Phone cameras, MP3s, streaming video… there are many aspects of technology that have arguably sacrificed quality in favour of improving convenience. As guilty as any of these is the audio dock, which has largely replaced bulky Hi-Fi systems, booting out unseemly wires at the expense of sound quality. Sony is keen to remind mainstream consumers what they’ve been missing out on.
On the surface the Sony CMT-CX5 Hi-Fi system is like a dinosaur from another age. Its boxy lines are pure 80s retro, its individually wired speakers (notably hidden in press photography) will have minimalists shrieking in horror, its inclusion of a slot loading CD drive will appear pointless to today's legions of digital converts and the DAB radio seems to celebrate a standard that largely died before it got off the ground. Sony has gone so far as to include an Apple dock connector, but there's no AirPlay or even Bluetooth. What was it thinking? Simple, the CX5 can take the fight to docks in two key areas: audio performance and price.
This is a smart business strategy, but to a superficial audience the CMT-CX5 will have its hands full. The design will divide opinion and build quality is reasonable, but the piano black finish of the Hi-Fi remains a fingerprint magnet. And the matt plastic finish on both its sides and the speakers seems particularly cheap, with edges like the Formica plastics that haunted kitchens in the 70s - and they will also pick up bumps and scuffs easily. Equally historic are the small button controls that run along the top of the CX5, but they are responsive (no touch-sensitive tech here) and clearly labelled with power, playback, volume, function, eject (for CDs) and 'DSGX' - more of which later. Inputs are equally straightforward: Apple dock connector, CD slot, a 3.5mm auxiliary jack and an aerial socket for DAB.
Setup couldn't be simpler (unless you own a dock) with the Sony CMT-CX5's clearly labelled left and right speakers wiring into the main unit along with a power cable with hefty power brick. In practice the unit isn't as bulky as Hi-Fi phobic consumers would expect. Including speakers, the CX5 measures 520 x 245 x 100 mm and weights just 4kg, which factors in the speakers at 1kg each.
Compared to the 640 x 208 x 173 millimetres and 6.2kg of the en-vogue Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air it is positively petite. In addition, given its separate speakers, the CX5's square-ish 25 x 245 x 10mm shape can fit in most nooks and crannies with the speaker's near 90cm cables allowing them to be positioned elsewhere. Docks-shmocks.
So does Sony's master plan work? Mostly. The best aspect to the CX5 is it punches above its weight. In a literal sense at 4kg that isn't difficult, but it pays off financially too with Sony pricing the dock around £200 and retailers subsequently slashing it to circa £160. As ever straight specs don't tell the whole story, the CX5 has a total output of 40W RMS and throws in Sony's 'Dynamic Sound Generator X-tra' processing technology (the aforementioned 'DSGX' button) to give things some pep, but largely underplay the unit's abilities.