After much deliberation, and as much research as the Internet would afford me, I decided to buy this radio and try it firsthand. As always, I felt safer buying from Amazon because of their fair return policy and outstanding reputation. I knew I was going into this somewhat blindly because there are precious few reviews of this piece anywhere online, and even fewer by real folks like me.
Anyway, I got the product yesterday and test drove it in depth last night. Its first impression is an excellent one. The substantial heft and gorgeous "piano" finish would probably sell a ton of these radios if they were more readily available in stores. Set up was expectedly simple, and the user's manual wasn't needed until later on. Personally, I liked the metal, telescoping antenna mounted on the rear of the unit (where, by the way, you'll find a clean array of additional I/O plugs and the "3-D" sound selector. From every angle, this is a beautiful radio.
The first thing I did after plugging it in, was check a few local FM stations. They all came in very well, which was no surprise given Sangean's radio heritage. Be certain of one thing about this unit: it is a radio first, and then a CD player, audio file player, etc. The RDS feature was a novelty, but not as intuitive or lavish as I was hoping for. I'm not entirely familiar with what RDS normally provides on most equipment, though, and I don't fault this unit for anything in that respect.
It wasn't until I put in the first CD (a standard "red book" audio CD) that I experienced that all-too-familiar consumer electronics letdown. It didn't play. The unit acknowledged that it read the CD and recognized how many tracks were on it, etc. But I could not get it to play any of it. The CD was not suspect; in fact, I deliberately started with a CD that was playable on every piece of CD equipment I've owned. Subsequent discs, however, did work, and apparently with no further problems.
It was while I was waiting for the first CD to play that I removed a promotional sticker the factory had stuck on the front of the unit (advertising what types of media it can play). Where every other manufacturer I've seen has used a static-cling or no-residue adhesive to make sure the sticker comes off cleanly, such was not the case on this radio. The sticker came off with much effort and left behind quite a bit of very stubborn adhesive. This might've been negligible had this radio not been so beautifully finished, and the sticker not been put in so prominent a spot on the front. While this had no bearing on the player's performance, this was pretty disappointing to me.
In playing with the sound options--the part of this unit I had the most interest in and curiosity about--I ultimately realized that even the fine design and speaker capabilities of this radio/CD player are limited by the direction of the speakers and bass firing. In a very specific listening zone, this sounds pretty good. And by specific I mean, I found that directly facing the speakers from a distance of about 6 feet, with some peripheral area to either side, was ideal. Step much further outside this cone of sound, and the overall listening experience is compromised significantly (though the 3-D sound effect lessens the degradation a bit). This is more a limitation imposed by the direction of the speakers, and not by the design or components. But it's reason enough in my opinion to consider a radio/CD player with detachable speakers, unless you're using this on a nightstand or a very small room.
The USB and SD card input options are really fun novelties, and I wish more manufacturers would get hip to this simple technology. But in the end, when you have a unit that already plays MP3 CDs, these additional formats aren't as needed.
In the end, after only a day, I'm sending it back for a refund because of the fickle CD player issue. I'd rather not take my chances on this one. In a nutshell:
-product feel and look
-simple set-up and easily moved
-excellent radio capability
-clean inputs and outputs on the back
-telescoping FM antenna
-full function remote
-SD card and USB drive options
-Small "ideal listening zone"
-Unnecessarily bright display
Too bad these aren't in your local store where you can play around with them in advance. Hope this helps.