Product Type: Sony hifi systems
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Small in size - Big in facilities
Member Name: droopsnout
Date: 14/10/01, updated on 14/10/01 (2217 review reads)
Advantages: Quality, Price, Facilities
Disadvantages: Lack of tone controls
Previous opinions have said a lot of what needs to be said, and this review is probably arriving fairly late in the shelf life of the product.
However, at risk of making previous contributors somewhat green with envy, I write because you may be lucky enough to find this set at reduced prices in your local department stores. I did - and snapped it up for about £150. It's the version without the tape deck, which I don't need.
It may help to know just a little of my own background. I'm not an extreme hi-fi freak, but I do have a full-size system of separates, including mini-disc, in my living room. These include rather old, but extremely revealing, Monitor Audio MA5 speakers, and I just love the gutsy but sparklingly clear sound that they give, even without a subwoofer.
I wanted a small system for my study, where I listen a lot to Radio Five (so no hi-fi requirement there), but also to my CDs and MDs, where I would be disappointed at the thin sound quality of many set-ups.
A previous contributor has mentioned that there were a lot of wires. Well, there are two speaker leads (and I agree with previous ops that they are rather short, though this is not a problem in my case), and an AM antenna of the plastic loop type. This allows me to receive all the MW/AM stations that other decent quality equipment in the house picks up. However, what is really great is that you can input the station name on AM so that when you flip through the preset stations, their names appear on the display, rather like RDS does on FM.
Speaking of FM, here is where I have a problem. I don't know if an FM antenna was missing from my package (the instruction book is not clear on this), but I can't receive any FM stations at all, and the set really needs a 75-ohm co-axial connection to a proper roof or loft antenna. I've emailed Sony support to see if I should have received one, and await their response. In the meantime, the FM sid
e of the unit is almost useless, though I can pick up my local BBC transmitter with a bit of co-ax stuck in the back!
But these were the only wires (apart from the mains cable!) that you have to deal with. Speakers and AM antenna. No big deal at all! I don't think it comes much simpler, except in cheaper outfits which use an internal ferrite rod aerial.
Previous ops have praised the facility for CD text, which simply means that when you put in a new CD, you can tell the machine its title, and when you insert it on a subsequent occasion, the CD's title will be displayed. It is handy, but potential buyers should be aware that the system caters for just 50 CDs. If you have more, hard luck - you can only input the titles of 50. There is no similar limitation on the mini-disc system, of course.
Mini-disc features are, I think, almost as good as my Sony separate, which itself cost more than this entire system. I am very impressed - especially when you think that you could easily pay what I paid for the system just for a personal MD Walkman.
If you wish to record a CD, you can synchronise the start of both CD and MD, making accurate transposition very easy.
If you are unfamiliar with the benefits and features of the MD in general, I suggest you read it up or ask a friend who has one, because it really is amazing. Simply put, you can do everything you can with a cassette tape machine - and then triple it, at least. Title your MDs and tracks, edit them, change the order of tracks for playback, use the same random/shuffle/programme functions of a CD player ... I could go on.
One useful feature of MD is that you can record in mono. I see your quizzical face. Well, if you wish to copy, say, an audiobook, which often comes on two cassettes, you can double your recording time on the MD by recording in mono. And you won't miss the stereo just for a story-reading. MDs usually last for 74 mins in stereo, so 148 mins i
n mono. Useful, too, for recording radio programmes whilst you're out. And YES, the MD373 does have a timer/record feature! Brilliant!
One weakness I would identify for this unit is its lack of tone control knobs. So you can't set levels for treble and bass. However, there are five preset tone settings (Rock, Classic, Jazz, etc) plus "Flat". In practice, this will satisfy most users. Unsurprisingly, it comes factory-set as "Rock", which seems to give the fullest sound. It also has a "bass-boost" system, called DBFB.
There is also a sleep timer and wake-up timer, which are very useful if you have the system in a bedroom, for which it is extremely suitable.
The front panel boasts a line-in miniature jack, which would be very handy indeed for playing (or copying) sound input from an external device such as a personal MD player or cassette Walkman. An earphone socket is also front-mounted. At the rear are the aerial connections and the faciltity to add an external tape deck. You even have an optical line-in socket.
The remote is pretty comprehensive in its functions, though not all functions are present. You can set the DBFB, but you can't shuffle through the tone presets. Nor can you change the tuning mode for the tuner (auto/manual/preset), swap between stereo and mono for the tuner (useful for weak FM transmissions), eject CDs or MDs, record on the MD or invoke "One Touch Play". And, strangely to my way of thinking, there is no "Mute" button on the remote for when the phone goes. And it always does!
The speakers are approx. 11 inches tall. Do check your bookshelves before buying! They have an attractive appearance, happily matching the beech effect of my study desk. They have a removable cloth grill in a silvery grey. Quaity is pretty good considering both size and cost. You do get a lot for your money with this set! Officially, they are 2-way, bass-reflex types
with a 13cm diameter cone woofer, with a 2.5cm tweeter, balanced drive type. Nominal impedance is 6 ohms, so you may wish to seek advice before trying the more normal 8-ohm speakers to see if you get a better sound!
Previous reviewers have mentioned a 30-watt power output. This what Sony usually quote for this set. However, that is with continuous RMS power output with 10% Total Harmonic Distortion. For what it's worth, DIN power output is 25+25 watts. And the dreaded PMPO (Peak Music Power Output) is 50+50 watts.
Take it from me that in a small room there is more than enough power! Maximum volume setting shows the figure 30 on the display. Comfortable listening to Radio Five is set at 9 for me. I tend to play music when I'm computing, and a setting of 20 is ample for most music.
To sum up, this a fine mini-system, and I heartily recommend it, especially if you can find it at a reduced price in the shops. (Mine was ex-demo off the shop shelf, but had no marks or scratches). I also took a further 10% off by signing up for a Debenhams charge card at the same time!
If the unit is no longer available, you can bet a week's earnings that there will be a similar model. Go for it!
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