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New Bose `Wave' Radio Offers Shoebox-Sized Hi-Fi

BOSE Corp., a manufacturer of high-quality sound equipment, claims its new radio-alarm clock is ``one of the most significant developments in radio.''

Is that typical company hype or a real breakthrough?

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According to Michael Riggs, executive editor of Stereo Review magazine in New York, the radio is ``a very big step'' in sound quality. ``It's kind of astonishing to hear that kind of sound out of something that size,'' he says.

Bose Corp.'s shoebox-sized ``Wave'' radio packs the quality of many larger high-fidelity stereo systems. It can also serve as a receiver, enabling listeners to plug in compact disc players, TVs, or more speakers. The radio also has a credit-card sized remote control.

At $349, it is probably the most expensive alarm clock on the market. Consumers may not want to pay such a high price, says Andy Petite, president of Boston Acoustics Inc., a manufacturer of stereo equipment. ``Most people are looking for something around $200.''

Despite the price, Bose Corp. may have found a niche. ``There's been a vacancy in the market for a really high-performance stereo/radio,'' Mr. Petite says.

``The breakthrough is the coupling of an acoustic waveguide with [a speaker] to produce high fidelity from the systems that are very, very small,'' says Amar Bose, who founded the Framingham, Mass., company in 1964.

The ``waveguide'' is a set of 34-inch-long wound tubes that direct sound waves toward two 2 1/2-inch speakers. This allows a wide range of frequencies to be reproduced without the distortion common in small radios.

The Wave radio, which uses the same technology as Bose Corp.'s 12-foot Acoustic Wave Cannon speakers, took five years and $3 million to develop. It is aimed at people who want a mid-priced but good-sounding small stereo system, Mr. Bose says.

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``It really doesn't have any competition,'' Mr. Riggs adds.

The Wave radio offers better sound and more functions than other tabletop radios.

But Bose says he was worried it might be overshadowed by lower-priced radios.

Since July, the radio has been sold directly by Bose Corp., except for a stint on QVC shopping network. TV advertising is planned for next spring.

Though company research shows that most consumers use the new radio in their bedrooms, Bose does not consider the alarm its most important feature. ``The alarm was incidental,'' he says.

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