Bose LIFESTYLE 48

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Bose LIFESTYLE 48

Pros

  • Easy setup, crisp sound quality

Cons

  • Can't transfer from the hard disk to CD or MP3 players

Bottom Line

There are more powerful and much cheaper systems on the market, but if your lifestyle demands an unobtrusive system that delivers high-quality audio and video, the Lifestyle 48 is a good option.

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The first thing that impressed us about Bose's top-line home theatre system was the packaging. Every component is shrink-wrapped, the various cables tied in neat bundles, fiddly connectors held in little plastic bags. Spread out on your lounge-room floor, it looks dauntingly complex. But don't let that put you off; this thing is made to be assembled by the DIY home theatre enthusiast and a big wall chart and colour-coded inputs guide the way.

The Lifestyle 48 is for those who can't be bothered with the clutter and degraded sound quality of feeding MP3 songs from a computer to their stereo system. At its heart is a hard drive capable of holding up to 340 hours of roughly CD-quality music (Bose, taking its traditional secretiveness to a ridiculous extreme, won't reveal the hard drive's capacity). With the press of a single button the hard drive copies the contents of your CD--a process that took about five minutes per disc and worked even for some copy-protected CDs. The system's music database then identifies the CD and displays the artist and song title on the Lifestyle 48's digital display. Registered buyers will receive CDs in the mail as Bose updates its database with new song titles. MP3 CDs you've burnt yourself will play fine but won't display track titles.

You can listen to stored tracks while new ones are being loaded, but don't expect to be able to copy MP3s from the hard drive to CD or MP3 devices; it's a one-way street with this system.

Loading up the hard drive is simple, but that's just the beginning. While the Lifestyle 48 doesn't allow the flexibility of computer-based jukebox software, a system called uMusic monitors your listening habits and will assemble a track list based on what it thinks will catch your fancy. Nine presets can be configured for individual listeners, who can use the remote to rate tracks and fine-tune the Lifestyle 48's DJ-ing skills.

The impatient will abandon uMusic quickly, but once mastered it's an intelligent and useful tool. Using an elaborate TV menu, you can also change the title of CDs and tracks to suit yourself, and play around with the system's vast array of settings.

The central unit is stylish and the speakers come in white, grey or black. In terms of sound quality, there's nothing to worry about with the Lifestyle 48, other than complaints from the neighbours if you live in a small apartment like I do. Don't let the size of the five 4.5" speakers put you off--they produce crisp sound at high volume. The weighty subwoofer fills in the low frequency sound well, adding lush bass.

The tiny speakers are designed to deliver true 5.1 surround sound, but their effectiveness will depend on how they are positioned in your lounge room. The Lifestyle 48 includes a nifty feature dubbed ADAPTiQ which, in conjunction with a setup CD and headset, lets you position the speakers to suit the acoustics of your room. On-screen graphics guide you through the setup.

DVD playback is as smooth as a high-end progressive-scan DVD player. The surround-sound draws you into movies and the throaty thump of the subwoofer will invigorate the high-quality audio delivered on many current DVDs.

A stack of inputs allow for pay TV decoder, games console, projector, TV and computer to be fed through the Lifestyle 48 and if you're a real audio nut, you can choose Bose Link, which uses the system to feed sound into other rooms--if you've shelled out on other Bose speakers, that is. The classic Bose remote, updated for uMusic, puts all the controls at your fingertips.

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