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Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman
Incredible audio quality
Great voice recognition
Unintuitive and confusing to use
Difficult set-up process
Wi-Fi connectivity problems
Mobile app is confusing
Poor case design
The Bose Wave SoundTouch Music System IV is a compact home stereo system with excellent sound quality and lots of issues. You can source music from almost anywhere, but problems with the app and Wi-Fi connectivity make it incredibly frustrating to use.
The Bose Wave SoundTouch IV is a luxury home stereo system, but it isn’t without its problems. Bose is known for its high-quality audio and signature tone, and when you’re cranking the tunes, this stereo doesn’t disappoint in that department. It’s getting to your tunes that’s the problem.
We’ve worked with hundreds of home and professional audio systems, and we’ve never been so frustrated with a home audio system—it has never taken us so long to get music out of our speakers.
We’ll see if there’s anything we can recommend about the Wave SoundTouch IV, and when it would be better to look at other products instead. There are many home stereo options on the market, including other great speaker systems from Bose.
From the physical design and sound quality to Bose’s connectivity and software, we’ll see what Bose got right and what went wrong.
According to their website, the Bose Wave SoundTouch Music System IV measures 4.3 x 14.5 x 8.8 inches and weighs 8.8 pounds. We don’t know how Bose is getting those numbers because that’s not what we measured.
The body of the stereo is actually two pieces, a 1.6-inch tall pedestal and a 4.1-inch upper section that sits on top of the pedestal. Together they are 5.3 inches tall, 14.5 inches at the widest point, and 8.6 inches deep. It’s important to note that the depth is an additional inch if you are okay with bending the BoseLink cable against your wall and two inches if you aren’t.
Right out of the box, we began to question the design aesthetic. We didn’t understand why there was a separate pedestal that didn’t lock into the rest of the stereo. Granted, this system was released almost four years ago, but the shape and overall design feels so much more dated.
All of the input jacks are located on the back of the stereo. This adds to the depth of the case, and although it didn’t fit on any of our bookshelves, it works well on a coffee table, a nightstand, and on a kitchen counter.
All of the inputs worked as they should and had solid connections. The pedestal also has an LED W-Fi activity indicator and a button for setting up and resetting the device. Bose uses a nine-pin DIN jack for the BoseLink connection between the pedestal and the rest of the stereo.
It has never taken us so long to get music out of our speakers.
The separation between the pedestal and the rest of the home stereo’s case seems totally unnecessary—the top section on our testing model didn’t even fit snugly into the pedestal and had a little wiggle. Not only does this add a potential point of failure with the BoseLink connection, but because one side is hardwired, the entire pedestal will need to be replaced if the cable or pins on the jack are damaged. The stereo also needs to be picked up from the bottom if moved to another location.
There are a lot of grates on the stereo, presumably for air ventilation. The choice of grating for the stereo speakers looks okay and wraps around the sides of the case a little. The rounded corner works well with this stereo to soften the awkward shape.
The touchscreen LED display is sandwiched between the two speaker drivers, with the CD slot just below. Instead of the physical button on the back used for Wi-Fi connectivity, the touch screen acts as the on/off button, displays album artwork, and shows system information. If you tap the album artwork a playback slider pops up, but we couldn’t get it to shuffle through the songs.
The screen is bright and clear. The downside is that we couldn’t find an option to dim it at night, and found it too bright to act as an alarm clock by the bedside.
Despite the number of input jacks and other design complexities, the Bose Wave SoundTouch IV has a very minimalistic user interface approach. We don’t believe it’s meant to be used without the remote or SoundTouch app, even though the touch screen makes it seem like it should be easy.
Like the case dimensions and weight, the remote’s measurements were not as listed—they’re actually closer to 0.4 inches deep, 3.8 inches tall and 2.1 inches wide and weighs 1.4 ounces.
The black remote has clean and easy-to-see white text and icons with physical buttons that you can feel and hear click when pressed. Some have short and long press function with instructions in the manual. The design is pretty solid and our only complaint is that it has very little weight to it and feels too much like a toy for such an expensive, high-end stereo system.
While Bose claims “elegant simplicity” for their Wave SoundTouch IV stereo system and that the “system sets up easily in minutes,” we (and a significant number of other customers) found that to be far from the truth. Even with our tech experience, the initial set-up took three hours, with several more additional hours connecting to our devices and learning how to use the system.
After connecting the pedestal section of the stereo by it’s hardwired DIN cable to the nine-pin jack on the upper section, we attempted to connect the device to our Wi-Fi network using the Bose SoundTouch app. This proved more difficult than expected and eventually had to restart the pedestal to get it to work. When we finally got it connected, the stereo began downloading and installing a firmware update.
It sounded great—and then the Wi-Fi disconnection problems started.
