December 15, 2006
Teac SR-LXi Hi-Fi Table Radio
A products value can usually be measured by how easily it can be integrated into a persons lifestyle. I write this at my kitchen table on my Toshiba laptop as my two-year-old son scribbles on an Etch-a-Sketch. That my laptop gives me the ability to write anywhere makes it a valuable and convenient product. As I write and my son doodles, were listening to music played by my iPod Nano through Teacs new SR-LXi Hi-Fi Table Radio ($179.99 USD). In addition to its involving sound quality, the Teac, like the laptop, has assimilated itself into my surroundings by way of a simple, elegant design. Also like my laptop, over the last few weeks it, too, has shown its value and convenience.
The SR-LXi makes a positive impression right out of the box. Although relatively lightweight, its extremely well-finished chassis of injection-molded plastic and its soft blue backlighting and display exude class. Perfectly applied high-gloss black paint provides a seamless match to any black iPod that docks with the 30-pin iPod interface. Teac includes a docking adapter for each iPod model; white is also available, for those who prefer the iPods original pearlescent hue.
Thirteen buttons of various shapes and sizes line the SR-LXis top edge, to manage function, power, and tuning. These well-placed buttons allowed me to control the Teac blind, either in low light or when groping between it and the wall-mounted TV above it, and responded with positive but lightweight clicks. The excellent build quality and ergonomics of Teacs RC-1085 remote control embarrasses most credit-card-sized remotes Ive used. The SR-LXi-B model includes a sleep timer and alarm.
An AM/FM tuner and Auxiliary input complement the SR-LXis rich feature set. Reception was excellent in my home, where radio stations are often hard to tune in. The extra line input allowed me to connect a portable CD player, though I did most of my evaluating with my 2GB iPod Nano. Interfacing with the SR-LXi was very easy. With the power off, installation involved choosing one of the clearly labeled adapter collars and gently plugging in the iPod. (I didnt get a chance to try it, but for those with Video iPods, the SR-LXi can output 640x480 images via S-video to an external monitor.)
Operating the SR-LXi is easy and intuitive. Pressing Power or Function reawakens the Teac in the state it was in when last powered off; pressing Function multiple times scrolls through each mode. Selecting Play/Pause starts iPod playback no matter what the SR-LXi was doing at last power-off. Play/Pause behaves the same way whether controlled from the SR-LXi or the remote; pressing the iPod, Tuner, or Aux button turns the Teac on in the respective mode. The iPods menus can also be controlled from the remote, though the Teacs large LCD display unfortunately doesnt mirror the iPod screen. I had to stand within a foot of the unit to navigate and select from the menus.
Aside from that last issue, the SR-LXi proved itself an excellent system for noncritical kitchen listening. Everything from pop to jazz to orchestral music sounded warm and surprisingly dynamic. The bass response -- or, I should say, the midbass response -- had enough pace, rhythm, and punch to trick my ears into believing that two 2.5" Super Dynamic "full-range" speakers could go deeper than physics allowed, while the high frequencies possessed enough sparkle to give the music a crisp, open sound.
The SR-LXi performed best with vocals. Kate Bushs sultry voice on Aerial [CD, Columbia 97772] sounded full and seductively smooth, while on Andy Bells Electric Blue, his emotive falsetto and snappy synthesizers had me bobbing my head to "Crazy" and "See the Lights Go Out" [CD, Sanctuary 84773] as I tended to such mind-numbing tasks as emptying the dishwasher and folding the laundry.
The more I listened to the SR-LXi, the more I was impressed by its ability to deliver extremely enjoyable music via my iPod. Music with broad dynamics held together with surprising clarity. The Sci-Fi Networks Battlestar Galactica is a brilliant exception to an otherwise uninspiring genre, and one of the elements that make it so compelling is Bear McCrearys wonderfully diverse and emotionally rich score. Much of the music alternates between the quiet, retrospective melody of "Two Funerals" to the bombastic, drum-driven battle cry of "The Thousandth Landing." Capturing such a dynamic mix of sounds can be tough even for dedicated audio components. Teacs engineers have done a nice job of making their table radios modest power go a long way. The SR-LXi showed little sign of falling apart even when I pushed the volume to high levels.
Teacs SR-L200i ($179.99 USD) is the SR-LXis boxier, more traditional clock-radio sibling. Both can display iPod info on their gorgeous blue readouts, but the SR-LXis RC-1085 remote offers more complete control of the iPod. Although both models are finished to a high standard, the SR-LXi sounded slightly better to my ear -- its bass response was tighter, its mid- and high frequencies more open. The overall result: the SR-LXi had the more involving sound.
In the SR-LXi, Teac has created a very likable music companion. Anyone who owns an iPod and who enjoys listening to music while working, at home or at the office, will find the SR-LXi convenient and pleasurable. Its combination of aesthetics, involving sound, and features -- including video output and a very impressive remote control -- make the SR-LXi an indispensable and high-value iPod accessory.
...Anthony Di Marco