Of course, the Panasonic SC-HC57DB has a number of other features including DAB and FM tuners. To use the DAB tuner you need to attach the supplied wire aerial to the back. Then the first time you start up the tuner it'll automatically do a scan to find all the channels. Reception-wise the radio part is strong, however, the small single line display makes it a bit tricky to use. The display is too small to show the names of most of the stations in full, so you have to wait for them to scroll by. Even programming in pre-set stations is a bit of a faff as it involves lots of button pushing.
As well as using the USB on the top of the system to charge mobile phones you can also plug in USB keys or drives containing MP3 tracks to play them back on the stereo. However, again the tiny single line display makes navigating around tracks quite torturous, especially if you have more than just a single album's worth of tracks on there.
Naturally, there's an alarm clock function too, so you can set up the SC-HC57DB to turn on at a certain time during the day. You're also free to choose which source it starts playing when it the timer goes off.
When it comes to sound quality, this system is not really a premium option. It doesn't sound particularly bad as such, but the sound quality is closer to that of a pretty standard boombox than it is to something like the very pricey B&W Zeppelin Air.
On the plus side, mid-range frequencies, covering guitars and vocals, are pleasingly energetic and it handles the crisp highs of cymbals with a lot of charm. However, to get acceptable bass out of it we had to crank the bass setting all the way up and then also turn on the Dynamic Bass mode too. Even then, its low-end performance is pretty flaccid, with the result that dub reggae or dance tracks sound a bit hollow and lifeless. Also, as the speakers are mounted quite close together its stereo separation isn’t great. You can expand the image a bit by turning on the surround mode, but this also has a negative effect on the already pretty weak bass reproduction.
The SC-HC57DB is a stylish looking micro system and the funky motorised iPod dock and onboard Airplay features set it apart from the pack. However, the tiny, single line display makes some of the features a bit tricky to use and it's a shame it doesn’t have a tad more oomph in the bass department.