Over the years there have been a few portable stereo units which I have managed to break, even though they are no fault of my own other than over use, any quality brand these days seems to have questionable models which used to go under the reputation of where they were made rather than the brand name itself. In this case for example I had a Sony stereo for 10 years which was proudly made in Japan against my dads old Malaysian Toshiba which barely lasted three years and as a teenager my Sony model got the worst abuse against my dads gentleness with his stereo. These days however as consumers get in on the act with Micro hifi systems it seems that there may still be a market for compact stereo units, with a tape player, radio and the recent facility of offering MP3 playback through an additional cable. For most consumers such as students and teenagers, a compact ghetto blaster with a handle is the easiest type of music entertainment system which plays all kinds of music but the days are numbered for this type of product thanks to smaller systems coming on the market which hold more expensive pricing. ** This is a long review **
However I cant believe that this model is still on sale! Originally purchased in 2000, my Panasonic is now coming up for its seventh year birthday and still like the day it was purchased gives sterling performance with good quality sound to match. The difference with the Panasonic RXED50 against other company offerings is the fact that it comes with a double tape to tape system rather than a single player.
** Nars Quick Skip Product Spec **
Panasonic RXED50/RXEB50 model name and number, retails for £100 or slightly more.
Twin Audio cassette system with recording feature.
FM/AM analogue radio (not DAB) with digital LCD panel.
24 radio presets capability.
20 watt maximum power; 10 watts per speaker, 2 way design.
Remote control enclosed. (Needs 2 AA batteries)
5kg weight, silver and light blue design.
CD/CD-R/CD-RW compatibility, playable.
Power Blaster/Virtualiser function sound settings.
4 preset additional sound settings.
AUX input and Headphone input (both 32mm).
Sleep timer function.
49cm width by 14.2cm height by 29cm depth.
Way back in 2000 I paid £120 for my model which is a bit more expensive than the price which the RXED50 is now available. For a time Argos, Comet and Currys used to sell this product but I notice that it appears seasonally rather than continually probably because other rivals are being launched with only one tape player and in a more modern and smaller design. Whilst the RXED50 fails to win the mark over its curvier and organic rivals, I have yet to find another stereo unit on the market which has double tape facilities, a standard which is now beginning to look outdated against the idea of recordable CD formats and MP3 capabilities.
However the addition of an AUX point means that I am able to hook up (through an additional bought cable) my laptop, my keyboard and any other additional entertainment instrument which needs additional amplified sound.
** Design/In use **
One of the advantages which I adore about the RXED50 isnt the fact that it may well come with a remote control, but the buttons and dials on this model are extremely easy to use as well as find thanks to clearly marked labelling. The user manual is extremely helpful too, written in clear and heavy font set wording with good diagrams and pointers to get around the stereo geographically including a page describing all the marketing added acronyms. Whilst I dont actually know what Bit1 MASH D/A Conversion means for example, like all other Panasonic music centres and audio equipment, the RXED50 has it built in and as far as I can tell, if it does adjust or help out the general use of this system then Im happy to report that it still works despite the fact I have no real clue as to what it means.
So if you want to play a tape, you can press the tape button which sits alongside three other rectangular buttons at the top of the product, and the Panasonic goes into tape mode; if you want radio, you press the radio button, if you want CD you press the CD button and so forth, including the AUX button if you want to hear the chosen instrument you have plugged in through means of an additional AUX cable or similar.
Of course with each setting youd have to press the tape eject or CD eject button and install each type correspondingly before using the PLAY controls. In this instance the open front tray slides out with beautiful oiled precision whilst both tape doors eject beautifully on soft springs and both players close with excellent accuracy and great quality mechanisms.
There is one dial on the Panasonic which has multi functions; in so far as using the CD player, the dial can be used to search backward and forwards whilst in Radio mode, the Dial can be used to either infinitely search the radio stations or to go through any preset radio station you have programmed through the remote control.
This brings me onto the next issue.
Whilst the Panasonic has a myriad of controls which are nicely detailed and very intuitive, if you dont have a remote control, you wont get every feature that the RXED50 has. Presets for the radio for example can only be programmed through the remote control, as can selected tracks through the keypad on the RCU. The preset sounds and Virtual sound equaliser can only be set from the RCU too.
** Sound Quality **
Even after seven years of use, I can still stand by my RXED50 and faithfully say that the Panasonic has very good sound quality. It is not however the best as there are only four preset sounds to choose from such as Jazz, Soft, Rock or Classical. Sadly having had a PC with a 5.1 Theatre speaker system since early 2001, the Panasonic does appear old fashioned here.
In each case the Panasonic presents a standard graphic equaliser of each bank on the back lit LCD panel which these preset sounds equate to but it is annoying that as an owner you cant change any of the preset channels infinitely and individually. You can however specify to have no preset sound which puts the Panasonic into a standard stereo mode which can be good for some styles of music the presets dont quite help out.
