Pros: Good sound, relatively easy set-up, you can program favorite radio stations
Cons: Must buy separate antenna to improve reception. Speakers bit tacky. Awkward pauses between CD tracks.
I recently decided it was time to buy myself a stereo system. (Note that I have never owned one in my entire life; all I've ever had were boomboxes!) I really know nothing about sound systems. I've heard the terms woofers and subwoofers and know they have something to do with speakers, but that's the extent of it. So I came to Epinions and did a little research first, and decided that SONY seemed to be most right for me....that it sounded like the most quality name for mid-market stereos.
I was initially interested in getting a system that would hold alot of CDs (20+), so that I could program the playing order, and thereby "be my own DJ". But I got this sense that such systems were of inferior quality for whatever reason. I then went to a local electronics store to check out their SONY mini-systems.
The only other SONY mini-system the store carried besides this particular model held 400-CDs. The salesperson explained to me that it's not the sound quality on these 400-CD changers that's the problem.... he said it's that, with the CD carousel constantly having to rotate to locate one chosen CD among four hundred, the carousel mechanisms eventually get stuck/break down. So I decided to go with the 5-CD changer system, as opposed to the 400.
I hope my review which follows below will especially help the person who's not very knowledgeable about audio lingo, like myself, and just wants some non-techie information.
The stereo itself has a very rich, tasteful appearance, and is a nice polished silver. The speakers are rather large and are composed mainly of light-colored wood, which I find a bit tacky. If they were solid silver, I think they'd look a bit "richer". I will say though that the wood they did use is of a nice quality. I have the stereo set-up on a table, with the speakers on the floor underneath. I plan to buy a tablecloth or some ethnic fabric to casually drape over the table, to hide the speakers.
The entire system is quite heavy when in the box. I was not able to carry the box at all, not because of the weight, but moreso because of the size. I could not get my arms around the box sufficiently. Most people will need assistance getting this system out of the store.
I always read any directions that come with a product, and if written well, I have no trouble following along. The directions with this product were OK, but certainly could have been better. But just using the directions, combined with my basic electronic knowledge from previously connecting TV antennas, my VCR, etc., I was able to put the system together just fine. However, when it came to the FM "lead" (antenna?), and AM antenna, I was at a loss. I was able to connect the FM lead and the AM antenna to the backside of the system, but then I wasn't sure what to do with them. The FM lead is basically a single white wire with nothing on the end. The directions said something about hanging it vertically, but I'm not sure what that meant. Surely they didn't expect that I just hold the wire up as far as it would go, and then just tape it to the wall behind the stereo? And the AM antenna was a black wire with a black plastic square at the end. There didn't seem to be a spot to "hang" this square anywhere on the system. Was I supposed to tape this as well to the wall somewhere above the system? I'm guessing that in fact the FM lead and the AM "antenna" are in fact simply the starting/connection pieces for more serious antennas, which must be purchased separately at an audio store? I'll have to look into this at a later point. In the meantime however, I did in fact tape the FM lead to the wall, and the AM antenna is just sitting on top of the system. For the time being, the radio reception DOES seem to be OK, although sometimes if I walk to a different part of my apartment, I may hear a bit of static.
You can pre-program up to thirty of your favorite radio stations - twenty FM and ten AM. You can then use the Tuning knob/button on the stereo or the remote to have the radio jump from one pre-programmed station to another.
As mentioned, this system holds up to 5 CDs. The CDs can then be played in their entirety, from the first CD to the last, they can be played in a Random Order chosen by the "computer", or you yourself can program the exact order of the various tracks to be played from the 5 CDs.
I found that the Random Order option sometimes results in "long" pauses while the system is choosing the next track. (I can only IMAGINE how long the pauses must be with a 400-CD changer!) During these pauses, you hear "whirring" and "click, click.." sounds while the system is choosing the next track. To me this is the biggest caveat of this system. It ruins the momentum if you're having a party!
It's possible though that, if I were to program the track order myself (which I haven't yet tried), it would eliminate the long pauses, as the system wouldn't have to "think", since I already would have done the "thinking" for it. During Random Order play, I also noticed that it doesn't seem to play one track from this CD, and then another track from another CD, etc., but rather seems to play a few tracks from maybe only one or two of the five CDs, and then it will jump to two of the other CDs, and play a few tracks from each of those. In other words, it doesn't seem to space out tracks from the five various CDs as much as I'd like.
This system has two cassette decks, thereby allowing you to copy from one cassette onto another. There is also a button for high-speed dubbing, which means you can record
from one cassette to the other at a high speed, so you don't have to sit there while the first CD plays out each and every song at its normal speed, consequently "tying-up" the cassette player, while you are recording the songs onto the other cassette.
You can also record specific tracks from up to five CDs onto a cassette, and even program the order in which the tracks will be recorded. In this way, you can make a custom-made cassette of your favorite songs for the car, etc.
One downside to the cassette player is that there is no way to Fast Forward (FF)or Rewind, like I've seen on other cassette players. There are Forward and Backward buttons, but they refer more to the DIRECTION in which the cassette wheels are turning, and allow you to play either side of a given cassette, regardless of how it was placed in the player. Even though there is no Rewind or FF buttons, You CAN skip through the various songs on a cassette by advancing the Channel button, normally used for the radio or CD player. (I think this works by the stereo recognizing pauses or stops between the songs.) However, if you want to quickly jump to the end or beginning of one side of a cassette, I don't think you can.
As I mentioned, the cassette player can play both sides of one cassette, without your having to manually eject the cassette, flip it over to the other side, and re-insert it. While some may see this as a "plus", I find it only makes things more confusing, as it's hard to remember which side you're on, or in which direction (forward or backward) the cassette is playing, particularly if you want to continue recording on a partially recorded cassette. I think SONY should have left well enough alone, and retained Fast Forward and Rewind buttons like the "old days", and also continued to force us to manually change sides of the cassettes from Side A to Side B.
As mentioned, I'd never owned a stereo before, but I assumed that most would have Bass, Treble, etc. knobs that you could adjust. This system however has "pre-programmed" audio styles from which to choose, with the bass, etc. pre-programmed for each musical style as SONY saw fit. So for e.g., the R&B style is auto-programmed to be heavy on the bass, while the Rock style provides more of that "tinny" kind of sound, to accentuate the guitar work, etc. While the pre-programmed settings are OK for the most part, I'd still prefer to be able to adjust them myself, but it's not a big pitfall.
There is also a separate "Groove" button which can either be turned On or Off. I didn't notice this button for the first few days, and one day decided to press it. Boy, was I blown away! I had to run to the stereo to turn down the volume. By pressing the Groove button, it makes the system sound about 10 times more powerful, with particular emphasis on the Bass. When I later DEpressed the Groove button, thereby turning it Off, the stereo system sounded like a simple boombox in comparison!! So now I'm even MORE impressed with the potential strength of this system...
This system comes with a remote control, a nice bonus that I wasn't expecting. I haven't yet figured out what all the buttons do, but the remote seems to offer most of the same options as the buttons on the stereo itself. The remote even comes with batteries ... a rare thing in this day and age! At the very least, the remote has an On/Off button, Volume control, Tuner control (to change radio stations, or a CD/track, or to switch from Radio to CD to Cassette). It too is a nice polished silver like the stereo itself.
The stereo has a clock/timer, which enables you to then program the system so that you can wake up to music at a certain time. You can also fall asleep to music, and the power will automatically shut-off at the time you designated. Also, if there is a weekly talk show or something that you like to listen to, but may miss, you can schedule it so that it will be recorded onto a cassette or CD.