Call it a next-gen ghetto blaster or a boom-box for the iPod generation, there's no question that Gear4's latest iPod speaker system looks like a revival of the sort of tape-based, mobile music system you would have found in teenage bedrooms throughout the 1980s - including mine! Of course, the glossy, piano-black finish is a little more classy than the old, dark-grey plastic favoured at the time, and the sweeping lines and graceful curves are a long way from the straight lines and peculiar ribbed areas adopted by the likes of Sony, Sanyo and (if you were really unlucky) Alba, but you can definitely see where the inspiration for the CDB-50 must have come from.
I sort of like the retro styling. My better half said it looked like a handbag, then asked if it came in a duck-egg blue, which (I'm guessing) means it might have some cross-gender appeal. Whatever you think, at least it's not yet another indistinguishable iPod speaker dock.
Nor are the CDB-50's retro leanings confined to its design. Remember CDs? You know, the round shiny things you slot onto your PC so that you can listen to them in Windows Media Player/Winamp/iTunes/Songbird or transcode them across to your favourite MP3 player? Well, the CDB-50 can play them too. Still listen to honest-to-goodness analogue FM radio? The CDB-50 will play that too, and there are no fancy pants digital presets, just a good, old-fashioned tuning dial. You can even ditch the mains cable and power the CDB-50 from eight - yes eight! - of those whacking great C-size batteries. Frankly, Gear4's latest seems to have one foot in the present, and one foot firmly in the past. For some of us, that's no bad thing.
The unit is fairly compact, at around 40 cm wide, 22 cm tall and 11cm deep, but heavier than you might think at just under 2.2Kg without batteries installed. Build quality is actually pretty good considering the price, and while I don't think the finish will last long in the wild without scratching, the CDB-50 isn't the sort of thing you'd be terrified about taking into the garden or (heaven forbid) the local park.
In terms of controls, Gear4 has kept things reasonably simple. You'll find a four-way input selector switch and a volume dial on the left side, the radio tuner and band selector on the right, and controls that double up for your iPod and the built-in CD player on the front, above a basic LCD status screen. On the top there's just the CD eject button, a pull-up antenna and a bass boost control.