Digital radio celebrated its first anniversary in Australia last month. However, CHOICE has been underwhelmed so far with most of the digital radio products available. We’ve conducted tests on two digital radio (DAB+) systems, and while the quality has been good overall, they are extremely expensive for what is basically a clock radio on steroids.
The Sony CMTFX350i is a positive step towards delivering a good micro system that doesn’t cost several hundred dollars just by virtue of having a DAB+ tuner. The sound quality to be gained from this system is very good compared with DAB+ radios with integrated mono speakers that cost up to three times the price. Interestingly, while we still think this DAB+ system is good value, Sony’s CMTFX300 model without DAB+ is technically identical in all other aspects and costs only $179.
As well as DAB+ radio, the CMTFX350i includes an FM tuner with a combined 20-station preset. The unit has a timer (sleep) and alarm function, making it a good bedroom sound system option, and while the DAB+/FM antenna supplied is no more than a single wire, the tuner picked up all available stations without too much trouble in our testing. The remote that comes with the system is fairly basic and straightforward to operate and can also be used to operate other Sony products.
The top-loading CD player has a fairly flimsy spindle, but works as well as you’d expect for a system at this price point, and the obligatory iPod support is well designed with a solid dock connection. It also offers separate connections for a non-iPod music player and headphones. Sound quality is more than satisfactory, and can be improved further by replacing the speakers with a pair of better-quality 4-ohm speakers.
While not as portable as an all-in-one radio, the ability to move the speakers around the room to create better stereo separation makes the CMTFX350i a more effective music option for the home.
CHOICE has long been asking why digital radios should cost so much more than equivalent FM/AM radios. The Sony CMTFX350i will hopefully force down the price of other digital radio products to a more reasonable level.