It seems to me that the CDB-50 has been designed not to frighten those who might have had a portable CD player in the past and are now moving on to the iPod equivalent. If you used one of those, you can certainly use one of these. A tiny remote control is also provided, which allows more control over iPod menu navigation than the very basic onboard controls. However, it also feels fairly cheap and rather nasty and might as well have “please lose behind the nearest sofa cushion” written on the back.
Your iPod sits in a cradle between the two sets of speakers at the front, and three adaptors are provided to give support for iPods ranging from the iPod classic and iPod video to the third and fourth gen nano and the first and second gen touch (the iPhone isn’t listed in the compatible devices). For those of you who aren’t members of the Apple faithful, an auxiliary 3.5mm jack is hidden behind a flap at the back though – to be perfectly honest – I doubt you’d buy the CDB-50 if you didn’t have an iPod to go in it.
Despite descriptions I’ve seen of the CD drive as slot-loading, your old discs clamp onto a more old-fashioned sprung spindle that hides beneath a locking flap on the back. As well as the basic transport controls (play, skip, etc) you can program tracks or select random play. Woohoo! “Is this really how we used to do things?” you might ask, but if you still actively listen to CDs you’ll find these things comforting, and the only mild disappointment is that the CD player will only play straight audio CDs, not any MP3 compilations you might have knocking around.
Whether you’re using your old CDs or your newer MP3s, there’s one other way in which the CDB-50 reminds me of my old eighties boombox; it doesn’t actually sound all that great. Don’t get me wrong – the sound is good enough for background listening at reasonable volumes, but if you want Hi-Fi sound from a compact box, the CDB-50 is no miracle worker.