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      07.01.2010 13:31
      Very helpful



      Self-contained FM Clock Radio and iPod dock

      Next in my series of "does anything outlast its warranty these days?" replacements comes my wife's Hitachi KC-90 iPod Dock with FM Radio.

      No, it isn't this that's bust, but it's a replacement for the 'outgoing' member of the Nibbles household, a 'Gear4 Houseparty II', previously written about in relatively glowing terms by me, and now about to get 're-visited' in no uncertain terms!

      This latter lasted less than two years before developing an electronic fault. Yes, I know that in theory, we are protected by the Sale of Goods Act for far longer than the statutory 1-year warranty (someone mentioned 6 years) but this then puts the burden of proof, that it hasn't been misused in any way, onto the owner.

      Just try keeping something portable in 'as new' condition and you'll begin to see where the flaw in the argument occurs. The phrase "you've been using this, haven't you, eh?" comes to mind.

      Given the apparent life-expectancy of these things, I wasn't in a mood for spending too much, so a reduction to £49 in the dreaded PC World made the Hitachi look like a decent buy.

      You'll note that I'm not going to give in and buy something really expensive like a Bose version (Yes, why is it that their ads never quote the full price except in small print, hidden amongst the installment plans? I think I answered my own question when I mentioned installment plans).

      To look at, the Hitachi KC-90 is neat but nothing special, rather like the last one in fact. It's black and glossy (mainly) and just shrieks 'dust magnet' at you. It's free-standing and at the front, there's an apron in which you stick your iPod, and thanks to a range of adapters, you can choose the one that gives the best support to your player without straining the all-important docking connection. My wife's current (second generation) iPod Nano fits just fine, although slightly off-centre, given the nature of its docking terminals.

      The main frontal panel of the gizmo is dead flat, whereas its predecessor had a slight backward curve to it. This is something to do with the 'NXT-technology' thin and flat speakers used in the Hitachi.

      Above the iPod, there's a tasteful pale blue window where a LCD display shows either which input is in use, or the current radio station. Yes, it's FM-capable too, but not DAB, and at fifty quid, not that surprising.

      There's an extending chrome aerial or antenna at the back which is a lot neater than one of those bits of wire they expect you to 'hide' up the wall on some similar bits of kit.

      With the mains adapter plugged in, it acts as a charger for your iPod even on standby, although when playing the iPod, you still have to squint at the player itself to see what's on. The Hitachi's display just sits there telling you that it's an iPod as if you didn't know. Other inputs exist for 'non-fashion-victims' to plug any other mp3 player in too, although of course, this 'solution' doesn't look half as neat and doesn't keep your player charged.

      Initially, the volume of the radio seemed unduly high compared to the iPod, so as an alarm clock this could lead to some really 'rude awakenings', quite literally, especially if you went to bed listening to the iPod but set it to radio for a wake up call. Yes, it's an alarm clock too, so its use as a bedside accessory is assured. Asthmatics are just going to 'love' its ability to attract dust I don't think. I'd advise setting the iPod's own internal volume high to be the same as radio so the cut-over is a bit more 'seamless' shall we say?

      THE SOUND?

      Well, I find the radio a bit tinny, and there being no physical tone controls, it tends to stays that way. However, for speech radio, it's fine, and to be fair, its excellent little remote control does carry a gamut of 'equalisations' ranging from classical to 'rock' via 'jazz' and 'pop' which partly compensate for the lack of something to twiddle. However, this merely leads to its sounding less tinny, not richer - there's a difference. Playing the iPod is not much different, but since this also has a range of equalisation settings, you can at least make it sound a bit 'bigger' by having a double dose of 'rock' settings, one in each machine. The fact remains that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and you can't make a 'lo-fi' sound like a 'hi'.


      Yes and no really. At 50 quid it's a snip, but having had it several months now, I was bemused to find:-

      a) That it's still a current model and

      b) That it was back up to a silly amount, more like £80 in PC World. At that price they can stick it where the sun doesn't shine, and

      c) That it's still working (fingers crossed)

      Worth it if you can find it reduced otherwise, leave it alone.


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