A small and stylish Hi-Fi with iPod, CD and digital radio functions
Sony's CMTCX5BiP is a micro Hi-Fi system that's poorly named but luckily quite stylish and functional: its main features include an iPod/iPhone dock and a digital radio tuner. It sounds clear and adequately rich when playing all sorts of musical styles, but it can sometimes struggle with bass-heavy songs. This isn't surprising given its relatively slim profile.
It's a Hi-Fi that's designed for users who want something for a bedroom or small apartment. It has detachable 2-way speakers and an amplifier with an output of 20W RMS per channel, so it can definitely be used to annoy your neighbours if you live in an apartment block with thin walls. The small size of the unit allows it to be rested in areas as limited as a bookshelf, but if you have no space, you can opt to wall mount it. You will have to make arrangements on how to lay out its power supply though, which is about the same size as a laptop charger.
The front-left of the Hi-Fi has a built-in iPod dock (it ships with various interface plates that suit most iPod/iPhone models from iPod classic to Nano), while the right side has a vertically-mounted (and concealed) CD player that can read regular music CDs or MP3-filled CDs. An auxiliary input allows non-iPod MP3 players or other audio devices (even your computer) to be plugged in. If you use this Hi-Fi system as an iPod dock, you can sit back and skip songs or adjust the volume using the remote control.
You can tune in to digital radio with this Hi-Fi and this is one of its major selling points. In our tests, its receiver picked up all of the stations that it was supposed to. Reception was good in our test location once we plugged in the antenna, which just looks like a run-of-the-mill length of wire — it will need to be stretched out and attached somewhere. You won't want to lose it though because one end has a proprietary connection. FM radio can also be tuned, but it doesn't have AM. You can store favourite stations quite easily — we didn't even have to look at the user manual — and the radio supports up to 20 presets each for FM and digital.
The very simple LCD display shows the name of the digital station that is tuned and also scrolls song or station information underneath that name. Changing stations takes a little over one second, and this switching performance is similar to many other digital radio devices we've seen in the past. The control buttons on the Hi-Fi are a little too small for our liking and feel a little flimsy when pressed. We weren't overly thrilled with the remote control either — its layout could stand to be more intuitive.
We found the sound quality of this Hi-Fi to be good and think it will do a capable job of filling up a room or small apartment. However, a setting called DSGX is a feature of this Hi-Fi and music sounded much better with this setting enabled. We recommend keeping it enabled at all times because it functions as a bass booster and without it the sound can be a little too flat. You can also control and bass and treble if you want — we didn't have to adjust these settings when DSGX was enabled unless we played the unit at close to full volume. When it was near full volume we had to turn the bass down to minimise speaker distortion. This is a trait that most micro Hi-Fi units exhibit. The chances are you won't ever want (or need) to play this Hi-Fi at its peak volume level — it's loud enough to fill a room with sound at around three quarters of the way to maximum.
The Hi-Fi comes with a sleep mode that can last up to 90min before it switches off the music, and the LCD can display the time. You also get regular playing modes such as random and repeat and there is also a program mode. We wish some aspects of the menu interface and remote control were a little bit better — especially for selecting folders and songs off a burned CD — but it's not a terribly hard Hi-Fi to use and you get the hang of it after a short while.
Overall, this micro Hi-Fi is definitely useful for those of you who want a multi-purpose music system with decent audio performance and a small footprint. Its price is reasonable for a unit that also includes a digital radio tuner and its slightly rounded, vertical (and wall-mountable) design is pleasing on the eye and not as bold as some other micro Hi-Fi designs we've seen.