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I was surprised to read somewhere that 90% of us still listen to the radio at some stage every week. Since my car radio's loose wire lost forever its fragile grip somewhere behind the dashboard, I have to say my exploration of the air waves is now much less frequent than that. I do however, get out my trusty Sony AM/FM Walkman Radio from time to time when there is something I particularly want to keep tabs on.
It hadn't occurred to me until pondering this review, that there is also an analogue switch off planned for the radio signal, albeit mooted for much later, around 2015 at the earliest. That is a big shame for the subject of this review, which I'm sure would otherwise be valiantly upstaging grander and glitzier units much, much longer than that...probably on the same AA battery!
My radio listening tends to fall into two categories; sports commentary and sports chat. As an avid follower of Barnsley FC who perennially struggle at the wrong end of our division, it has often been more important to know what is happening at other games than what is painfully unfolding in front of my eyes. Despite my best efforts, it is also impossible to sit in front of the TV all day watching the English test cricket team, day to day work and chores inevitably intervening.
The radio was bought for me about five years ago with this sort of usage in mind. Taking up less pocket space than a pack of playing cards, it is easy to take with you when the need arises, as something belonging to the Walkman range should. With the emphasis on simplicity and basic functionality, this isn't a piece of equipment for the gadget geek though. Sony have manufactured a radio and that is what you get, with none of the bells and whistles that many may have become accustomed to. No such luxuries as even a station preset button or LCD are to be found on this device.
Its traditional tuning dial on the front is nostalgically retro in contrast with its modern, sleek, miniaturised casing. A large, sliding, oval on/off switch is situated on the front, with wheels for tuning and volume right and left. The only other switches are also on the right side, to change between wave bands and stereo/mono sound. At the top is the headphone socket, which has to be used in order to listen to the radio as there is no speaker. On the back, near its base, is the battery compartment which houses one AA battery. It is released by sliding it downwards with your thumb, but has a useful hinge so doesn't come off entirely.
What sets it apart from other portable radios, is the strong and sturdy belt clip moulded to the back. This enables the radio to be slid onto belts, waist bands or pockets to provide convenient carriage at just the right height for the bundled earphones to reach without having to be stretched. These are unspectacular, regulation issue black buds, rather too chubby to be worn with comfort for any length of time.
While not being immune to losing reception sometimes as you move around, the sound quality of broadcasts is otherwise loud and clear with only the occasional buzz of interference. As the antenna for FM reception is the cord type which uses the headphone's wire, manipulating and repositioning this can cure many issues. With this in mind, beware of buying better headphones without testing them with the radio first, as not all will be suitable for this purpose.
Admittedly only an occasional user, I am nevertheless reminded of that old Duracell advert every time I rummage for the radio and find it still works...you know, the one where the toy rabbit out drums the rest...for it is still operating on its original battery (not supplied) after all these years.
This is another impressive product from Sony, who in my experience buck the trend by excelling at designing easy to use, dedicated single function devices, that prosper from concentrating on doing the one thing well.