Even with a high-speed business-class internet connection, this update took almost an hour to complete. When the update finished, we opened the SoundTouch app again and it connected to the speaker without any issues. But then…another update. Yes, linking the mobile software to the speaker system initiated another hour-long update.
Finally, after two hours of waiting, we got some music streaming over Wi-Fi. It sounded great—and then the Wi-Fi disconnection problems started. We tried moving the system closer to our router, restarting our devices, uninstalling and installing the app again, restarting the SoundTouch pedestal, and even doing a factory reset. The Wi-Fi continued to randomly disconnect.
Bluetooth, aux in, and headphones all worked great. Although we didn’t have a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive to test with, Bose states that select NAS drives are compatible with SoundTouch systems.
Next, we tried to set the clock and the alarms, of which there are two. It was quick and the instructions in the manual were helpful in getting our alarms set.
Along with needing firmware updates right out of the box, we found the SoundTouch app to be confusing and hard to navigate. The touch screen and display software cuts off the names of some songs and has very little functionality other than displaying information. What the software lacks is controlled by the hardware remote.
Overall the software functionality falls very short of expectations. Bose should have ditched the remote and built all the user controls into the touch display interface and SoundTouch app. We also think that the touch display and app should have the same functions and be able to control all the same things—having to switch between different control input devices isn’t very user-friendly.
We’ve already covered our Wi-Fi connectivity problems and were unable to find a solution. These issues have been mentioned by other users as well. We also had some Wi-Fi issues with the Bose Home Speaker 500 that we reviewed, but the problems weren’t as frequent and the device didn’t disconnect completely from the network.
The Wave SoundTouch IV is capable of being used hands-free with any Alexa-enabled device like the Amazon Echo Dot. Voice integration lets you start a playlist, change the volume, change tracks, find out what’s playing, and if you have multiple speakers you can change from the speaker in your kitchen to the one in your living room.
Luckily there are other connectivity options. Bluetooth is a breeze to set up, the connection stays solid when streaming audio, the aux input works as expected and the headphone output works as it should. We don’t have a lot of CDs kicking around these days, but we dusted some off and the Wave SoundTouch IV does indeed handle this format if discs are your thing.
Bose’s signature sound quality and tone is well represented by the Wave SoundTouch IV. Audio is clear and well-defined across the frequency spectrum, though there is a little less definition and thump in the bass than with the Home Speaker 500 and SoundLink Revolve+ that we reviewed.
The Wave SoundTouch IV is capable of getting very loud with almost no distortion. Highs and mids are crisp and clean, and the system sounded great with any genre we listened to.
The Wave SoundTouch IV is capable of getting very loud with almost no distortion.
The Wave SoundTouch IV doesn’t have nearly as wide a soundstage as the Home Speaker 500. But it does have solid and enjoyable stereo, with the two slightly-angled drivers. You can easily fill a room and hear your music with clear, full, and articulate sound.
The headphone output seems to have a little less definition in the bass and a narrowed soundstage compared to devices with better headphone amp chipsets. But the audio still sounds great—if enjoying your music with a really nice set of headphones is your thing, a dedicated headphone amp would be a good investment.
Originally $599.99 (MSRP) and now selling for between $450 and $500 online, the Wave SoundTouch IV is still on the expensive side. Bose has made a name for themselves when it comes to quality, so if you have some brand loyalty, they have much better options in this same price range.
That being said, there are far fewer options that also have the SoundTouch’s CD player or AM/FM radio tuner. Check out our picks for the best CD players and changers if you have a lot of CDs still kicking around.
A much less expensive option is the Yamaha MCR-B020BL Micro Component System that we reviewed alongside the Wave SoundTouch IV. With an MSRP of $199.95, the Yamaha MCR-B020BL is a very solid competitor. Although the Yamaha MCR-B020BL doesn’t have Bose’s signature sound, we were surprised by what it was capable of.
The Yamaha MCR-B020BL has a CD player, AM/FM radio, remote, sleep timer, and alarm. The sound has rich but slightly muddy bass and the speakers are separate from the stereo so you can set up your listening experience any way you want. You can connect by Bluetooth or use the aux input and there is a USB port for charging your other devices.
What the Yamaha MCR-B020BL lacks is Wi-Fi streaming, an app to control the stereo, the ability to link multiple speakers and systems together, and voice control. If you don’t need those options, then the Yamaha MCR-B020BL may be a good lower-cost choice for you.
Look elsewhere; this stereo is needlessly difficult to use and poorly designed.
The Bose Wave SoundTouch Music System IV would have benefited immensely from a pared-down interface and connectivity choices, but even then, it would still be lacking in aesthetics. Between design, software, and constant Wi-Fi connectivity problems, we can’t recommend this system—especially at such a premium price.
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