For once, I'm writing about something I don't own, but having spent the best part of a day getting one of these to work, and succeeding, I reckon that all I'm not entitled to comment on is its durability, although it does seem quite impervious to being sworn at.
The Denon S52DAB (described by Denon's manual as a "Wireless Network CD Music System") is an interesting proposal, looking not unlike one of those Bose All-In-One efforts that they are so coy about printing the full price of except in the small print of their ads. Yes, it's a stereo system but with that unconvincing separation between its speakers that will leave a true hi-fi nut tut-tutting.
However, for what it is; a glorified clock radio, probably doomed to a bedroom or kitchen (ahem, wait for the agonised cries of "not fair"), it sounds pretty bloody good, given a decent sound source like a 'real' CD or one of its radio components.
Note the plural. This one has AM radio (you must remember that!), FM radio (good old VHF), DAB radio - in theory better than FM (but only just) and 'internet radio', not so much a real radio but a link across that other kind of ether, as in 'net'.
This latter link can be either hard-wired through an Ethernet 'solution' of your own choosing or via wi-fi. Of course, your broadband does need to be running for this to happen, and you do have to understand how to set this up to make it work, which is kind of where I came in, helping a friend of ours set one up.
I'm not surprised she needed help. Apart from a quick-start fold out chart, the manual is yet another of those 'download it yourself' PDF files.
The chart is OK, but only OK. It assumes that you're not going to hit any problems, which is an entirely unsafe assumption in this case.
WHAT IT CAN DO
Basically it pays not to be put off by the alarming array of ways in which you can listen to 'sounds' and concentrate on confirming that, one by one, they work
As well as three forms of radio, you get a CD player, also capable of handling MP3 and WMA file CD-ROMS.
It's an iPod dock too, capable of connecting to a whole gamut of iPods including the iPhone, although the latter gives you a warning that it's not being charged.
There's a USB port for playing mp3/wma files on most kinds of external drive, mp3 player or flash memory stick.
You can connect, either via Ethernet or wifi to a PC being used as a music server, but this requires the download of, and licence for the doubtfully-named 'Twonkyvision' software - somebody should tell these people about British slang.
Sure, setting up AM and FM radio was a doddle, once you've established which antenna input is for which. This thing has enough aerial inputs to make GCHQ jealous. One for AM - this being a plastic frame with coils of wire wrapped round, the FM one, (not supplied and requiring a TV-type coaxial input) and yet another for DAB, this time a copper cable strip that you're supposed to blend artfully with your décor as you pin its tee-shape up the nearest wall!
Like most things electronic these days, it's largely menu-driven with very little in the way of specific knobs to press. Most alterations are done by turning a master control wheel which doubles as a tuning knob once it's all working, pressing the centre of which is the equivalent of 'Enter'.
Setting up the network link SHOULD have gone smoothly, but no amount of coaxing it to talk to my friend's Apple Airport Wi-fi router came to anything.
By all accounts we were doing it right, but to no avail.
Then after being shoved from pillar to post at any branch of John Lewis that wasn't too busy out selling even more of these in the run-up to Christmas, we arrived at the telephonic doorstep of Denon's own technical support number in Northern Ireland.
Yes, it was confirmed we were doing it right but had we attempted to see if the firmware needed upgrading?
Well, no we hadn't, for the simple reason that, at this stage we couldn't get onto the internet!
Unfortunately, this is one case where PC-based technology is superior to Apple - in the knowledge-base of others.
So, elegant solution or not, having no physical Ethernet connection, the Airport router had to go in favour of the Netgear Wireless Router freebie supplied by Virgin Cable (at least it obliged by being white!). Now we were getting somewhere with a bit of kit that both I and the Denon guy understood. I made a hard-wired Ethernet connection to the router, and set the 'update firmware' process going. Half an hour later, it was ready to run and try the wi-fi link again.
Lo and behold, having set the Netgear router to precisely the same wireless SSID and encryption password as was set by the Apple Airport router, we were up and running listening to Californian stations, KRAP I think it was. I can only assume that the Apple router baulked at supplying more than one IP address at a time or was locked to one single MAC number, but with no documentation and no physical connection, it was difficult to diagnose. On reflection, never agree to help someone who's just moved house, is living out of boxes and can't find any paperwork, if there ever was any!
Looking around on other sites, I'm not the only person who's found this aspect of the Denon's set-up tricky. Maybe Denon + Apple should ring alarm bells.
AND IT SOUNDS LIKE.......?
Very good actually, but thanks to a lack of tone controls (i.e. bass and treble), as a Radio Four listener, I found the human voice to be a bit over-plummy, although rock music sounded great, making this little buzz-box sound a lot larger than it really was.
CD and DAB radio, followed a close third by FM radio sound best. Internet radio can sometimes have that 'phased' sound like listening to Radio Luxembourg used to be, as the link between you and your chosen station speeds up and slows down. Streaming audio from your PC (or from the iPod dock) sounds as good as the sampling rate you chose when 'ripping' the music in the first place.
Well, apart from set-up, I'd also query why the need for so many antennae? It's to be expected that the AM aerial will be a separate job, but surely DAB still uses frequencies similar to FM, and could therefore use the same aerial - after all, there'd be no point in running both tuners at once.
The remote seems a bit lightweight and slow to work.
Not exactly a moan, but with so many means of listening to music, it seems a shame that it's a standalone item, with limited speaker separation and no means of sending the signal to a 'proper' hi-fi'. There is however a mono output for a bass 'woofer' but bearing in mind what I said about plumy bass earlier, is this a good idea I wonder? There's a front mounted headphone socket, but a couple of phono sockets round the back wouldn't have broken the bank guys.
Oh yes, and gun-metal grey is SOOO 20th Century.
It does a lot, mostly very well, with more facilities than you can shake a stick at, although I came close to beating it with one!
It's well made - well judging by the weight of it, it is!
It's just about to be discontinued so look for prices significantly lower than the more usual £330 soon.
Recommended if you love a challenge.