(Note: This op is actually for the Sharp XL-3500H, not the XL70H, and will be moved a.s.a.p.) One thing I really love is to have an early night and lie in bed in the pitch dark, listening to some of my favourite songs. Oblivious to the world, my sense of sight cut off, I can just lose myself in the music. Another thing I love is to listen to something upbeat and fairly loud while I'm at my dressing table getting ready to go out. To indulge in these two favourite pastimes, I need music in my bedroom. And my good hi-fi is downstairs in the front room. Tired of lugging an old ghetto blaster around my bedroom, I decided that it was high time I got myself kitted out with a spanking new music system for my boudoir. I had 3 main requirements: + It had to cost no more than £100 + It had to have the best sound I could get for the price + It had to fit on my bedside table (excepting the speakers) So, after a bit of research on the web, which just overloaded me with choices and left me none the wiser as I really needed to see and her the things before I could make a decision, I trotted off to Comet. Size wise it had to be a micro-system, which I love anyway because they're good looking and unobtrusive, so I headed straight for that aisle where there was a choice of about 20 different systems ranging in price from around £40 to around £400. Staring at the selection at around the hundred quid mark, my eye was immediately drawn to the Sharp XL-3500H, a compact system in light wood, clear Perspex and silver. It was different than all the others in that it had no cassette player, but was just a radio and CD player. As I don't like tapes anyway, except in my car, and have a facility for taping on my main hi-fi, this wasn't a problem. The Sharp XL-3500H was also different in that it wasn't designed in a 'stack' arrangement. Instead it had more physical depth and width than othe
r micro systems, but less height. It's higher at the back than at the front, and is curved. (God, this is SO hard to explain!) Almost the whole of the front lifts up and you place the CD on a nearly vertical slanted slot. The whole lot is illuminated in a gorgeous and adjustable shade of neon blue. Below this is a silver panel that you can slide downwards to access the buttons - a nice touch as it means that the system looks very neat, and the controls are also kept clean. Looking back at the other systems in my price range, I saw that the Sharp was also giving me more power and loudness for my money. Whereas most of the systems had a total wattage of 20, i.e. 10 watts output per channel, the Sharp was offering 50 watts total output. More than enough for my bedroom, in fact. The radio was the standard 2 band AM/FM and comes equipped with RDS, which for those who don't know allows you to set it to receive things like newsflashes, traffic updates and more from stations who put out this information on a specially designated frequency. This is particularly useful when I'm getting ready for work in the morning, as the local traffic news bursts in every 20 minutes or so. The radio is easy to tune, either manually or automatically, and can handle up to 30 presets. The speakers are 2 way and have removable nets. There are separate bass and treble controls, and a 'surround sound' system which you access at the press of a button on the remote control. using the surround system gives the music a much 'fuller' sound. Ah yes, sound. Taken me a while to get to the crux of the matter. The Sharp XL-3500H sounds very good indeed for a £99.95 50 watts machine. It can get very loud, and at every volume level (except very low) you can pick out all of the instruments individually. It has a nice deep bass, but this does not come out muffled or shake the floorboards. Instead it underpins the music with a satisfying boom. Other features are a clock, a timer (which means you can use it as an alarm clock, or set it to switch off after a certain time period), an energy-saving standby mode, headphone jack, an optical digital output for MD and CD-R, the ability to play CD-R and CD-RW, and a fully functional remote control. The remote control is, in fact, the only thing that lets this system down. The style doesn't gel with the rest of the machine (it's black and silver), and the buttons are very small and difficult to use if you've got long nails or fat fingers. However, that is a small quibble. I am very impressed with my new machine. It's not the standard I would choose for my house's main hi-fi, but for my bedroom it's superb. Setting up the system physically was very quick and simple. The instructions were clear and there are few spaghetti wires to bother about. Tuning the radio and setting the clock were equally painless when following the instructions in the excellent handbook. Overall, I think you'd be hard pushed to find a hi-fi any better than this one for under a hundred quid. Indeed, a search on the web after I'd bought it revealed that I'd got it at a very good price at Comet as other sites were selling it at up to £130. So well done Comet, well done Sharp, and well done me for making a good choice! I'd like to give 4.5 stars, because of the poor remote and lack of tape deck, but as I can't I'm being generous and giving 5 stars for what you do get for the price.