- Review Price: £149.99
In essence bedside radios are simple things. They receive radio signals, convert them to electronic signals, then amplify and pipe them out through a speaker or two. Add in a few essentials like an alarm clock and an auxiliary input and you’re done. All of which makes it utterly perplexing when we come across examples that fall short of this basic remit.
Whether it’s a poor screen, cumbersome controls, or simply sub-par sound quality, we’ve seen all manner of otherwise nice devices fall down due to such simple issues. It’s thus such a pleasure to now have the Boston Acoustics Solo XT in my possession as this little beauty gets just about everything right.
Now I’ll admit straight away that it’s not the most striking of devices – the rather dull grey colour scheme is at best one not to offend. However, you can actually buy replacement front grills that come in a variety of colours. Termed the Personal Options Plan (P.O.P.), this initiative is one that applies to a number of Boston’s products, enabling the user to customise the look of their Hi-Fi equipment to suit their décor. The colour options are comprehensive though all are fairly muted so you may want to look elsewhere if you’re after something to match your luminous green walls.
What the Solo XT does get spot on, though, is the circular display-come-control mount on the front. This can rotate to keep the controls upright whether you have the solo on it’s side or standing up straight. It seems like such a simple idea but then the best ideas often are.
One downside of this intentional versatility is that Boston has had to put rubber feet on two of the four edges of the bezel that surrounds the speaker grill. These are used to prevent the radio from slipping or scratching the surface it’s resting on but because only one set can ever be hidden at once you end with one set disturbing the clean lines. It’s by no means a big deal but it is a tiny drawback.
The controls themselves are undoubtedly brilliant, though. The three large dials are particularly good. The large central one controls volume and power, the left-hand one opens and navigates the menus while the right knob tunes the radio and can also double for navigating the menu. All are of the infinite-spin, click-wheel variety and offer superb levels of responsiveness and accuracy with just the right amount of feedback so you always feel in control. This makes the superbly intuitive menus not just easy to use but quick as well.
Two alarms are included and each has a separate button either side of the main controls. Each button will set its respective alarm to either off, on-buzzer, or on-radio giving quick and easy access to this basic function. To actually set the time, you must navigate through the menu system but this is just as quick and intuitive.
Best of all, though, is the snooze function. In a similar vein to many of Pure’s radios, the Solo has a touch sensitive strip that runs around the edge of the speaker grill and all that’s needed to activate the snooze function is the slightest of touches. As someone that has on more than one occasion knocked over a glass of water while trying to find the snooze button on my radio, I for one see this as a huge boon.
Sadly the display doesn’t warrant such high praise. It’s brightness and sharpness are fine when viewed face on but, like most LCD panels, visibility drops off noticeably as you move round to the sides and it can be slow to respond making navigation slower than the superb controls would otherwise allow.
While the Solo is primarily a DAB radio, it can also receive FM transmissions though long and medium wave aren’t invited to the party. There’s also an auxiliary input on the back for plugging in an mp3 player, along with a stereo lineout socket if you want to use the Solo as a receiver for a larger Hi-Fi. And rounding out the features is a headphone socket on the front.
Now normally our office is an absolute no-no for DAB reception but the Solo managed to find and hold a signal for a fair number of stations, even with the aerial still stowed. This is a truly impressive performance and certainly set the Solo apart as the best radio we’ve yet tested here – as far as reception goes at least.
The sound quality is also mightily impressive with maximum volume being plenty enough to fill a sizeable room. The sound isn’t quite as natural as the superb Vita Audio R1, with the bass sounding a little more forced, but overall it’s smooth, accurate, and generally thoroughly pleasant. Obviously the single speaker can only stretch so far and you’ll want a full Hi-Fi for music listening proper but for most conceivable casual uses the Solo excels.
About the only major downside to the Solo XT is its lack of portability. With dimensions of 8 by 6 by 5in, it’s not size that’s a problem but weighing around two kilos and being mains only I can’t see many people packing this one in their suitcases to take on holiday.
When all is said and done there are only three reasons we’d not outright recommend you go and buy one of these now. First, the styling may not be to your liking but then that’s a purely personal thing. Secondly, is that slightly iffy screen. Thirdly, and most importantly, is cost. Costing a whopping £150, this premium tabletop radio demands a truly premium price. Overall, though none of these factors would be enough to put us off so the Boston Acoustics gets a thoroughly deserved Recommended award.
Score in detail