The Philips WACS7000 is part of the company’s Streamium series and offers a solution for storing, managing and distributing digital audio around the home. Improvements to the latest model include a larger, 80GB hard drive, support for connecting USB media as a source for playback or recording, and automatic generation of audio information using the Gracenote music service.
The package itself consists of two individual units: a ‘center’ and a ‘station’. Another four of the latter can be added to the wireless network that connects them so you can share content around different rooms of the home. On initial setup the ‘center’ needs to be placed next to the station to establish a connection, after which you can place it elsewhere in the home.
The features of both of these units are mirrored, so you’ll find you can listen to FM radio, stream from a uPnP source (such as a PC with shared music folders), connected USB or auxiliary port. The center contains the 80GB hard drive, content from which can be streamed to any of the attached stations. You’ll also find a CD player built in, which allows you to either play back on the fly or rip music directly to the built-in hard drive to expand your local collection. The advantage of this system is that you can utilise much of the functionality of the WACS system without needing a computer to encode and manage the digital media.
In terms of performance we were impressed by the quality of the built-in speakers and, once a network is successfully created between the devices, they work together very well. Provided you have a uPnP-compatible router you shouldn’t have too much trouble streaming music from your PC using the supplied server software, and performance was very consistent both between the station and centers and across a network from a computer. They’re also rather stylish, sporting a retro black and silver finish that would look great alongside any modern home cinema setup.
Unfortunately it’s not all good news. We were a little disappointed by the relatively small monochrome display, to which you’ll need to get pretty close in order to see what you’re doing. This is helped somewhat by the two-way remote control, which includes its own LCD display to mirror the activity of the center, but it wouldn’t have hurt to improve the main display considering the asking price.
You’ll also find that some of the more innovative features, such as the ability to switch playback from the station to any of the centers to effectively ‘follow you’ around the home, and the ability to broadcast playback to each of the centers at the same time, only works when playing content back from the hard drive.
There’s not much access to online content, either: you can’t listen to Internet or DAB radio or access podcasts, features we’ve seen recently in similar audio streamers like the Terratec Noxon 2. They’re also fairly expensive, with the basic center and single station setup setting you back around £500.
Because of this, and the lack of additional features, the WACS7000 won’t appeal to everyone, but we can certainly see it establishing a firm following in the elitist market, where its performance and expandability will add impact to any digital audio collection in the home.
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