Bose VideoWave Entertainment System II (55-Inch) review

The Bose VideoWave II Entertainment System offers a few video-related improvements over the original iteration, but nothing has changed in terms of this high-end HDTV's phenomenal audio system. And that's a very good thing.
Photo of Bose VideoWave Entertainment System II (55-Inch)

When we reviewed the original Bose VideoWave Entertainment System back in 2011, we were blown away by its amazing Wave Tunnel sound system and its outstanding video performance. We were less impressed with its $5,000+ price and lack of networking capabilities, but neither gripe prevented us from giving it an Editors’ Choice award. With the new VideoWave II Entertainment System, the folks at Bose took the unique 16-speaker subsystem and audio processing technology and paired it with a crisp 55-inch Samsung LCD panel with LED backlighting. The company also hung a hefty $5,999 (list) price tag on it. Black levels are not quite as dark as they were the first time around, and there’s still no Web connectivity, but the VideoWave II merits our Editors’ Choice for high-end big-screen HDTVs nevertheless. It’s literally the best sounding TV you can buy, and one where you don’t need a separate home theater speaker system.

Design and Features
Design-wise, the VideoWave II looks almost identical to its predecessor. The original model used CCFL backlighting and had a 6-inch deep cabinet that weighed in at an astounding 99 pounds (for the 46-inch model). This time around the VideoWave II is outfitted with LED backlighting and is slightly thinner, but at 5.5 inches and 118 pounds it is far from svelte. That’s because in addition to a 55-inch, 1,920-by-1,080 panel, the cabinet houses an intricate internal speaker configuration consisting of six woofers, 10 tweeters, a Wave Tunnel, and a signal processing unit. The screen includes a semi-gloss coating that keeps glare and reflections to a minimum.

The matte black cabinet sports 1.5-inch black bezels and a band of silver trim around its perimeter. There are no buttons or I/O ports on the cabinet, only a power cord and a proprietary cable that connects the TV to the included console box. The console is also matte black with silver trim and measures 3.1 by 16.5 by 9.5 (HWD) inches. It holds all of the VideoWave’s ports, including four HDMI inputs (one is on the front), two component A/V inputs, a composite A/V input, two USB ports (one on the front), and a headphone jack. As with the original model, the VideoWave II comes with an iPod/iPhone dock, although you’ll need Apple’s $29 Lightning-to-30-pin Adapter if you have one of the latest iPod touch or iPhone models. (iPads are not supported.)

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The 5.5-inch click pad remote is pretty much identical to the original remote with one exception: The top now sports a silver finish. There are only eight buttons (Power, Volume Up/Down, Channel Up/Down, Mute, Input, and Return), plus a four-way rocker that sits in the middle of a touch-sensitive click pad. The Control Frame user interface hasn’t changed much, either; you use the click pad to navigate the icons that are displayed around the perimeter of the screen. You’ll have to spend a little time with the remote to get the hang of it, but once you do you’ll appreciate the sheer simplicity of the on-screen menus. This time around the folks at Bose made the Control Frame user-customizable, so you can remove rarely used control icons and replace them with your own frequently used controls. The Control Frame changes according to the device being accessed; the TV gets its own menu icons, as do Blu-ray players, iPods, and iPhones.

Picture settings include three display modes (Bright, Normal, and Dark). Bose calibrates each set at its facility and intentionally makes it difficult to drill down to more specific controls to prevent accidental changes. By pressing and holding the OK button on the remote you can adjust brightness, contrast, color, tint, sharpness, and color temperature levels. More advanced settings can be accessed by pressing OK again, including gamma levels, RGB gain and cut settings, and Motion Smoothing (a new addition this time around).

When you buy the VideoWave II, you also get the Bose White Glove treatment, which includes delivery and setup of your HDTV. The company will hook the set up to your existing A/V components, configure the audio to your specific room using proprietary ADAPTiQ calibration system (which you keep for future use, in case you move the set later), program your remote, and give you a complete product tour. For an additional $250, Bose will professionally wall mount the TV and hide whatever cabling is needed. The VideoWave II is covered by a two-year warranty.

Audio
According to Bose, the VideoWave II contains no changes to the speaker array, the amplifiers, the DSP, or the EQ customization process compared with the first model. As always, the company plays its hand close to its chest, and doesn’t reveal much in the way of configuration details, at least aside from the basic driver configuration we noted above. It doesn’t matter much, though. As with the first version, the VideoWave II’s sound is exemplary.

