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Boston Acoustics MicrosystemCD

Micro Audio System Offers a Nice Wake Up Call

By Jim Bray

Okay, so it’s basically a glorified clock radio. But that doesn’t mean Boston Acoustics’ MicroSystem CD can’t offer surprisingly good sound – and, in fact, it does.

The company’s PR folk call the system a bold new adventure in compact audio, which I suppose is only natural, though it may also mean they need to get out more if they truly think compact audio is an adventure. But the MicroSystem CD is a handsome unit that, while I think it’s a tad pricey, performs as advertised and pumps out sound quality I hadn’t expected to associate with such a system.



It works best as a bedroom system, of course, because it comes with dual alarm clocks with sleep timer, snooze, etc. Its design includes a slot-loading CD player hidden behind a fold down front panel and a wonderful little, credit card-sized remote control with a magnet on its back so you can either stick it (somewhere metal, for example, a file cabinet if you’re using the system in your office) or dock it inside the unit to help prevent losing the little critter.

Of course, stowing it inside the unit kind of defeats the purpose of having a remote….

On the other hand, it’s a good way to keep it safe if you’re moving or otherwise changing the unit’s locale – or prone to losing remotes between uses.

The MicroSystem CD’s AM/FM tuner (which can also be hooked into your cable if you get your radio stations that way) includes 12 pre-sets for your favorite channels of each persuasion, and it’s compatible with iPods and other MP3 players via a connector on the front panel (next to the headphone jack).

As an alarm clock, the MicroSystem CD includes dual clock settings so you can wake up at a different time than your partner – or at least go back to sleep and reawaken later.

You can also set it to wake you up to CD music or the AM/FM tuner, and you can program it to lull you to sleep with one particular radio station and wake you up to another. This means, for example, you can nod off to heavy metal rock, if such a thing is possible, but wake up to the news and weather station.

Oh, and when the alarm goes off you can kill it by hitting any button, not just a particular special button you may have to feel around for in your early morning stupor. You can also avail yourself of the snooze function, from the front panel or remote, which gives you an extra ten minutes of sack time and which is programmable to up that in five minute increments to a max of an hour.

Ditto for the sleep function, which features a maximum of an hour lullaby time, which doesn’t seem like enough to me. And you can shorten it in ten minute increments.

On the rear panel of the MicroSystem CD you get two RCA audio inputs and one output you can use to hook the system into another system, such as a home theater. And Boston Acoustics has designed the unit so you can choose to have the line output either fixed (the audio signal is separate from the unit’s volume control) or variable (the audio output is affected by the unit’s volume setting), which is a nice touch. I generally like leaving such outputs on fixed, so I can control it with whatever it’s plugged into, but it’s even better to have the choice.

There’s also a “bass trim” control on the back panel that you can use to adjust the bass level. This is helpful because where you place the system can affect its bass performance. Putting it closer to a wall, for example, will generally give better bass than if you sit it farther away. The bass trim lets you tailor the low frequency output to your own circumstances.

I never thought I’d be talking about bass output on a unit whose speakers appear to be about the size of nipples, but Boston Acoustics uses something they claim is a patent-pending “BassTrac” system to optimize the sound quality, and be durned if it doesn’t appear to work as advertised. In the end, as convenient as the MicroSystem CD is, it’s the overall sound that impressed me.

I kid you not! The system puts out clean and clear sound, with surprisingly clean and deep bass – if I didn’t already have a good stereo in every other room I want one I wouldn’t be embarrassed to put this system on display. As it is, the Boston Acoustics spends most of its time in the bedroom, where my wife and I can go to sleep with far better quality tunes than with any other clock radio we’ve ever had.

And thanks to the remote control I can sit it across the room from the foot of our bed where its reasonably large clock display (which dims automatically depending on the ambient light in the room) is easily visible and where the speakers aim at us.

Oh, yeah, the system also plays MP3 and WMA discs as well as CDs, and it does a good job, though I also tried playing one HDCD disc and it refused to acknowledge its existence.

If you take the unit from room to room – or to the patio, garage, or wherever – it’ll remember the radio presets (and the clock and alarm settings) because it comes with a 9 volt battery backup. This means, of course, that it’ll also remember its settings if there’s a power outage, as long as it isn’t long enough to run down the backup battery (which would probably be a pretty rare occasion).

The MicroSystem CD is available in black or white.

My only real quibble is its suggested retail price of $499 US, which strikes me as a tad dear for a clock radio. On the other hand, that’s competitive with Bose’s Wave Radio and, if you’re using it as your main stereo in a dormitory or wherever, five hundred bucks isn’t an outrageous price to pay for audio of this quality.

This was only my second experience with Boston Acoustics in recent memory (the other being the outstanding audio system in the Jeep Grand Cherokee), and if these products are representative of their entire line, they offer good audio bang for your bucks.

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