If you're looking for a new stereo system and 'simplicity' is the key word, then Aiwa's XR-M78 could be right up your street. There's no iPod dock in sight, just a good old fashioned CD player and radio tuner. Having owned a number of Aiwa devices in my time, I've come to realise that the brand offers very good value for money - but how does the XR-78 perform? In terms of the price, I paid £69 for the stereo around six years ago, but I've seen ones sell on eBay recently for under £20.
Design & Appearance
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Design wise, the XR-78 takes the standard boxy micro-system appearance and measures 144 x 170 x 280 mms. It's a size which allows the device to comfortably sit on a bookshelf or other tight crevice where a larger system simply wouldn't fit. The speakers are made from a light-coloured wood effect material and covered with pale green fabric - panic not, if green isn't your colour then the speaker covers can be removed (via a gentle pull) revealing a silver interior. CDs are entered into the top of the unit via a lid which opens at the touch of a button, and closed in a similar manner. The front of the device features the display screen, and also a series of buttons which illuminate to show the user which mode the player is in (CD, Radio, or Auxillary). To use the radio you'll need to attach the included MW/LW wire loop to the back of the unit.
Features & Sound Quality
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It should be pointed out straight away that if you're a fan of cutting edge features on your stereo, the XR-78 won't be for you - it's simply a what-you-see-is-what-you-get device with little in the way of gimmickry. In terms of special features, well, the XR-M78 doesn't really have anything of note except for a low power standby mode. When it comes to the basics however, the stereo features everything you would expect including repeat, random, and timer play. The success of any stereo system hinges on its sound quality, and I'm pleased to anounce that for its size, the XR-78 returns impressive results. There are three sound presets (Pop, Rock, and Jazz), each specifically tailored to the aforementioned genres. There's also a "T-Bass" mode which increases the frequency of the low-end sound, and a "BBE" mode to clarify the treble. To be honest I leave T-Bass off, as by default the stereo's bass is deep anyway) and any extra boost isn't necessary.
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Although dated, Aiwa's Micro System is really easy to use, has a decent sound quality, and offers very good value for money. The downsides include the fact that you can't tinker with the sound beyond the three selectable presets - but that will be little concern to those who are paying under £20.