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In essence bedside radios are simple things. They receive radio signals, convert them to electronic signals, then amplify and pipe them out through a speaker or two. Add in a few essentials like an alarm clock and an auxiliary input and you're done. All of which makes it utterly perplexing when we come across examples that fall short of this basic remit.
Whether it's a poor screen, cumbersome controls, or simply sub-par sound quality, we've seen all manner of otherwise nice devices fall down due to such simple issues. It's thus such a pleasure to now have the Boston Acoustics Solo XT in my possession as this little beauty gets just about everything right.
Now I'll admit straight away that it's not the most striking of devices - the rather dull grey colour scheme is at best one not to offend. However, you can actually buy replacement front grills that come in a variety of colours. Termed the Personal Options Plan (P.O.P.), this initiative is one that applies to a number of Boston's products, enabling the user to customise the look of their Hi-Fi equipment to suit their décor. The colour options are comprehensive though all are fairly muted so you may want to look elsewhere if you're after something to match your luminous green walls.
What the Solo XT does get spot on, though, is the circular display-come-control mount on the front. This can rotate to keep the controls upright whether you have the solo on it's side or standing up straight. It seems like such a simple idea but then the best ideas often are.
One downside of this intentional versatility is that Boston has had to put rubber feet on two of the four edges of the bezel that surrounds the speaker grill. These are used to prevent the radio from slipping or scratching the surface it's resting on but because only one set can ever be hidden at once you end with one set disturbing the clean lines. It's by no means a big deal but it is a tiny drawback.
The controls themselves are undoubtedly brilliant, though. The three large dials are particularly good. The large central one controls volume and power, the left-hand one opens and navigates the menus while the right knob tunes the radio and can also double for navigating the menu. All are of the infinite-spin, click-wheel variety and offer superb levels of responsiveness and accuracy with just the right amount of feedback so you always feel in control. This makes the superbly intuitive menus not just easy to use but quick as well.
Two alarms are included and each has a separate button either side of the main controls. Each button will set its respective alarm to either off, on-buzzer, or on-radio giving quick and easy access to this basic function. To actually set the time, you must navigate through the menu system but this is just as quick and intuitive.