19th Sep 2007 | 23:00
Basic doesn't have to mean underperforming
Most DAB radios fall into one of three categories - bedside, kitchen or portable - but Sony's XDR-S50 manages to straddle all of these and put in a decent performance.
Not that the XDR-S50 is armed with a plethora of features to help it in each environment: its basic nature makes it easy to use. It's also well-built and extremely portable.
There's no record functions, no SD card slots and only three presets - an unusually low feature count, but probably more than enough for most people's daily DAB needs. Buttons are laid out logically and neatly, and include simple options to set a sleep timer and re-tune to stations (useful if you're on the move).
The only unusual feature is an SC button. Short for secondary component, this clumsily named control automatically chooses a radio station's sister channel.
Dominated by a black metal speaker grille framing a large, two-line orange LCD screen showing station name and scrolling news text, the XDR-S50 works excellently on the bedside table when its sleep mode really comes into its own.
Most DAB radios feature dials that mean you have to scan through all the available stations, then press another button when you've chosen. The XDR-S50's dial just tunes into whatever station you hover over for more than a second or two. Simplicity itself.
The only drawback is sound quality. Tuning well and holding stations without any trouble, the XDR-S50 is so small that audio is tinny and music given no real life.
Still, put on a bedside table and listened to quietly, or used with headphones when out and about, the XDR-S50 surpasses its limited brief.