It looks like a simple bedside clock radio, but underneath the AXiS’ soft black plastic shell are more features than you’ve a right to expect in a gadget aimed at bedside tables.
Inside are tuners for FM and digital radio - both DAB and DAB+ - with the latter giving much-needed future-proofing, as well as Europe-wide versatility,
The major surprise is a built-in wireless module, which is able to tune in to your wireless home network and stream content from any networked PC or Mac. The ability to play 13,000+ internet radio stations will have wide appeal among those with a niche interest, such as ex-pats after foreign radio stations (Yanks are extremely well served with almost 50 stations) to musos after a particular strand of music (country music fans form a line).
The majority of those with mainstream British tastes will be amply served by stations available either on DAB or FM; go for a more basic DAB radio and the savings are considerable. The key attraction on the AXiS is that these - and other - services are particularly well managed.
That’s largely down to the 3.5-inch colour touchscreen, which neatly presents nine icons for Internet radio, DAB, iPod, Streaming audio, Auxiliary input, FM radio, Last.fm, Alarms and Settings.
Choose iPod and it’s possible to control menus and select playlists, with cover art and a progress bar displayed for each song.
Playing music from an iPod is a cinch, though the interface to control it isn’t the best - a remote would make navigating the internal menus a lot easier. Sadly there isn’t one in the box, and though for a unit that’s clearly designed for a bedside table or desk it’s a forgiveable omission, we’d recommend buying the optional credit card-sized remote for a further £9.95.
Finding the network instantly, we had the AXiS playing tunes from a Mac on the same network relatively quickly, though the system did occasionally stall. In our tests both MP3 and FLAC files were streamed.
There’s no Spotify support, but your thirst for random tunes could be satiated by the touchscreen’s widget for Last.fm. Available online, on phones and on games consoles for no fee, the “tag” radio station with five million songs costs £3 a month on this particular online platform. That’s a shame, though the AXiS does present a 31-day trial membership.
Physically, the 22 x 15cm matt black AXiS is built around an 8W amplifier and NXT speaker tech. That latter is a speaker technology that is primarily aimed at making gadgets thinner, and it’s here in its “balanced radiator” guise. As for iPods, the AXiS is compatible with all models, while there are also aux connections to hook-up almost any audio device.
Sound quality is excellent if you’re planning to use the AXiS in a bedroom or small study, though if you turn it up to full volume you will notice some distortion. Kept to relatively low volumes, though, the AXiS performs very well. One small point is that the speakers stretch around the left side of the product, making it ideal only for the right-hand side of the bed or desk.
Whether the nation wants or needs to stream music from a PC or the Internet is a moot point, but the provision of Last.fm alongside a versatile iPod dock - and all wrapped up in an attractive touchscreen interface - makes the well-built AXiS an unusually versatile option for your bedroom or study.