"Good but not great"2.5 starson by Carlsberg231
Pros: Good overall design
Cons: Put together poorly
Detailed features are lacking
Not optimized for mp3 player playback
Summary: Let me get the obvious out of the way; It looks amazing and sounds great. I'm going to get to brass tax and get to the boombox's shortcomings.
While the overall design is beautiful the actual build quality isn't at the level it should be. The lines where they pieced the front and back together is a little wobbly. The two physical control knobs are slightly skewed and the button within the right knob isn't centered. The bottom pad was slightly crooked. It was as if it was all pieced together with cheap glue and a shaky craftsman. These little aesthetic details may not bother you. Sadly, some function issues also exist.
TDK included a digital display box that will show you the artist and song name that is currently playing. It's a nice feature but is strangely limited. I tried a few devices and it seems to only work with the built-in AM/FM radio and when you play music through a flashdrive via the USB port. And even if you use the flashdrive, the display with only work with properly tagged files. I played music using my wife's older ipod nano (with properly tagged files from her itunes library)using the USB to Apple's 16pin port and the digital display doesn't show the song. Same results when using a friends iphone. You can't even use the control features on the boombox like "play," "pause," "next." etc. and instead you have to use your ipod's controls. This all sounds trivial - and it is - but these are little details that should work for what TDk prices the machine at.
I also used my Android smartphone to playback music. Again, no digital display. Again, no use of the boombox playback controls, and worse, hooking up the usb port to the phone FROZE the boombox. While music will still play, none of the buttons or knobs on the boombox were functional after I plugged in the usb to micro usb port to charge my phone. I had to unplug the power chord and then plug it back in (and remove the usb cable) for it to work again. So while music will play from your smartphone you won't be able to charge it, won't get a digital display, and can't use the boombox playback controls.
For iphone/ipod users this seems a little odd and slightly limiting. For other mp3 players or smartphone users this is very limiting and downright puzzling. More and more people use their phones for music playback so why not support these devices properly?
Playing music from a usb drive wasn't smooth sailing either. Firstly, you are limited to a 32 gig flashdrives or less. It doesn't recognize playlists as you are only limited to 'shuffle' or how you named the songs in the folder. Lastly you can only play music in one folder, and navigating outside of a folder while music is playing causes the music to stop for a second before resuming again. Clunky navigation using the knob and the play/back buttons within. Which brings me to my next point; the omission of a remote.
Don't let the portability aspect fool you. While is it great to be able to move this around the house and to the backyard, chances are you won't be sitting right next to the boombox at all times. Where is the remote? What we have here is 2011 design with 1980's function, harkening back to the days when you had to walk up to the television to change the channel. Even with all the details that have been overlooked, having a remote is a no brainer.
TDK is using the overall design as the selling point. It is the classic 'form over function' approach. That might work with cheaper sets but is it so bad to ask for high end form AND high end function? I gave this boombox a rating of 3 because I know there are people out there who won't care for the missing little details, and those people will love the thing.
With so many mp3 players and ipod docks out there all looking nearly identical with gaudy faux chrome and puny sound, it was a relief to see somebody finally take a different route. With a bit more tinkering this will be the player to beat. I hope TDK continues with the bold, new-yet-retro design in a second iteration sometime soon.