The first thing that impresses you about Bose's top-line home theatre system is 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 floor, it's a dauntingly complex set up. 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 - even some copy-protected CDs - a process that takes about five minutes per disc. 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. The MP3 CDs you've burnt yourself will play fine but won't display track titles.
Luckily 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 different listeners who can use the remote to rate tracks and fine-tune the Lifestyle 48's DJing skills.
The impatient will abandon uMusic quickly but once mastered, it is an intelligent and useful tool. Using an elaborate TV menu you can 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. Soundwise, 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-inch 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. The Lifestyle 48 includes a nifty feature dubbed ADAPTiQ which, in conjunction with a set up CD and headset, lets you position the speakers to suit the acoustics of your room. On-screen graphics guide you through the set up.
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 DVDs these days.
A stack of inputs allow for Sky 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.
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.
Price:$7,999; Vendor:Bose; Phone:1800 023 367; URL: http://www.bose.com.au