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As well as the clock display, there are a number of icons to indicate which mode the Blackbox is in - FM, iPod, or Aux - and for setting up the alarms. There are two alarms and each can either set off a beep, the radio or the iPod.
At this point we can return to the remote control its only using this that we can actually set the time for the alarms. As well as this, and duplicating the controls on the device, the remote also has a snooze button for setting snooze times of 15, 30, 60, and 90 minutes. Most notable, though, is it can fully control your iPod. Now this may sound like a fairly unremarkable feature but you'll be surprised how few iPod docks actually let you navigate menus and pick what album you want to listen to without having to resort to physically using the iPod.
It's tempting to complain about the lack of either DAB or Internet radio, and I think there is potential to have a very similar looking device with these features, but for the price, FM is all that could be expected. The wire aerial is permanently attached and rather short but it managed to pick up a reasonable signal in our office, which normally has very poor reception. There are no favourites or any other sophistications; you just tune in and listen, which is fine by us. Also round the back, alongside the socket for the power adapter, is an auxiliary input jack for plugging in alternative audio sources.
Unfortunately, having had such a good showing so far, it was somewhat inevitable that such a moderately priced device would trip up somewhere and in this particular instance its sound quality that's the culprit. Now it isn't appalling by any stretch of the imagination and there are few similarly priced devices that overshadow it. However, there's no denying that bass is lacking and the overall sound is somewhat tinny. What's particularly odd is that it sounds like it's struggling (i.e. like someone straining to hit that high note that's just out of reach) even at low volumes yet it doesn't get worse as you increase the volume. This would seem to be due to the preamp circuitry simply not being very sophisticated and compressing the music slightly.
Ultimately, I could spend three paragraphs describing the exact nuances of the sound the Blackbox produces but I could probably sum it up in five words; it sounds like it costs.
If you're looking for a simple iPod speaker dock and radio for your bedside table then the Gear4 Blackbox 24/7 is definitely worth considering. It's very easy to use, has a large easy to read display, and the remote can be used to control your iPod, all three of which are not givens when it comes to these sorts of devices. Add in the fact it can be had for just £50 and you've got yourself a bargain.
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