Sony MX550i review
Compatible with the iPhone 4, Sony's latest mini hi-fi adds DAB+, CD and USB stick playback
While traditional two-channel audio in on the decline, as more people get Apple iPods, docks and DAB radios have been gaining market share of late, so it’s no surprise that Sony has combined both in its latest mini hi-fi.
With a list price of £219, Sony’s CMT-MX550i nevertheless sports a traditional look. Sold with two medium-sized black wooden bookshelf speakers, the main unit is similarly conservative; a smoked glass panel surrounds a LED display beside a huge volume knob that recalls hi-fis of old. Below is a grey plastic fascia sporting all the CMT-MX550i’s controls and a CD player, though it’s not all old skool – also present is a USB slot and a flip-down iPod dock that can house almost any Apple device, including the latest Apple iPhone 4.
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That iPod dock is surely the Sony MX550i’s headline feature, though it also makes for an excellent radio. As well as a standard DAB tuner there’s a DAB+ version for receiving the upgraded radio signal expected to start broadcasting in the UK within a few years (DAB+ is already broadcast in some European countries). DAB is simple to operate after a station scan, though it’s far easier to use the Sony MX550i’s own controls rather than rely on the remote’s confusing array of tiny and tightly specific buttons.
It’s a similar story with USB playback, which is otherwise impressive; names of individual folders of MP3 files on a USB stick are recognised, as are track names.
The crown jewel, though, is iPod/iPhone playback; as well as charging it, it’s possible to fully control the menus from the remote. If you don’t have an iPod/iPhone, there is a simple audio input, though oddly no headphones jack.
Sony MX550i: Sound quality
Although by now you may have ripped and sold your CD collection, returning to the old ways on the Sony MX550i is an ear-opener; sound quality is inherently more detailed and stable on CD. That said, the it does a sterling job with both USB sticks and iPods/iPhones, with functionality matched by some decent sonics.
Simple adjustments to treble and bass are possible, and though low frequency effects can sound a little divorced from the soundscape, the unit’s S-Master digital amplifier pumps out detailed, yet warm and effective stereo from its 60W speakers.
Sony MX550i: The cost
Sony’s inclusion of a future-proof DAB+ tuner (as well as FM) is something of a coup and, in practice, ‘real’ radio proves far more useful that having access to the globe’s many obscure radio stations available on ‘connected’ hi-fi rivals.
And with excellent iPod functionality, simple USB operation and impressive sound quality across all sources, the Sony -MX550i makes for a good value system if you’re after something that blends the old with the new
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