Let’s put a few caveats up first. We wouldn’t steer anyone toward the VideoWave II looking for the utmost in sonic accuracy. With various stereo recordings, instrumentalists and the lead vocalist were awash in a larger-than-life field surrounding the screen, rather than easily identifiable as emanating from specific locations. This was most obvious with stereo music tracks with acoustic instruments, like the acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, and chopped vocal of Ani DiFranco’s “Knuckle Down.” Electronic and otherwise artificially processed sounds, like those in Thievery Corporation’s “Habanos Days,” sounded smooth and transparent, with impressive side-to-side effects and a tight, responsive low end. Rage Against the Machine’s “Fistful of Steel” had plenty of energy, with dynamic guitars, crushing drums, and a nicely defined bass line with just enough high end to get its growl across.

The other audio issue is compression—specifically, the way the VideoWave II dials back the bass and essentially puts a lid on the proceedings in order to prevent distortion as you turn up the volume to higher-than-reasonable levels. Make no mistake; this thing can get extremely loud. But with our standard bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” rendering the 808-style kick drum on top of the electronic synth bass was too much for the VideoWave II near top volume; we heard click-style artifacts over each drum kit that weren’t supposed to be there, and the clicks disappeared as we turned the volume back down. It’s obvious the VideoWave II’s audio is designed more for home theater at high levels than purist stereo music listening, but the flaws are still worth noting.

At any rate, that’s an extreme test, and tougher even than the dynamic soundtracks of most action movies. On the home theater side, Bose’s built-in demo was sufficiently dynamic to shake the walls of our test lab, causing colleagues to wonder just what was going on behind the closed door of the test room. There’s a significant amount of low-end extension in the presentation. This was reinforced when we played the Blu-ray disc Piranha. The underwater scenes vibrated the entire room, thanks to what sounded like a 25Hz rumble, along with impressively placed surround effects that almost, if not entirely, seemed like they were coming from behind you.

The VideoWave II’s custom ADAPTiQ system really helps. After the configuration process, you get perfectly balanced sound that’s just right for your room. Even if you’re not hearing the most accurate representation of what the mixing and mastering engineers intended, you get a distinct sense of well-rounded recordings, with plenty of power, dynamics, and bass punch—enough that we’d use the VideoWave II as a regular stereo system in a living room for casual music listening. That, in our opinion, is the biggest test of any home theater-geared audio system, since many of them trade accuracy and detail for power, punch, and an overly emphasized midrange. That’s not the case here; the VideoWave II simply sounds great for what it is, and continues to earn high marks on the audio side.

Video
The 55-inch LED-backlit panel performed admirably despite producing a relatively mediocre contrast ratio of 5,532:1, which we measured using a Klein K10-A Colorimeter, SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5 software, and images from DisplayMate HDTV diagnostics. Peak brightness topped out at a respectable 344.65 cd/m2 but its black level reading was 0.0623 cd/m2. The first VideoWave HDTV gave us much darker blacks (0.03 cd/m2). 

The VideoWave delivers mostly accurate colors, as shown in the CIE chromaticity chart above. Reds and blues were a bit strong but not oversaturated, and greens were spot-on (the closer each dot is to its corresponding box the more accurate the color). Image quality while watching the movie Piranha on Blu-ray was outstanding, with perfectly balanced skin tones and rich, uniform color reproduction. Shadow detail was good but some of the underwater scenes could have been crisper. Off-axis viewing is superb; there was no color shifting and the screen remained bright when viewed from a side angle in our tests. There was no need to activate the Motion Smoothing feature as the 120Hz panel showed no noticeable smearing or ghosting issues. 

The VideoWave II used 132 watts of power during testing, which is a drastic reduction from the 220 watts used by its predecessor. Still, it’s not nearly as energy efficient as the 55-inch LG 55LM6700, which used only 67 watts with power saving disabled and 48 watts with power saving enabled. Given the massive array of speakers and amplifiers inside the VideoWave II, we can easily give it a pass on this.

Conclusion
Once again the engineers at Bose have delivered a top-shelf entertainment system with the VideoWave II. Granted, you can go out and buy a high-end HDTV and a killer multi-channel speaker system and still not hit the $5K mark. But with this setup, you get incredible audio output without a speaker in sight, not to mention a highly detailed picture and a cool, albeit unique, user interface. If you absolutely must have the latest Web apps, there are plenty of Internet-enabled Blu-ray players and media hubs like the Roku 3, which can bring online connectivity and streaming apps to the VideoWave II.

Specifications
Video Inputs Component, Composite, HDMI, USB
Width 51.2 inches
Depth 5.5 inches
Weight 118 lb
Diagonal Screen Size 55 inches
Pixel Refresh Rate Speed 120Hz
Height 33.7 inches

Verdict
The Bose VideoWave II Entertainment System offers a few video-related improvements over the original iteration, but nothing has changed in terms of this high-end HDTV's phenomenal audio system. And that's a very good thing.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc