With the help of a big marketing budget and some good products, Bose has managed to carve out a big chunk of the high-end tabletop-radio market. However, it has some competitors, and Boston Acoustics' MicroSystem CD probably qualifies as the most direct rival to the Bose Wave Music System. The two products look somewhat similar, do essentially the same thing, cost the same price ($500), and even come in nearly identical colors (charcoal and white). However, there are some notable differences.
Measuring 4.5 inches high by 14 inches wide by 8.5 inches deep and weighing 9 pounds, the MicroSystem CD has a couple of things working in its favor. For starters, we liked its display, which shows radio frequencies, time, and other information in stark white on a blue background. The look is simple and elegant, and the bright display automatically dims after a few moments of inactivity in dark environments. We also got a nice surprise when we popped the front door to insert a CD into the slot-loading CD player. There, on the inside of the door, we found a remote caddy for storing the system's credit card-style remote, which has a tendency to get misplaced. Also, the MicroSystem CD features rubberized buttons--and plenty of them--on top of the unit (by contrast, the Bose has no buttons). After playing around with both products, we've concluded that we prefer having the buttons--the sleek, minimalist aesthetic that the Bose achieves is considerably less impressive once you misplace the remote.
The Boston Acoustics piece trumps the Bose in another department: connectivity. You get an audio output, a headphone jack, and three auxiliary inputs (two sets of stereo RCA jacks on the back and one stereo minijack on the front) for connecting other audio devices, such as an iPod, a satellite-radio receiver, or even a DVD player. A simple external antenna--essentially a wire--is included. It works fine, though you can certainly upgrade to a better antenna if you want to spend the extra dough.
Like the Bose, this model is a proficient clock radio that gives you the option of waking to a CD or a radio station. You can store up to 12 AM and 12 FM stations in memory, and the system also plays MP3 CD-R discs. A button on the remote allows you to navigate back and forth through various directory folders.
The MicroSystem CD's FM sound quality and reception were very good. All the local NYC stations came in loud and clear, and most of our favorite low-power college and NPR stations were noise -free. Male announcers' voices sounded rich but not boomy.