Product Type: Sony hifi systems
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Meanwhile, Eleven Years Later It Still Works!
Member Name: Nibelung
Date: 04/04/11, updated on 19/12/11 (102 review reads)
Advantages: Build quality, sound quality, neat design
Disadvantages: Some formats, e.g. cassette and MiniDisc as good as dead.
One thing that lacks from most technical reviews on here is any indication as to the longevity of a piece of kit, for the simple reason that to hang on to see if it lasts the course will make it too late to report on it as the 'latest thing'. Therefore, I find myself in the unusual position of writing about something that's at least 10 years old and still working well, although it wasn't me who's owned it all that time.
It was also with some surprise that I noticed the Sony CMT-SD1 'mini-hifi' listed on Ciao and Dooyoo; still not archived as obsolete.
I did however notice that it was last written about in 2000, and as you can guess, a lot of water has flowed under the home entertainment bridge since then.
The CMT-SD1 system really only refers to the central core of a larger component array, the core being an amplifier with CD player and radio tuner built in, oh yes, and speakers!.
Other stackable add-ons include the MDS-SD1 mini disc deck, and the TC-SD1, an analogue cassette deck.
As a result of my daughter getting a more compact system including the now-compulsory iPod dock, I've come by this one as a kind of 'doer-upper project', not yet being sure whether the magpie in me will keep it once I've got it all back together, or if it'll become a system for elsewhere in the house to save switching the lounge's amplifier through to the dining room, which doesn't seem to work very well - the length of wires needed being the usual suspect.
As I inherited it, I've got the main 'core' of amp/CD/tuner and speakers. On top of this I also got my mitts on the mini disc deck - OK I know the lack of one is hardly likely to be a show stopper, since the mini disc turned out to be 'one format too many' and was overtaken by recordable CDs and MP3 players almost as soon as it tried to gain some market share, but the fact remains that it was there, on offer for free, and hell, it was a gadget - need I say more?
More serious omissions were the loss of a cassette deck and more importantly, the official remote control - I just know my daughter's going to find these some day.
Yes, I know cassettes are also dead in the water these days, but I do still have some, and more to the point, a way to transpose them to a digital sound medium would be useful. I'd previously been a bit too zealous in ridding my house of all things analogue, having been rather over-generous towards my father-in-law who is now the proud owner of a load of Yamaha hi-fi that used to be mine!
A perusal of e-Bay found me the cassette deck section for about £26, which given the quality of this system, was very reasonable. Less reasonable was the 'silly price' being asked for a replacement remote control, £90 being typical. In the end it came down to a toss-up between a direct import from Japan for about half that amount or a non-official 'bodge-job' that only claimed to perform all the usual functions for about 30 Euros from a French web-site.
The remote control is actually quite important, as there are many functions which cannot be performed by pressing buttons on the facia of the components, like setting FM preset stations for example, altering the tone settings of the amplifier or setting timers.
IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
Having obtained the cassette deck from a separate source, it merely remained to connect it all up. Unlike many other true component systems, and more like those that only look like they're stacked until you realise you can't separate them, the power supply only needs one mains socket, the power to each add-on being 'daisy-chained' via two-pin shaver socket from the one below. Sony supply a very clever adapter to allow each component to be run from a conventional mains socket independently if need by. This splits in half like a clam shell to allow the 'shaver plug' to be locked inside, giving you a normal 3-pin to use.
Other leads include a system 'ribbon connector', which allows for remote control functions to be fed through to each component and to facilitate such things as 'synchro-start' between CD and tape deck or mini disc deck.
The main CMT-SD1 component has an optical/out feed for connection of the CD player to the mini disc deck, keeping the record loop for this item entirely digital until it gets to your analogue ears!
Curiously, all inputs to the amplifier with the exception of the built-in CD player are analogue, there being no provision to take the output of the mini disc player in a digital format, although it's got the output for it.
To keep the 'spaghetti at the back' to a minimum I bought 4 pairs of the shortest phono leads I could find from e-Bay for about £8 in total
Well they do say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there's something about this compact little system that shrieks 'quality' to me. Whether it's the apparent build-quality that just seems missing from current day offerings, or the subtle blue lighting of the fascia panels that comes on when you drop the substantial clear acrylic flaps from each component, it's difficult to say. It just gives off a timeless aura not present in a lot of present-day kit. It's also very pretty with lots of luvverly flashin' lights an' that!!
Of course, going to all this bother to restore it to its former glory would be a waste of time if it hadn't been given a full test first.
