Any big-box electronics store will sell you a perfectly decent 46-inch TV for around $700. So why would you ever pay $5,000 for one?
Well, you might if it’s the Bose VideoWave, which couples a flat-screen, 1080p high-definition, liquid-crystal display screen with vivid, room-filling sound from an invisible home-theater system. That’s invisible, as in: No external speakers. No wires. No hassle.
Best known for audio products like its iconic Wave radios, Bose, achieves this miracle by building its acoustic technology directly into the display. Technically, it isn’t true surround sound, but unless you’re a serious audiophile, you’re unlikely to care.
I’ve had a system borrowed from the company in my study at home for the last couple of months, and while I’m not sure I could justify spending that much of my own money on it, I’ll definitely miss it when it’s gone.
The system comprises the display itself and a console about the size of a DVR that acts as the master controller. The console is the only thing that plugs into the screen. Everything else -- cable or satellite receiver, Xbox, Apple TV, what have you -- plugs into the console.
In the case of the VideoWave, “flat” doesn’t mean “thin.” This is one honking big hunk of electronics. It’s a full six inches thick and weighs 97 pounds -- 106 if you count the included table stand.
No wonder it’s so hefty: Sandwiched inside are six woofers matched to a proprietary waveguide for deep, full bass. Seven more speakers channel sound throughout the room, creating the illusion that it’s all around you.
The VideoWave system comes with a special headset used to optimize the audio output for your specific room. The console can guide you through the process, but with any luck, you’ll never have to use it. That’s because the $4,999 price tag includes not only delivery but professional set-up and configuration by the company. Once they get it just so, the only time you’d need to reconfigure it would be if your room furnishings changed.
Or if, heaven forbid, you wanted to move it.
I found the 2D screen, made by Samsung, to be crisp and bright when viewed head-on, though with some washout if you’re too far off to the side. Little matter, though: You’ll want to be head-on to get the full benefit of the sound, which maintains an impressive richness, both at lower volume and at more thunderous levels.
I found the VideoWave’s sound to be markedly superior to the mid-range 5:1 home-theater system I have hooked up to my usual TV. The immersive sound is good enough that I sometimes would tune the VideoWave into one of my cable provider’s digital music channels, effectively turning it into the world’s most expensive tabletop radio.
All this is controlled with one of the simplest universal remote controls I’ve ever used. It has only a few buttons -- on/off, volume, channel and the like. Most other functions are controlled by a clickable trackpad. Touch it, and the VideoWave’s picture shrinks into the center of the screen, to be surrounded by various options that you select by moving your finger around the trackpad and clicking it.
I’d love to have a remote like that for my other TVs -- especially since Bose’s installers take care of configuring it to control all your other gear. The convenience of the remote and reduction in aggravation alone should be worth at least a couple of hundred bucks of the purchase price.
But is the VideoWave really worth five bills? For that much money, you could certainly build yourself quite a home entertainment system. But when you figure in the delivery and professional set-up, the utter simplicity of the system and remote, and the absence of wires and speakers, maybe the VideoWave isn’t quite so off the wall after all.
(Rich Jaroslovsky is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)