Another cool feature of the Wave/PC is that the Bose software downloads the song titles for a CD the first time you insert it in your computer's CD-ROM drive by automatically logging onto Gracenote's compact disc database Web site (www.cddb.com). You can then use Bose's integrated MP3 encoder - or ripper - to turn the whole album, or selected tracks from it, into MP3 files stored on the hard drive. This is the first encoder I've used in which the default data rate is 192 kbps, though you can also choose 64, 128, or 160 kbps as well as 256 or 320 kbps. To play a CD burned with MP3 files, you must add your computer's CD-ROM drive to the available sources from the setup menu.
To enjoy Web radio, you'll need an active Internet connection - the faster, the better. You can set the Bose software to automatically load your browser and connect whenever you switch to Web radio mode. This even works with America Online's dial-up service, though I typically had to wait a few minutes for the first station to be heard. You can't set the alarm to wake up to Web radio, but given the occasional flakiness of the Net, that's probably a good thing.
Truth be told, when I sat down to load up the presets, I was thwarted from locking in KFOG, a favorite San Francisco radio station. The Bose software recognizes only the RealAudio format used by most Webcasters. But KFOG embeds its bitstream in a Yahoo! player format that isn't compatible with the Bose software. Nonetheless, there were plenty of other choices to fill the presets, including an on-demand newscast from the ABC Radio Network, London's BBC Radio 4, and a National Public Radio station in Texas that carried a performance of the Boston Symphony from Symphony Hall when my local affiliate did not.
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