Starting our testing with a quick rotation of our favourite CDs, it quickly impressed with its involving stereo reproduction and warm even sound. The lack of a dedicated sub woofer means some dance music doesn't quite rumble as much as some might like but the twin 40W output is very much more than adequate to fill a house with loud undistorted music when it comes to party time.
You won't be surprised, given this unit's price, to hear that detail levels don't quite reach truly mesmeric levels with the top end feeling a little flat but there's more than enough to make for a very involving and pleasing listen.
As mentioned, navigating radio stations can cause a bit of head scratching, and handling presets is almost a a complete waste of time. So long as you tend to listen to the same one or two stations, you shouldn't get too aggravated but otherwise this may not be the system for you.
Moving onto movies and TV through the line input, the lack of a central channel means you don't get quite the perfect dead centre reproduction of dialogue that a surround set would give you, and again the lack of a dedicated sub results in less than bowel moving rumbles during explosive scenes. However, the overall experience is very enjoyable with again a warmth and evenness of tone that means you're never left struggling to hear dialogue or being defend when the action starts. Certainly this makes for a great upgrade to the vast majority of standard TV speakers.
Looking at alternatives, you could opt for a dedicated surround system and simply plug in an iPod dock but you of course loose the CD and radio functionality. There are also a number of alternative mini systems but few have the integrated iPod dock or offer the same audio quality for the price. Meanwhile compact all-in-one systems like the Pure Contour can't be setup round your TV and tend to offer less impressive overall audio.
While not a super stylish all-in-one iPod dock, a bombastic high-end HiFi, or a mega multi-channel surround system, the Onkyo CS-545UK is a great all-rounder. With DAB, FM, USB playback, an iPod dock, and CD player onboard, it will cover most music listening needs, while the line input and separate stereo speaker arrangement means you can use it as an easy upgrade for your TV's audio, making for a complete living room audio solution. However, a slightly cumbersome interface keeps it from getting a higher score.