LG's latest CD micro system is the FA163DAB -- catchy, huh? -- and with it comes DAB radio and iPod docking functionality. There aren't a million iPod-compatible DAB systems in the world, and even fewer that conform to this form factor. Plus, the FA163DAB costs less than £200.
This is an unusual-looking micro system. Firstly, it's got an enormous Clickwheel-esque control system stuck on the front of the main unit that uses touch-sensitive controls to play, pause and skip tracks. Also, the self-loading CD player is located on top, loading vertically.
Then there are the speakers. Both feature a pair of mid-range woofers and a silk dome tweeter, in addition massive sub-woofers in one side of each enclosure, delivering a three-way 2.1 sound system.
It's impossible to review objectively how good something looks, and our subjective opinions were divided. One of us liked the design considering its low price, one of us thought it just looked cheap, and PC editor Rory Reid liked it but claimed it was "budget trying to look premium."
Construction is probably the most questionable aspect -- the main unit is too lightweight, mounted on unusually soft rubber feet, and housed in a bendy plastic enclosure. Corners were clearly cut here to keep pricing low, and one result is that the touch-sensitive control wheel requires awkward circular finger gestures to adjust volume, and it's just unresponsive enough to be annoying. The speakers, conversely, are solid and don't bend. We wish the main unit had been given the same attention.
Apple iPods are docked on top, with the dock hidden under a plastic flap when not in use. And under another flap on the front is more connectivity: headphones, line-in and USB for playback of MP3s. Thankfully the dot matrix display is clear, with large lettering and little clutter, but it's another budget-conscious effort that we're not overly excited about.
Aside from iPod compatibility, which, incidentally, can be controlled using the system's bundled remote control, the FA163DAB provides playback of regular audio CDs, MP3/WMA CDs, MP3/WMA files from USB, and of course DAB. In fact it even comes bundled with some impressive aerials for DAB and FM -- not something we see often.
This content is pumped through the aforementioned speakers, each delivering 80W of power and each tweaked by high-end hi-fi maker Mark Levinson. We'll discuss this more shortly.
MP3s and unprotected WMA files can be played from USB sticks, plus you can record radio broadcasts directly to USB sticks as MP3s. That's useful, we'll admit. Ripping CDs to USB in MP3 format at real-time speed without any tagging is much less useful. The system will do it, but we really have to question why anyone would want to.
Our first thought when listening to this system was that it delivers a smooth, warm sound, with noticeably deep bass and a strong voice for reproducing vocals. The strength of the speakers' bass obviously comes from the incorporated sub-woofers. During some heavy drum 'n' bass from Pendulum we heard exceptionally powerful bass for a system of this size and price -- eyes closed, you might think there was a floor-standing sub-woofer.
We continued to be impressed at higher volumes. Safe to say this is a decent offering if you loved your dance music.
The deep bass is great for dance and the warm, natural sound is great for soul and jazz. What's less impressive is high-end definition and clarity in the treble. It's passable, but this is where it's clearer that you're listening to a £200 micro system.
Protest The Hero's album-opener Bloodmeat -- with its furious twin guitars, complex drum arrangements and heaps of screaming vocals -- just didn't sound right here. It was a little too complex for the FA163DAB; the transparency of audio was lower, the separation between instruments less defined.
Overall this system is okay to use, with good radio offerings, seamless integration with iPods and, for the most part, decent sound quality. For pop, jazz, vocals and electronic music, it's a sound offering for around £180, despite its questionable construction and average screen.
Edited by Marian Smith