* Prices may differ from that shown
Roughly two years ago when I realised that as a teacher I would be required to visit schools and take my own equipment, I would require a compact stereo with CD player, radio and tape added to it. There were quite a few in the schools already but they either had broken tape cassette buttons, mechanics and any CD put into play either jumped or refused to play. I also came to the hard decision of keeping or disposing of my cherished premium twelve year old Panasonic ghetto blaster. It had been purchased as a necessity when I was about to graduate and although over the years, friends have commented on its timeless look and impressive sound quality, the double cassette and CD player has been a lifesaver as well as a great machine with a full function remote control to boot.
The main problem is that the front loader CD player no longer worked signalling an end to the one feature I used more often and its AUX jack feature that turned the Panasonic player into a portable amplifier - very suitable for home keyboards, iPods and other devices that can use an Aux cable. Even when I bought another Panasonic from EBay, a vintage RXED55 last year, it gave me superb sound but no extra Aux facility.
The Sony CFD-S05 is such an appliance that has one similarity to my old Panasonic portable stereo - an Aux-in jack that lends the same small amplifier idea. One can see then that I assumed the Sony CFD S05 could at least attempt to offer a similar sound quality to the older Panasonic model. Yes, it is produced and sold by Sony but it only cost me £49-99 and for such a small unit, it made sense to replace a Bush ghetto blaster I've since donated to work that I had purchased earlier in the year and keep the Sony alongside the Panasonic for its CD function and aux line-in feature. As this review will shortly reveal, it is handy to have an Aux feature when teaching in schools...
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
* Model: Sony CFD S05 CD Radio Cassette-Corder.
* 13 watts total power.
* FM/AM radio bands with 10 AM presets and 20 FM presets available.
* Single CD player supports CD-R & CD-W compact discs.
* Recording tape player, UNLIT LCD panel, and digital analogue radio tuner.
* Aux-in small jack and small jack headphone socket.
* Bass boost/mega-bass sound option & ID3 tags on CD player.
* Operation/standby function button & 1.7 watts per speaker.
* Portable size: 13.5cm height by 36cm width & 23cm depth.
* My price £49-99, Amazon UK price in 2014 £45 to £60-00.
General Design & Quality
"Curvy yet blocky," is how I'd describe the Sony CFD S05. It has a default light grey, dark grey and black contrasting painted finish, smooth to the touch in some places and all major controls for the CD player and radio are located on the front on a slight slope.
Sometimes I do wish brands would take up and notice that not all homes like dark appliances. Fine if it is a vacuum cleaner where one or two switches are black but have white decals, but in schools and in homes with poor light, the Sony needs a lighter swathe of colour at times to make out the controls quickly. The tape player is on the left hand side at the top of the Sony and the CD player on the right hand side on the top, with likewise soft-release mechanism buttons for the tape player. As with most Sony products though, the ease of use is simple, quick to do and easily accessible because all decals and information buttons are clearly labelled and seem to be able to be used, even in dim light.
However, I'm never far away from the feeling that this Sony player is built to a budget. The tape player lid is all plastic, has no handy window to see a tape reel moving and although rubberised buttons and a central LCD display complete the product, the tape player buttons are hard plastic and reverberate through the unit, particularly when rewind and fast forward are pushed down. Indeed, there are a few surprises in store when it comes to general use.
General Performance & Downsides
When it comes to operating the Sony, there is an operation button, which I find totally unnecessary at times. Surely once a stereo unit is plugged in and the plug is switched on, a stereo like this should activate automatically? Regardless of this pointless feature, and thus an instant downside for the lack of energy savings putting the player into standby, the amount of energy that this unit uses is 13 watts total. Fine if you have mains power plugged in all the time, but sometimes my work involves having to use expensive batteries and there's a tiny red LED light at the front of the Sony that either glows bright or weakly if batteries are used, flickering as well if you amp up the volume.
There is a reason to why Sony state that this player is a "corder," and not a "re-corder," in reference to its tape function. Tapes may appear to be too outdated for many buyers but they are still used in many schools and those who collect and buy audiotape stories may feel justified in buying the Sony alone, for this purpose. So, whilst you can record radio, CD or whatever else you have put through the Aux-in jack, this Sony will not be able to record your voice or anything audible outside this players main function. This is because there is no internal microphone that has been offered. Not handy for new teachers who want to record any class room work as evidence, then!
Although Sony states that the speakers get 1.7 watts each for example and although the sound can be powerful via the volume control, I find the whole experience to be very tinny and off-putting. Infact, whilst there is not enough power here to worry the neighbours or scare a pet in residence where volume is concerned, the Sony offers no other sound enrichment other than a bass boost button. The bass button or "Megabass" as Sony claim, isn't really mega in its approach either; only able to offer a slight surround like dampening quality as opposed to a far more sensible approach that would give music a much better feel, a meatier edge and far more of a thumping sound. Here you get a little warmth but good balance, all the same - but it far from the quality of bass found on much older, vintage Sony branded players.
Like a lot of portable players on the market, the Sony can only play standard compact discs as well as CD-R and CD-RW. But I find the Sony takes its sweet old time to get through single tracks on a CD that most of the time; I resort to using my iPod with the cable and Aux-in as I have no time to waste when I want to listen to music instantly!!
Often slow to select and play the CD track, at least the Sony isn't susceptible to jumping if you move the unit slightly whilst it is playing a CD - but it is particularly annoying when it is as slow as molasses when trying to program the CD player to play or select a track.
Although the Aux-in Jack is located at the front of the stereo just below the main LCD panel, the small headphone jack is located right at the back of the stereo, which is another pointless location, especially if you own short cord earphones that would originally find themselves plugged into the iPod you've decided to add to the Sony for a public performance than personal. Also, you get no cable other than a power cable with this Sony product, so you have to buy a separate Aux cable to use with any device you wish to amplify.
Other downsides concern the LCD display on the Sony. It is poorly located and permanently unlit, making the numericals hard to see, particularly when Sony claim that the CFD S05 has an "IDE tag" feature where you'd normally get scrolling information like the name of the artist, album and song from the CD you've inserted. None of that promise seems to appear on the LCD screen however, only displaying the track number, if one track has been repeated singularly or "repeat all," in small wording or if "shuffle" has been activated.
When it comes to radio use, well the cost-cutting Sony has another annoying aspect up its sleeve. For the cost price of £50 I was expecting an old fashioned radio dial complete with a visual dial or at least a rotary dial all in one like my Tesco Boom Box has, but unbelievably you get a bonus with a sting in the tale with the Sony.
You'll get the "bonus" of a digital analogue radio tuner that offers you two choices of wavebands such as FM and AM. On top of that you have plus and minus buttons that you have to keep your finger on to find the stations. In FM mode you can then save up to 20 FM stations and 10 AM stations. That sounds all very well - until you actually tire of the system and then switch off the stereo and the Sony erases any stations you have erased!
The Sony does offer "cordless portable power" via battery power like most of its rivals and its somewhat lightweight body becomes heavier when 9 large 1.5V batteries are installed making for a very heavy unit when the batteries are in place. Unbelievably though, there is no facility for battery back up - i.e. knowingly when the radio features preset memory and presets you can programme, a single AA or AAA battery is usually required - but no, not here at all, meaning that you'll lose the radio stations you selected to keep in the radio's digital memory when you switch off and switch on again.
Other Sorts & Final Thoughts
Earlier this year Sony brought out another similar CD/Tape/Radio player with speakers like the CFD S05, the Sony ZS-S10CP at £50 to £60 but lacks a tape player and doesn't appear to come with a switchable bass sound button.
If you require a basic CD player with radio, headphone jack and an Aux-in jack, then the Sony CFD S05 should suffice but it doesn't make life very easy if you are looking for something that should be easy to use.
Then there's the sound quality, which at best will play whatever you, feed the Sony, but you may not appreciate the lack of actual quality when played through the tinny speakers. Infact it's a telling story that I prefer using my older Panasonic unit than the Sony when it comes to taking into school. I like my pupils to get the best they can when they hear music and loud enough over the din of cheering voices.
When the Sony name suggests quality, good design input and above all else, excellent sound quality, it seems to me that Sony have forgotten to include the little things that come with portable stereos as standard these days - even rivals from Bush, Goodmans and anything else from the ALBA PLC stable offer a richer sound with far more features, if you can live with the name and their origins.
Aux-feature aside, the Sony CFD S05 is a bit basic and you definitely get what you pay for. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014.