How many clicks, how many fingertaps does it take to get your favorite music playing when you come home? Any number greater than one should make you interested in Bose’s new SoundTouch technology, the audio pioneer hopes. Promising “a whole new way of enjoying your music at home,” Bose on Thursday introduced a new, wireless music system that is slated to become a company-wide standard for virtually all of Bose’s hifi and video products.
“It should be effortless to get to your music. It should be as easy as turning on the lights when you walk into a room,” said Bose product line manager Glenn Gomes-Casseres at the unveiling of the SoundTouch system in New York. To reach this goal, the company is combining technologies new and old: any SoundTouch device features six preset buttons that can be programmed through mobile apps or Bose software on PCs and Macs. The music can stream from a computer in the home or from the Internet, such as radio stations or services like Pandora.
“Over the next few months we will be introducing many new SoundTouch systems,” says Gomes-Casseres. “Almost every home audio system we make will be compatible with SoundTouch.” Immediately available are three new speaker systems, ranging in price from $399 to $699. The SoundTouch 30 is the flagship model, promising room-filling sound despite its moderate size, while the SoundTouch 20, at $399, aims at smaller budgets and smaller rooms. People often on the move may prefer the battery-powered The SoundTouch Portable, also $399, which offers music entertainment without any strings attached.
Using a dedicated Apple or Android app, SoundTouch speakers can be controlled individually or in groups. The Bose app can talk to various devices on a local Wi-Fi network, as long as all of them share the same hotspot. To play music, the app can tap into songs stored on a computer at home or connect to Internet services. Initially, Bose has partnered with Pandora, iHeartRadio and Deezer, but plans to add other services. Apple users can also stream music to SoundTouch speakers directly from iOS devices via AirPlay, Apple’s own wireless standard that is supported by a variety of manufacturers, including Denon, JBL and Philips.
“We don’t know who’s going to win the war between Apple and Android,” says Tim Saeger, Bose’s Vice President of Home Entertainment, Product Development. “There are two big platforms that we want to support, because we expect our customers to be on one or the other, and we can give a great experience on both platforms.”
Bose presented its new range of speakers in a remodeled $30 million townhouse in New York’s Greenwich village. Fancy? Sure. But any home bigger than a couple of rooms can benefit from its new technology, argues Saeger: “If you want music for the kitchen, if you want music outside, if you want music for your bedroom – it’s not hard to get to three or four systems.”
Tapping into your music collection from another room, or discovering new songs and artists via the Web, can be a challenge in this scenario, involving many cables, passwords and routers to set up. By relying on its own technology, which it tightly controls, Bose claims to make multi-room music listening both easy and fun. “We’re very proud of the audio performance,” Saeger says. “But one of the main benefits is how it all works together. That’s really the magic we’re trying to put together.”
Fans of wireless hifi may see Bose’s move as a game of catch-up. Other companies – first and foremost the category leader Sonos – have been offering Wi-Fi stereo systems for years. Bose argues that nobody has made accessing streaming music as simple as its SoundTouch technology does. “We’ve architected the entire experience around the idea of presets,” explains Glenn Gomes-Casseres. “You can set one button to a playlist, you can set another to an Internet station, an artist or a single song.” No need to reach for the smartphone each time you want to switch channels. The app serves up extra functionality, but the system works perfectly fine without it. “You can be on your couch, reach over, push a button, and you’re listening instantly to your music,” says Gomes-Casseres.
Bose plans to quickly release updates to existing products incorporating the SoundTouch technology. First in line will be the popular Wave radio, which will be available in a SoundTouch version before the end of the year, followed by a number of other products. It will not be possible, however, to upgrade existing devices to make them work with SoundTouch.
What do you think? Is this enough of a step forward to make you reach for your wallet? Can Bose make wireless hifi mainstream? Let us know in your comments.