'Free your music' is the promise from Philips with its latest Streamium product, the Philips WACS7500.

Based on the previous WACS7000 but with revisions to its built-in speakers, the Philips WACS7500 is a hard-disk-based music centre, able to stream music from its internal hard drive to additional, slightly smaller, 'Stations'.

The basic system comprises one Philips WAC7500 Center and one WAS7500 Station, and up to five Stations can added, sold separately for £199.

Focusing on the Philips WACS7500's main unit first, the system can play music from one of several sources: CD, MP3 from its 80GB hard drive, radio (both FM and now, internet radio), and a USB memory device. There's also an external audio input for a TV or DVD player. An iPod can be added using Philips' optional (but free) Docking Cradle DC1050.

The Philips WACS7500's flat speakers are barely visible, being flush-mounted rectangular flat panels either side of the central display. Since the previous model, the WAC7500 has added mid-range panels, making this a three-way system when you include the internal bass speaker. You can control the Center from front panel buttons or with one of two remote control handsets, the larger version also including a small LCD display to give feedback on the track currently playing.

The smaller Philips WAS7500 Station unit has similar functionality but no hard drive - instead, it's role is to play music either streamed wirelessly from the Center, or from its own radio. Using the Music Everywhere button, all connected units will synchronise to play the same music, in time. When you consider the latency inherent when streaming media in wireless networks, this is quite impressive.

With styling cues from B&O and Apple, these units' build quality is good, and sound quality is not bad, although better sound can be found elsewhere if you're willing to forsake the Streamium's looks and relatively compact dimensions.

There are a few gimmicky buttons to augment sound, namely DBB (Dynamic Bass Boost), Smart EQ, and one optimistically labelled Incredible Surround.

Ultimately, these are just massaging the competent, if somewhat uninspiring basic sound, with the bass and EQ features not helping the lumpy bass. The smaller Station has fewer internal speakers and a slightly lighter tone, befitting its smaller dimensions, but would be more than adequate for background music in a bedroom.

NEXT PAGE: extra features, and our expert verdict > >

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews

Best prices today

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparision from , and manufacturers