our three-pronged solution of station, centre and PC it was possible to listen to music directly from the main unit, or to stream it. The centre, station and remote control all include a small screen making it easy to browse music from anywhere. The iPod-style interface should be familiar to many people, and is entirely intuitive.
With both the Wireless Centre and Wireless Stations connected to speakers we had no problems playing back music. The quality of the music is more dependent on the quality of the speakers than the WAC5 system, and with high quality digital connections on the Wireless Centre it's also possible to connect the system to an AV receiver or amplifier. However we were a little disappointed to see that the Station only includes stereo plugs, as most decent home entertainment units ship with digital optical at the very least these days.
The WAC5 also ships with all the usual features we'd expect to see on a decent Hi-Fi: there's playlist creation, an FM radio, auxiliary inputs and sleep modes. Additional wireless music stations can be purchased, with a maximum of five possible on the network. This should be more than enough for most people and will enable anyone's music collection to be beamed throughout the house. One thing that's worth bearing in mind is Philips' warning that the unit shouldn't be placed near Plasma televisions, as they cause interference.
Overall, we thought the WAC5 was a great little system. It's easy to use and offers some useful functions. It may not look as attractive as its predecessor, and also lacks speakers, but the increased hard drive and reduced price makes it a good buy.
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