As with most portable radios the aerial is built into the remote control cable. This has a sturdy clip on the back and features a hold button, though oddly this only works for the remote itself and not the radio, which has its own hold switch.
Moving between stations is done by using the joystick. Unlike with analogue FM there’s a small pause when you switch stations as it locks onto the signal, which might bother some. You can choose to move between stations in sequence or just between those you’ve placed in your favourites list. This is done by pressing the menu button, scrolling to the favourites option and selecting save – a bit of a long winded process.
Sound quality on the XDR-M1 is good. Having both DAB and FM on one unit makes it fairly straightforward to compare sound quality between the two. Assuming signal strength for both is good, I preferred the DAB signal for its absence of background noise. The sound did have the same compressed feel to it as an MP3 track, which is inevitable but to me at least, this was preferable to the ever present background hiss on FM. The sometimes brittle sound is also nicely filled in using Sony’s MegaBass, but this will be an extra drain on battery power.
Many descriptions of DAB, state that you either get a signal or not at all. This is true but somewhat misleading as in poor signal areas you get sound drop outs every few seconds, which is more annoying to listen to that a slightly hissy FM signal.
But when the DAB signal was strong the Sony sounded great even when plugged into a set of THX rated Logitech Z-680’s, which are fairly unforgiving of poor audio sources.
Overall though, the Sony XDR-M1 does the business. What’s surprising though is that Sony has let an opportunity go by to put a memory stick slot in one of its products, as the ability to pause, wind and record radio would have been a really nice touch. Maybe next time.
The XDR-M1 is a great little pocket DAB player. It’s the same price as the competition but offers more style and better features with Band-L DAB and FM reception. The unspectacular battery life is a downside but as far as pocketable DAB goes, the Sony is the best unit around right now.