Additional tweeters in the form of Panasonics patented Sound Virtualiser open up the tail ends of sound which is great for live recordings if you want to hear the mistakes in the music, but more often than not the latter setting allows more shininess and tone than anything else. But the bass system however is quite loud too which adds in a good balance of sound and faithfully as I have tried other systems on the market, the Panasonic still runs rings around models from lesser known companies out to make a fast buck. And you can add that Virtualiser function to any of the preset sounds available which adds total output sound. Yes, whilst the Panasonic lacks the curvy cube or tall cube styles that Micro HIFI systems command today, the Panasonic makes up for it in sound and feature capability.
** Audio tape player & features **
The tape deck has a digital readout on the multi adjustable digital read out, which shows everything in a calming blue background. The tape deck has full auto reverse modes as well as Cue & Review, handy if you know what exact track you want on audio tape and everything works with light precision and heavy accuracy. The buttons are light to press and the general impression is that the model is made to a good standard of fit and finish.
The only disadvantage is that you cannot adjust any of the settings to suit your needs, but I suppose this will come in future models or later on and also some of the settings such as the sound settings cannot be changed on the machine - you need to use the remote control for that!
** RCU/Remote Control Unit **
The Remote control that comes with the model is also packed with features including a Sleep mode which allows the machine to be used like an alarm clock. It really is an ideal machine for a graduate student living away from home or for anyone like myself, who doesnt like bulky hifi's and needs something compact and portable.
** LCD Panel **
The LCD panel is really the information centre where everything you need to know is displayed. With a calming blue light which instantly lights up the moment the Panasonic is switched on, all information is displayed in black clear LED scroll. However unlike DAB radios and similar HIFI equipment, thanks to the age of this design you wont get continuous moving scroll or song titles and words coming up on the screen; it does not have an MP3 capability in the way songs are displayed and can only go on display information such as CD 1 to as many songs which have been put on a single CD. In tape mode the LCD panel does the same, with the wording TRK to show track. I seldom look at what the tape is actually doing unless I am recording tapes and here is where the simplicity of the LCD panel comes into its own.
For starters there are small icons which appear in the top right hand corner of the LCD panel to show whether the machine has been put into auto reverse mode which basically, by the end of the A side on the tape, the stereo can automatically go onto the next side without changing the tapes side manually. I find this invaluable, especially if I am marking or making tapes for people and recording music examples for schools. Yes, whilst audio tapes may well still be seen as old fashioned, most schools still prefer them because of their cheap price, reliability and longevity.
The icons could however be made a little larger because often wherever I have placed the Panasonic in a room, I tend to place it away from me, or in a centre somewhere to take full advantage of the two way speakers. And despite the LCD having large wording for some of the features, the small icons for the sound setting Virtualiser and reverse modes for the audio tapes are too small unless you walk up to the stereo and peer into the window to see what is actually going on.
** Downsides **
Thankfully there are not many downsides to this product other than the fact that it does appear a little dated alongside better thought out HIFI systems which have better sound capability features. However lets not forget that what you have here is a portable stereo with a handle built in to make the grade of being portable as well as being able to be powered on batteries instead of the main AC power cord. Whilst the weight of 5kg isnt particularly heavy, the length of the unit and its width has proved to be bulky sometimes, particularly if trying to size it up on HIFI trolleys or stands.
If there is anything which does annoy me then its the sizing of the icons which appear on the LCD panel. The RXED50 can also play CD-R discs which have been recorded from PCs but sometimes they may not detect the disc the first time around.
Another aspect of playing however is the fact that RXED50 will only be able to play the standard size of compact discs rather than the small edition singles which some consumers may have as well as odd shaped CDs which also appear on the market. Sadly again whilst Panasonic do have a good all rounder here in terms of being able to record tapes, play CDs, record CDs onto tape, radio to tape and AUX features it does have a few limitations.
Against all this the only other downside of this unit is the fact that it is no longer on sale at many high street outlets. Argos used to sell the RXED50 but only feature the smaller and similarly specified RXES29 which I have also used and found has very similar details if not features but it lacks the double tape feature and the AUX input socket.
** Conclusion **
If youre looking for a double tape to tape player the RXED50 will not let you down. It is a dated stereo unit which relies on many features which were brought into place in the middle of the 1990s and even has its own retractable radio aerial which can tap into FM stations with ease and a myriad of features on the remote control unit which are easy to use, if not also helped along by a very easy to understand user manual. Tie in the excellent plastic quality, easy to locate controls and you have an excellent all rounder in terms of a portable music device player.
Ive since bought a Sony turntable with a built in amplifier which can be used through a single AUX cable to play my old vinyl records and of course the Panasonic is an ideal candidate for this purpose of using its enhanced features. This is a crucial yet important feature which seems to have gone unnoticed in a market for consumers who are looking to add their own music peripherals according to lifestyle and need. For some, an all round portable stereo may just be the product Panasonic hopes youll be looking for. Perhaps theyll get around to improving the model soon though! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2007.