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Acoustic Wave II Gives Good Bass

In the modern history of consumer radio receivers, few products have had the sustained commercial success of Bose Corp.’s Acoustic Wave compact audio systems.

In the modern history of consumer radio receivers, few products have had the sustained commercial success of Bose Corp.’s Acoustic Wave compact audio systems.

The first Acoustic Wave system, developed by Dr. Amar G. Bose, was introduced in 1984. Since then, products based on his waveguide technology have become icons representing premium quality radio listening.

PRODUCT CAPSULE Bose Acoustic Wave II Compact Audio System


Sublime sound

Ease of use

FM/AM tuner with clear reception


No tone controls

PRICE: $1,079

CONTACT: Bose at (800) WWW-BOSE (999-2673) or visit

In September, Bose updated the flagship of its line with the new Acoustic Wave Music System II. What began more than two decades ago as a very good sounding AM-FM receiver has morphed into a digitally enhanced subcompact home music system with remarkable sound quality.

Don’t call it a boombox

Bose unveiled the Acoustic Wave II from behind a black curtain at a New York City press event this summer. Playing music at live performance levels, it was difficult to believe such big — yet subtle — sound could come out of such a small box.

This is a tried and true illusion for the product promoters at Bose, which says it has repeatedly seen people do double-takes when they first hear waveguide technology at work. One does not expect a 14.5-pound portable — it’s insulting to call it a “boombox” — to sound like this.

The key to the latest Acoustic Wave improvement is new digital signal processing technology applied to Bose’s 80-inch waveguide, which is folded back and forth inside the one-piece cabinet. The result is a rich, natural sound with honest, unexaggerated bass.

As a quick refresher, Dr. Bose created acoustic wave technology while trying to solve the longstanding problem of how to create deep bass sound from a small device with minimal space.

As he pondered the problem, he considered the flute, a tiny instrument that strengthens a breath of air to fill a concert hall with sound. Playing with that concept, Bose mathematically matched a speaker driver to the characteristics of a long, winding tube in such a way that vibrations of the speaker cone were amplified.

Though refinement of this technique, he produced deep bass from a small box. It led to development of waveguide technology, a major breakthrough in the quality of small home sound systems.

In the latest-generation systems, including both the Acoustic Wave II and the smaller Wave Music System, digital signal processing replaces analog circuits to improve performance at high volume levels and to enhance low frequencies.

The new Acoustic Wave II includes a digital FM/AM tuner with pre-sets. It delivered solid, clear reception with the included FM dipole antenna in the heart of New York City, a tough place for clean radio reception. A new talk radio mode, which I found effective, compensates for the artificially boosted low frequencies found in some talk radio shows.

The new model can handle MP3 as well as standard CDs, and includes an input jack for external sources and a Bose link connector for interface with other Bose products. When MP3 CDs are encoded properly, a visual display shows the track, title and artist. A small, credit-card-size remote control is included.

The new optional iPod connection kit includes a dock that connects via a single cable to the Acoustic Wave II and a remote control that combines the operation of the music system and iPod into the same interface. The kit, priced at $129, makes an elegant integration of the two devices.

The Acoustic Wave II is about 10 x 18 x 7 inches. Molded inset handles make it easy to lift and move, while AC or 12-volt DC powering allows it work anywhere. You can outfit the box with an optional 5-CD changer, battery pack and travel case.

Bose has always had a knack for bringing unusual simplicity to audio systems. This often frustrates audiophiles and geeks who want to see specs that Bose never provides for its products. For this reason, the company sometimes gets a bad rap.

I’m in the opposite camp on this issue. I covet simplicity in electronic devices and sometimes find car radios so complex I need an operating manual to tune in a station. The Luddite in me loves Bose; ease of use is why I find Bose products such a joy to use.

As anticipated from past experience, I found the Acoustic Wave II a case of intelligent design, superb build quality and intuitive operational simplicity. And the sound is sublime.

All controls are basic. Tone controls are absent. The only way to “tweak” the sound is by physical placement of the unit in different positions throughout the listening environment. The user can do virtually everything easily with the remote control.

After spending about a week with the new Acoustic Wave II, I can say without hesitation that it is the best-sounding compact bookshelf music system I’ve experienced. You cannot buy a better FM-AM compact sound system.