If you do fancy utilising a technology even closer to redundancy than CDs, the Impaq 40 will tune to FM, MW and AM stations of which 40 can be set as presets. The system also displays RDS data where available, with the Display button on the remote cycling through the available information. The number of available settings may be fewer, but it’s impossible to deny that FM radio does offer better clarity than digital can currently; as much as Radio One’s listeners might not notice. If you’re using radio to listen to music and intelligent speech (Radios 3 and 4, among others), rather than noise, the Impaq 40 is a good system to do so on, rendering broadcasts as well as you could hope or expect.
I do have one niggle with the system, and that’s the remote. It is for the most part well laid out, with the main controls all within easy reach. But the decision to put volume adjustment (left to right) and source selection (up and down) in a four-way d-pad arrangement may prove initially frustrating. I found myself stopping CD playback when changing source, instead of volume – but maybe that’s just me.
MP3 playback isn’t the Impaq 40’s strongest suit in some ways. Files do play back as advertised but the system’s single line display won’t display file metadata and there’s no folder browsing as such – just an extra “REP DIR” repeat option, which will loop files inside whatever directory the currently playing track is stored.
Such criticism is minor, though, because the Impaq 40 redeems itself where it really matters: with its performance. Whether played over USB or from a CD, MP3 files sound much better than the naysayers of compressed music would have you believe possible. That said, unlike some previous testing we’ve done the difference between CD and 320kbps MP3 versions of the same albums is undeniably audible with CDs coming across with a fuller, more nuanced sound. If you do want to listen to your compressed music collection, however, you’ll find the Impaq 40 an entirely capable system.