gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Roberts MP-43 Sound System Reviewed

Another DAB capable offering from Roberts, the Roberts MP-43 made its way to the desks of Gadgetoid a few months ago and has since obtained a bigger brother in the form of the MP-53 which shares the same form factor and most of the same functionality including a handy iPod dock.

This review, however, focusses on the earlier and more affordable MP-43 which still holds its own against the MP-53 even if it’s a little less stylish.

The MP-43 is a mini hi-fi system at heart, but without the added bulk of separate speakers and absurdly oversized volume controls that find their way onto nasty generic mini systems. The fact that the MP-43 costs double that of a similarly specified mini-system speaks volumes about Roberts’ confidence in its build and aesthetic. The integrated and compact speakers, however, mean that it doesn’t do “ear-bleedingly-loud” like some mini systems, so if you’re a bit of a DnB fan or a party animal you might want to stop reading here.

The speakers will effortlessly fill a room, however, and you will be stunned by just how much sound you will get out of the Roberts MP-43. Dedicating almost half of the cabinet to speakers and bass porting certainly pays dividends. The presence of an auxiliary input makes the MP-43 useful for hooking up to a laptop when watching TV via SlingPlayer, or hooking up any manner of MP3 players and other audio sources.

If you’re dead set on getting house-filling sound out of the MP-43, though, you can make use of the line-level output to hook it up to a separate set of stereo speakers or run it into your home theatre setup.

The MP-43 includes a CD player which supports MP3/WMA playback, an iPod dock and even an auxiliary input to make sure you’ll always be able to play your digital music unless you’re an avid user of FLAC. On top of this comes the DAB/FM radio functionality, a clock, multi-function alarm a six band equalizer, sleep timer, snooze functionality and more. All of this is easily accessed via the included remote control or the wipe clean, touch sensitive controls on the front of the unit. Whether or not you use the remote depends highly on where you place the MP-43. It’s an encumbrance in the kitchen, for example, but great if you want to set up the MP-43 in the living room and use it for a bit of low-level, easy listening in the evenings.

On the other hand, touch sensitive controls are a great fit for kitchen placement. They’re completely seamless and flush with the unit meaning dust and grime can’t get in at all. They also tend to look a lot more pleasing to the eye than the fairly uninspiring grey buttons you’ll find on a lot of DAB radios. The front of the MP-43 that you will interest with is, therefore, safe and easy to wipe clean as long as you’re careful around the CD drive.

The CD player is slot loading, meaning there’s nothing fancy like a multi-CD changer but also no ugly CD drawer to blemish the MP-43s otherwise flush fascia.

The MP-43 has a stereo speaker setup, bass ported through the unit and right out the back. This means you might want to use the separate bass/treble controls to tweak your sound if you’re going to tuck it up against a wall or into a book case. Front bass ports seem so much more logical on devices designed to be tucked into small spaces but the Neverlate Alarm Clock seems to be the only product I’ve yet seen to employ one.

If you’re one of the zillions of iPod owners out there, you’ll love the MP-43 as both a method of charging up your portable player and listening to your music. It’s less useful in conjunction with the iPhone, however, unless you’re willing to turn on flight mode while you charge or listen.

Unlike mini-systems, or shiny, new-fangled, network streaming radios the MP-43 is positioned to appeal more to the slightly older generation. That is to say, it doesn’t interest me that much. I have barely a CD to my name, prefer to stream my digital music collection to the PS3 or a network aware radio and listen to podcasts and internet radio. If this sounds like you then you might want to give the MP-43 a miss and plumb for something sexier like the PURE Evoke Flow.

On the other hand, if you have an extensive collection of CDs and want something discrete and compact to play them in, the MP-43 should be right up your alley and still has DAB for you to fall back on when you just can’t be bothered to dig up a CD.

Overall the MP-43 is a rock solid product with no modern frills to confuse the less technically minded buyer. The plain gloss black box will fit in with most modern, gadget filled homes whilst still being simple enough for the MP-43 to sit in a corner unnoticed until it’s needed. If it’s compact and discrete that you’re looking for, without compromising too much on sound quality or losing out on a CD player, then the MP-43 is the way to go.

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008, Home Entertainment, Personal Audio.