Philips WACS7000 media streamer
If we were to describe a typical piece of multimedia-based hardware from Philips in a sentence, you’d probably laud the consistently impressive build quality and style yet bemoan the often high price and omission of often important extra features. This would describe the new WACS7000, the latest in its Streamium series, very well.
In terms of aesthetics we loved the stainless steel and black finish, which has a nice retro feel and would add plenty of impact to an audio setup in the home.
The initial setup comprises of an audio centre and audio station, both of which have their own built-in speakers and both offer a similar range of features.
The centre is the main hub of the setup though, containing an 80GB hard drive and CD player that can automatically rip discs to digitally encoded formats using the Gracenote music service to fill in track information.
Audio contained on this drive can be sent wirelessly to any of the stations in the home, and you'll find some innovative extra features here that allow you to broadcast the same audio across all of the stations at once, or set up your music to "follow you" around, able to switch to the station in the room you're currently in.
Unfortunately you can only do this from the hard drive playback mode, but since the other features, namely an FM radio, USB device connection and uPnP audio streaming are all available from each station anyway this isn't a major issue.
Attaching the setup to your wireless network is pretty straightforward provided you have a uPnP compatible router, and using the provided music server software you'll find you can share folders on your computer and access them directly from the center or any of the stations.
Wireless performance is generally very good, whether you're streaming between the units in the setup or directly from your PC. We were also impressed by the sound quality from the built-in speakers, and despite the fact that the main display is quite small and awkward to see from a distance, the devices are pretty usable, particularly when you take into account the 2-way remote control that mirrors the display on the center or station with its own built-in LCD display.
Unfortunately this kind of performance and convenience comes at a price.
The WACS7000 certainly isn't cheap, and considering the lack of features such as DAB or internet radio access, restrictions on broadcasting or following source material between stations and the fact that for most, once an audio collection is copied or ripped to the hard drive much of the functionality will rarely be used, it might be a bit too steep.
If the styling and functionality of the WACS7000 appeals and the price tag doesn't scare you off though, rest assured you've got a pretty impressive piece of kit on your hands.