Okay, that headline is a bit misleading. Bose's new VideoWave system is a 46-inch 1080p LCD HDTV that is a complete 5.1-channel surround sound speaker system. No speakers — just the HDTV. The sound comes right from the screen, or at least that's where the sound starts. Sound certainly doesn't sound as if it's coming from the screen; it sounds convincingly like a system with the usual five satellites and a subwoofer.
And controlling VideoWave is Click Pad, a small RF remote control bereft of buttons and no numerical keypad — all the device-specific commands are displayed in an array around the on-screen image, accessed via a clever touch pad.
Built behind and into the HDTV is a sophisticated set of tubes and pipes and tweeters and subwoofers that creates startling full surround sound. In our demo, Bose draped cloth over what appeared to be tiny home theater speakers hung on the walls where you'd expect left, right, center and surround speakers to be. At a cue, the draped cloth all magically dropped away to reveal… nothing. Everyone in the room was hoodwinked because the sound was all around us. Truly remarkable.
It was like listening to a robot ventriloquist. Our demonstrator held one of the speakers with a laser pointer attached. He pointed the speaker at a far wall and, sure enough, the sound came not from the speaker in his hand but from the red laser pointer dot on the wall. He swiveled around and pointed to an opposite wall and, voila, that's from where the sound seemed to emanate.
Along with the hardware, Bose developed what it calls ADAPTiQ, which uses microphones to sound out your room and adapts the sound to its environment so the sounds reflect in just the right way.
Of course, all that speaker technology takes up space — the VideoWave HDTV is around six inches thick.
Also kind of magical is the Click Pad, the RF remote. The blank area around the navigation array is a touch pad. Just touch it, and device-specific controls form a frame around whatever image is on the screen. You simply run your fingers around the touch pad until you get to the control you want, then press the pad itself down.
It took me only a couple of minutes to "get" it, and suddenly I wanted all remote controls to work this way. For one thing, you never have to take your eyes off the screen squinting at the remote to find the right button — you can find everything you need by feel.
VideoWave is controlled through a console unit with three HDMI and two component inputs in back along with an HDMI and USB jack in front. A single proprietary cable connects the console with the HDTV. An iPod dock with a proprietary connector comes with the system as well.
Three problems: One, you have to buy a Bose LCD HDTV. I don't know who makes their set, but it's not even an LED LCD, and I noticed some old-fashioned LCD motion lag. Two, it's only a 46-inch set — the sophisticated audio system is designed for that sized HDTV. It is likely larger sets will be available at some point in the future. Three, there are no plans to license any of these wondrous technologies, so it's unlikely we'll see a Panasonic 60-inch plasma equipped with Bose's VideoWave sound system, which is too bad.
If you're willing to the price of a less-than-cutting-edge 46-inch LCD for not having to buy a whole AVR and surround sound speaker array, the VideoWave goes on sale October 14 only in the 120 Bose stores for $5,349 delivered, connected and installed, as well as Click Pad lessons, which won't take long at all.