Philips DCM230

Switch to iPod mode and you can control the iPod with the menu and directional buttons on the remote surrounding the central OK button, mimicking the way the iPod itself works. This means you can switch between full album art and add star ratings should you wish. There's no acceleration when scrolling down long lists, but at least that remote is comfortable to hold.

From the remote you can activate the sleep button from the remote, set the timer, and eject a CD. You can also turn the DSC, ‘Digital Sound Control' and the ‘DBB' bass boost systems on and off. These influence the sound, with the former having three settings, Classic, Rock, Jazz and Pop, though there seems to be no option to have these EQ settings completely off, you have to have one of them. The other does what it says on the tin - it boosts the bass.

This brings me onto sound quality, which is where it all where it starts to go horribly wrong for the Philips.

It boasts a weighty 15 Watts per channel and in its favour it's certainly louder than the iHome iH8. However, loud does not mean necessarily mean good. On first firing it up, we tried out with the full fat sound of the Oasis classic, Champagne Supernova. However, this was not a champagne listening experience, with the instrumentation sounding messy and the bass woolly and disconnected from the rest of the sound stage. For a change of pace we tried the mild sounds of some old school Ray Charles, but the sounds was again weedy and lacking softness, smoothness and soul, which rather defeats the purpose of listening to Ray Charles.

We then tried to give it something more up to date and progressed onto the ‘phat' sounds of Kanye West, and this is where the Philips really let itself down. The bass was anything but tight and it was just unable to handle the heavy hip-hop beats with the any sense of timing. It was the audio equivalent of watching your dad dance.

However, after a while, it started to warm up and there was a minor improvement in the sounds quality. The introduction to The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again was bright and enticing but as soon as the rest of the band kicks in, once again it lost it. There seems to be a big space in the middle of the sound and what you can hear is muddy and muffled. While the silver front of the player looks good, it's as if the sound is trapped inside.One comment made in the office was that its sounded like the music was being played under water. The sound was unappealing and actually tiring to listen to after a while.

The nub of the matter then is that it's a classic case of style over substance, with the good looks not matched by the all important sound quality. It's almost as if Philips has draped the thing in flashy metallic housing in order to distract buyers from the fact that it sounds rather awful. As if a company would do such a thing.

This is all the more harder to swallow when one realises that the RRP is an astonishing £200 - the fact that you can pick it up for ‘only' £170 is little comfort. Indeed, you can get the wonderful sounding Creative Gigaworks T40 2.0 Speakers and the forthcoming X-30 Creative iPod dock for a whole lot less.

It's a shame as the DCM230 is great looking and well featured - if only it didn't sound so poor. Let's hope Philips has another go for the follow up version and gives this clock/radio the speaker quality it deserves.

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