Better alternatives to the Bose Wave Radio, tube TV longevity

Week of October 10, 2004

Q: What do you think of the Bose table radio? I am thinking of buying one for a room where we frequently entertain guests. I will connect the Bose radio to my TV and a DVD player to play music.
-Mike Hullett, Hampstead, MD

A: I receive a variation of this question somewhat frequently. The common underlying theme is, “I really like the sound of that Bose radio, but it sure is expensive! Is there anything less expensive that sounds as good?”

Yes, the Bose Wave Radio is expensive at $349 for the FM model and $499 for the model incorporating the CD player. Though it is expensive, one common theme I have heard from owners is that they are very satisfied with their purchase and are glad they spent the money.

For those willing to consider something else, there are compelling alternatives available.

Cambridge Audio Works has the SoundWorks Radio CD 740 at $299. I have not heard it, but the reviews I have read online and in audio magazines report that it sounds better than the Bose Radio, and it is $200 less to boot. You can see it at www.cambridgesoundworks.com.

My favorite product of this type is the SoundMatters MAINstage. The MAINstage looks something like the Bose Radio, but it projects convincing surround-sound effects from a single box, making it perfect for use with TVs and DVD players. It’s not a radio but a high-quality sound system in a single box. It would be perfect for your particular application.

I have reviewed the MAINStage and found it to have stellar sound, and the surround effects make it perfect for use with your TV and DVD players. If you want to use the MAINstage for radio listening, you will need a separate tuner, as it does not have one built-in.

The MAINstage was recently reduced in price from $329 to $199 with a $30 rebate. Lots of readers bought them at $329 and were very happy; at $170 net, it’s really a steal. You can see it at www.soundmatters.com.

Q: I remember someone once telling me that there is a difference in how long a TV tube will last in a “regular” screen TV vs. a flat-screen tube TV. I was told the tube worked harder on a flat-screen in order to put the image up and somehow it would not last as long. Is this true?

-Matt Lehning, Raleigh, NC

A: Most tube televisions have a screen embedded in the front of the picture tube. These screens are perforated with tiny dots that create the picture. It is commonly referred to as a shadow mask.

Some of the new screens have finer pitch dot screens, which means the dots are smaller. The tubes must work harder to squeeze the light through the tiny dots, which means the tubes produce more light energy, and heat as a result. I have heard anecdotal reports of the intense heat warping the metal shadow mask, but was unable to confirm any of them.

If you take care of it, any new tube TV is likely to last longer than you want to keep it! The kindest thing you can do for your new TV to turn down the color temperature and contrast settings. Most come out of the box with these settings set far too high, which can cause premature tube wear. Try setting the contrast (also called picture) setting to the halfway point and the color temperature to warm. The picture will not be as bright and the colors will be less intense, but the picture will be more accurate and your tube will last longer.

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