Audio–video equipment maker Bose Corp. has launched three new sound systems with a new Wi–Fi–based whole–home audio networking technology it calls SoundTouch, aiming to satisfy customers who are interested in installing multi–room audio systems without complication.
In addition, beginning in December the company is planning to expand its SoundTouch offerings with a new version of its iconic Wave Music System, a new stereo system using its iconic Jewel Cube speakers, and SoundTouch accessories for the Bose VideoWave televisions and Lifestyle home theater systems.
But technology limitations will prohibit the company from making all versions of Bose products part of the SoundTouch ecosystem.
Sound Tailored to Room Size
Because all homes have a range of room sizes — from big dens and living rooms to bedrooms and decks — the three new Bose SoundTouch systems have each been tailored for these different listening environments, said Santiago Carvajal, category business manager at Bose Corp. in Framingham, Mass.
- The SoundTouch 30 ($699), intended for the larges rooms, offers the most bass via Bose’s patented “waveguide” technology (pioneered in the Wave Music System) paired with a nine–pound woofer that has been specifically designed to work with the waveguide, Carvajal said. It’s also a fairly large unit, measuring approximately 10 inches tall by 17 inches wide by 7 inches deep.
- The SoundTouch 20 ($399), which is suitable for medium– and small–sized rooms, has a different acoustic architecture that’s also new for Bose, Carvajal said. It contains no Waveguide or driver, similar to the Bose SoundDock II speaker system, and also is significantly smaller than the SoundTouch 30, measuring approximately 7 inches tall by 12 inches wide by 4 inches deep.
- The SoundTouch Portable ($399), meant for decks and patios, contains “dual passive opposing radiators” to generate sound — the same acoustic architecture found in Bose’s SoundLink Mobile ($299.95) portable Bluetooth speaker. It is powered by a built–in Lithium–Ion battery, which offers up to 2.5 hours of use on a single charge (at highest volume) and fully charges in less three hours. This unit measures approximately 6 inches high, by 10 inches wide by less than 3 inches deep.
All will play audio streamed from a Mac or Windows computer equipped with either iTunes or Windows Media Player software, Carvajal said. Moreover, besides Wi–Fi, the SoundTouch systems also integrate Apple’s proprietary AirPlay technology, so they can play any audio source streamed from another compatible device — for example, an iPhone running an Internet radio app such as TuneIn or Pandora.
The name SoundTouch is derived from the concept of “streaming music at the touch of a button,” Carvajal said.
Accessories: The SoundTouch Controller and App
Any of these SoundTouch devices can be added to a home network with setup software installed on a Windows or Mac computer, and the network connection to each device can be made using either Wi–Fi wireless technology or an Ethernet cable.
Once this setup is completed, they can then be controlled using a handheld remote SoundTouch controller ($99) or via Bose’s free SoundTouch app (for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows). Both offer access to six audio source presets (such as a Pandora channel or a song in an iTunes music library), and enable an audio source to be played on either one SoundTouch device individually or on all SoundTouch devices on a network at once. The six presets are stored to the user’s private account online, and so they’re also accessible via hard buttons on the SoundTouch devices themselves.
Whereas the app displays information about the preset on–screen in a soft button, the controller features hard selector buttons and an LCD display that shows the same information adjacent to the button, in an advance preview; thanks to a proximity sensor, this information is displayed when the user merely hovers his finger above the button, without requiring the button to be pressed.
Both the app and the controller allow the volume of any of the SoundTouch units to be controlled individually.
The app also offers access to Pandora as well as a selection of 18,000 Internet radio stations supplied to Bose by vTuner — and a planned update to the app next year will provide access to the iHeartRadio and Deezer streaming audio services.
“We’ll be providing updates that include new sources continuously,” said Marc Gudell, lead user interface designer at Bose.
Future Line Expansion
“Over the next six months we’re going to be introducing SoundTouch into almost every home audio system we make,” Carvajal added.
Arriving in December is the Bose Wave SoundTouch ($599) music system, which comes with an accessory pedestal adapter.
In January, three more SoundTouch products will be available:
- The SoundTouch Stereo JC System ($1,199) features two pairs of the company’s iconic Jewel Cube speakers plus its Acoustimass bass module. It also includes the SoundTouch controller, because the Jewel Cubes are not large enough to accommodated hard preset buttons and the bass module is intended to be placed anywhere in a room — including places that may be inconvenient.
- The SoundTouch SA–4 amplifier ($499) will SoundTouch–enable any other Bose speakers, and also comes with the SoundTouch controller.
- The SoundTouch controller will be sold individually, as well.
A wireless adapter that SoundTouch–enables Bose Lifestyle home theater systems and VideoWave televisions also will be available some time in early 2014. Its price has not been announced.
Backward Compatibility Not Assured
Yet not every Bose product will be adaptable, Gudell noted.
Current and older Wave music systems, for example, won’t work with the SoundTouch pedestal adapter that is included with the forthcoming Wave SoundTouch, he said.
That’s because the pedestal adapter, which draws on the music system’s main unit (radio box) for power, requires more juice than the current and older Wave music systems could provide. So, the Wave SoundTouch is equipped with a larger power supply, and its pedestal adapter will not be sold separately.