It also follows that I've given it my best shot, in the cosmetic area. Dust is attracted to electronics like....well like dust to electronics. It doesn't help that the main unit has a cooling fan at the back, and like PCs this became quite crud-encrusted, all of which helps to make the fan audible. A copious supply of cotton buds was used to rectify this. The brushed aluminium fronts were cleansed of the years of finger prints and each acrylic drop-down flap was also suitably polished, and in one case, rid of candle wax. (don't even ask). Cotton buds were also used to get dust from all those visible parts that normal dusting can't reach. The end product is an article that's difficult to tell from new.
Well, when I first received it and spotted the fact that the main amplifier and the mini disc player were the same dimensions, it seemed appropriate to experiment with putting them side by side as well as one on top of the other. I was pleased to find that this was also true of the cassette deck. Hats off to Sony for shoe-horning a cassette deck into such a diminutive box.
Of course, there's also the ever present spectre of an FM switch-off in favour of DAB rendering the tuner section next to useless*, but the date of this keeps slipping back.
(* It's mooted that FM will be kept going for local stations)
This system does remind you of what they say about swans swimming against the current. The bits you can see are all unflustered and tidy, but underneath or rather at the back, it's a frenzy, in this case of cables. It certainly pays to try to get the shortest phono leads you can find or keep them bundled up just as they fall out of the packet!
I've done quite well at obtaining the manuals for this system. Both the main component's and the cassette deck's were easy to obtain, but that of the mini disc player has eluded me, and I've had to make do with the French/Spanish version from the Sony Europe web-site. A mí es igual, hay que practicar.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE?
Bear in mind that this was once described as 'a high-end lifestyle system', a cynic might expect that it looks better than it sounds, rather like Bang & Olufsen kit today, but if the truth be known, it packs a half-decent punch in the sound quality department, courtesy of its twin cone speakers, which appear to be Taiwan-sourced, although going back say 12 years to its design stage, it wouldn't surprise me to find that the speaker cones themselves were British, this being quite common practice at the time.
Initial sound reproduction without intervention from the remote control is only so-so by modern day standards, but with a bit of experimentation in the placement of the bookshelf speakers, huge improvements in the bass output can be effected. I guess this has always been the problem with 'bookshelf' speakers - they tend to get put on them!
You certainly need to make sure that the rear-facing bass ports aren't pressed right up against a wall.
In common with current practice on such things as iPod docks and the like, there's a bass-boost function to make the speakers sound 'bigger' although I find these enhancements fatiguing to listen to after a while.
I was somewhat pleased to find that it plays CD-R recorded discs, which we tend to take for granted nowadays, but I could so easily have come unstuck here, given the vintage of the machine. CD-ROMs with mp3 files are another matter, getting you a blank stare from the display.
A BIT OF FUTURE-PROOFING NEVER GOES AMISS
Since this system has an 'AUX' input, I've connected a Kensington iPod dock to it so that my wife's iPod Nano can be used.
OK, inheriting someone else's cast-offs is not an everyday occurrence, and you're not likely to find one of these on 'Freecycle' - I certainly won't be giving mine away; not after I've spent money on it to get it back to full complement.
The timeless looks of it should still be standing the test of time in another 5 years. Whether you'll be able to buy mini discs, tape cassettes or listen to FM radio by then is another matter.
If you fancy a dabble with quality yourself, try e-Bay. Searches for CMT-SD1 sometimes work, as do those for the CMT-SD3, essentially the same hi-fi components but with fancier speakers and a 'sub woofer' (and fancier prices). Beware systems without the remote control though - a new one could be pricey unless you don't mind one that doesn't look the part for 30 Euros!
I took the cheap option, as I felt that buying the real thing was only going to encourage my daughter to find the original in her loft! (December 2011 - AND she DID!)
AMP/RADIO/CD SECTION (CMT-SD-1)
Output - 25 watts per channel continuous
Tuner - AM/FM stereo with RDS
CD Player - Optical digital output with Recording Synchro-Start for Mini Disc and Cassette
CASSETTE DECK (TC-SD1)
Dolby B and C Noise reduction
Automatically adjusts for tape type (e.g. Normal, Chrome or Metal)
Tray loading with bi-directional play and record (One-way, reverse and continuous loop)
MINI DISC DECK (MDS-SD1)
Optical feeds in from CD, and AUX. Will also sync with digital Walkman. Optical output.
Summary: Mini hifi component stack.
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