With music coming in so many different formats, getting a unit to play all of them can be a challenge. In steps the Roberts MP-Sound 53, an iPod, CD, USB, SD, DAB, FM Hi-Fi offering from Roberts that hopes to cover all your bases. But does it? We get listening to find out.
About the size of a shoebox, the MP-Sound 53 is black, glossy and sturdy. The top offers nothing more than an iPod dock (complete with an array of molds for all the relevant models): it's minimal.
The front, compared to other Roberts offerings, is also incredibly minimal. A slot loading CD bay sits above a blue LCD display, which in turn sits above a volume dial that glows blue. Hidden behind a panel underneath the volume knob is the SD card and USB drive reader, both easily accessible to those who want them, but equally hidden from those who don't. Acting as bookends to these elements sit the speakers.
The back hides an Aux in, Line in, SPDIF connection and a hard fixed rod aerial for the DAB and FM tuners.
With virtually no buttons on the unit, controlling it is left to the accompanying remote. Nowhere near as good looking as the main unit, the remote does offer you all the controls you need from the comfort of your sofa.
So it looks good, but what about functionality and performance? Well the good news is that when it comes to functionality there is plenty on offer. Plugging in your iPod lets you charge it and access the menu system via the remote control. Likewise with the CD player. Slam in a CD and you'll be able to listen to the music with little fuss.
DAB offers the usual high standards from Roberts with full auto-tune on start-up, 20 preset settings (10 for DAB and 10 for FM) and the ability to easily skip from one station to the next.
The SD card and USB functionalities come into their own by allowing you to listen to music stored on either or better still, let you record from the iPod, CD player or radio at the press of a button. While you can't set a timer for the record function, it will let you record off the radio (i.e. your favourite programme), a mate's CD or your mate's iPhone or iPod without involving a computer.
Recording content is as easy as pressing a button and you are then free to take that content and either listen to it on the MP-Sound 53 or transfer it to your computer to do as you will. It's a great feature and one that we are surprised Roberts hasn't locked down more, so hats off to them for its open stance.
So design, tick, functionality, tick, what about performance?
Well the good news here is that the MP-Sound 53 sounds good with a good mellow sound coming out of those two 8 watt front speakers.
The volume isn't ringing in your ears loud, but enough to light-up a room and certainly enough for most homes looking to share their music or the radio with friends at a typical soirée.
We were surprisingly impressed by the Roberts MP-Sound 53 as it offers plenty in a compact, well designed, package. The ability to plug in your MP3 player, iPod, Compact Disc, SD card and USB while subsequently tuning into DAB or FM radio signals means plenty of options.
At £249.99 it does sound a touch in the expensive direction, but then you get so much more than just "a n other" iPod speaker. We like.