We weren't blown away last year by Philips' WACS7000, and we've been keen to see the company's follow-up for some time. Here it is: the Philips Streamium WACS7500 -- a package comprising a central hard drive-based music jukebox (the Centre), and a smaller version (the Station) that streams media wirelessly from the Centre.
For the £699 Philips is asking for this, you're getting two complete products, both of which work with previous Streamium systems. The Station can be bought separately for £199 if you want to add one (or more) to your home music network. Has the Netherlands giant followed up the WACS7000 with a worthy successor?
Both Centre and Station are built from identical glossy black plastic, which you'll either love or hate. Build quality is pretty good, though -- each system has a solid, weighty construction. Our first thought however, was that Philips has seriously upped the quality of the LCD screens. Although still pretty small, both now rock full colour in a fairly decent resolution, making navigation more enjoyable than on the WACS7000.
In fact, there's an LCD display (black and white) on the main remote control as well, and it mirrors the Centre's on-screen menus. This lets you browse its content and features using just the remote control, though you do need to be in the same room.
An 80GB hard drive will hold rips of your CD collection, but don't worry about the low capacity, because you can only rip to MP3 format. Nope, this expensive jukebox won't let you rip to a lossless format. But 320Kbps MP3s will suffice for the vast majority of people and so 80GB will hold hundreds of your spinning discs, and a built-in, updatable Gracenote database adds artist and album info to the files.
You can also stream MP3, WMA or WAV files over your wired or wireless home network from a PC (simple software included) to both Centre and Station, or you can copy content from a PC directly to the Centre's HDD over Ethernet.
In addition to FM, Philips has enabled Internet radio in this incarnation of the WACS series. It's rather slow and nowhere near as pleasant to use as a dedicated system, such as Tangent's Quattro MKII. We didn't have much fun with it and there's no access to on-demand content from, for example, the BBC.
For Internet radio, the Station requires its own connection to the Internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet -- it won't stream via the Centre. Conversely, content stored on the Centre's hard disk can be accessed through the identical menus on the smaller Station, or a number of Stations. A 'Music Follows Me' feature lets you disable and enable Stations in different rooms as you move around the house for uninterrupted album playback. Very cool if you're Spring cleaning.