With the SC-PMX2DB, Panasonic is trying to take the humble micro hi-fi and hurtle it into the modern age by kitting it out with a USB port and an expansion slot so you can add Bluetooth support or an iPod dock later.
The system can be purchased for around £200.
There are plenty of micro hi-fi systems on the market so Panasonic has tried to spice this one up by adding a couple of extras. Beneath the system's display there's a cover that flips down to reveal a USB port. You can plug memory keys, hard drives or music players into this and the system will let you play back any MP3 files stored on them.
Panasonic has also added an expansion socket at the top of the system. Currently there are two optional add-ons available for this. The first is a Bluetooth module that lets you play music wirelessly from a mobile phone or PC through the speakers. The second is a dock that lets you hook your iPod up to the system. Unfortunately, Panasonic didn't supply either of these additions with our review unit so we weren't able to try them out, but the idea of having an expandable micro hi-fi is certainly an intriguing one.
Apart from the USB port and expansion socket, the system offers up a CD player and a radio. As well as playing normal audio CDs, the CD player can also cope with CDs stuffed full of MP3 files that you've burned from your PC. On the radio side of things, the system actually has both a standard analogue FM tuner and a DAB digital tuner. Both of these have good reception and the DAB one is especially easy to set up and use.
The system's controls are pretty straightforward, but as with many of these smaller systems, some of the features are only accessible via the remote as there simply aren't enough buttons on the front. Thankfully, the remote is reasonably large and has good sized buttons, so it doesn't feel cramped like some other micro hi-fi remotes we've seen recently.
When it comes to sound quality, the system performs reasonably well. The speakers are loud enough to fill larger rooms and there's enough bass on offer here to please even dub reggae fans. However, when you try it out with more subtle tracks, such as gentle acoustic work outs, you'll find that it's lacking in the mid range finesse that you'll get on more expensive hi-fis from the likes of Denon and Sony.
The way the system handles USB keys, hard drives and MP3 players connected to the USB port isn't great. Instead of presenting you with a file browser and letting you pick the folders you want to access by name, it simply marks the folders with a number and lets you skip through them that way. Also, the actual track names take a second or two to appear, which means selecting individual files can be a slow process. The other issue is that the system can only play MP3 files; it doesn't support other formats such as AAC or WMA.
And although the unit is relatively easy to use you'll definitely have to keep the manual handy when setting up some features, such as the alarm function, as they involve so many button presses you're unlikely to be able to memorise them from the first flick through the manual.
There are definitely better sounding micro systems on the market, but the SC-PMX2DB still manages to impress by offering lots of features for a relatively small outlay of £200. We also love the way it can be expanded in the future via plug-in modules.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire