When the first Steamium launched, we have to admit we weren't impressed, a poor overly plastic design complemented with average sound meant for us, it was £600 not well spent. So can the follow-up, the WACS7500 make amends? We get listening to find out.
To say that the Streamium WACS7500 is a completely new model wouldn't be far off. The concept, i.e., the ability to stream music around your house is the same, but the execution is vastly different.
The design for one thing has completely changed, rather than a slight tweak here or there, the new model sports a new design that is now both appealing to the eye, stylish and for the décor conscious, something that you probably wouldn't mind in your living room.
That's not to say its small, anything but, but mirroring the designs of its new range of televisions, Philips has created a minimalist black glossy design with a clear Perspex frame.
Controls are defined to the front and surround its new colour LCD display. When we say minimalist, it is not of course as minimalist as we would have liked and it's a shame that Philips didn't go the full hog and replace the hard buttons that litter the front with touch-sensitive ones as found on its GoGear MP3 player range, you know, the ones that LG is so famous for. The move would have meant the buttons were eradicated altogether.
The screen is the main access hub (aside from the remote control) and allows you to guide through the rather uninteresting but straightforward and easy to use menu system. Here you can access your music library, stream internet radio around the house and managing the units connected (up to four more in total).
The unit may come with an 80GB hard drive enough to store 1500 CDs - we would have expected more for a system that is going to run your entire music collection - but that doesn't stop you playing your favourite CDs via the slot loading drive hidden on the top, and like the WACS7000 the unit will also offer to rip (copy) them to the device's hard drive so you can get rid of the need for the plastic disk altogether, although this is both slow and freezes up the machine from doing anything else.
As the name might suggest you can stream music around the house either from the tracks you've uploads, songs on a USB thumb drive you've plugged in the back, a CD, the Internet, an iPod via the dock, or even via Ethernet cable from your PC's music collection.
Connecting to your PC feeds off your music folder and again this was very simple to do.
In our testing environment (read Victorian cottage) we had no problems with range, although someone living in a mansion, or thick walled cell, might have to bear this in mind.
Once set-up you can then stream music around the house and additional stations can be added.
In the box you get a centre unit as well as a second smaller unit (you can buy extra units for £199) for placing in your bedroom/kitchen/bathroom and setting up the two was incredibly easy.
The benefit here is that you can listen to different streams at the same time, all accessing your one music catalogue, and there is also a follow me music feature that allows you to listen to thrash metal while your kids listen to the latest rendition of Handel's Messiah (or vice-versa).
While the Streamium offers a wire free home, Philips has unfortunately compromised on the sound quality to get there. This might be alright for the kitchen, but due their size, we found the speakers offer a lacklustre performance against our expectation for a unit costing £700.
Offering 80GB of storage for around 1500 CDs, the ability to stream music from your PC or the Internet, the WACS7500 delivers on its promise to give you music around your house without the need for a tangle of wires.
Considerably improved in design since the previous outing (the WACS7000) there is now a colour display, the ability to connect up to four more devices for music around the home, and built-in Gracenote support so you don't have to type in all the album and song names yourself if your importing your CD collection (it is upgraded).
If we were rating the WACS 7500 over the previous WACS 7000 it would be a 9/10, however while this is a massive improvement on the previous model it still lacks against the other, albeit more expensive, options on the market.