Sony CMT-FX350i mini hi-fi system

Sony CMT-FX350i review: This Sony hi-fi is easy to operate and supports DAB+ digital radio

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Sony CMT-FX350i

Pros

  • Good treble detail, good sound quality at moderate volume levels, easy operation with remote

Cons

  • Poor control layout on central unit, low maximum volume

Bottom Line

For its asking price, the Sony CMT-FX350i offers a reasonably diverse range of features. It can play CDs, FM and DAB+ digital radio, as well as music stored on an iPod or iPhone.

Would you buy this?

The Sony CMT-FX350i is a mini hi-fi system that has inbuilt FM and DAB+ digital radio, a CD player and an iPod dock. If you're looking for an audio system to use in a large room it might not be up to the challenge, but for a bedroom or study it should fit the bill. It's able to pump out a good amount of sound given its size, but we have misgivings about its design and its sound quality at maximum volume levels.

Sony CMT-FX350i mini hi-fi system: Design, construction and setup

The Sony CMT-FX350i is similar to many other mini hi-fi audio systems that we've tested, such the . It has two bookshelf-sized stereo speakers and a central control unit. Setting the system up is very easy: all you need to do is to plug the two stereo speakers into the main system, connect the FM/DAB+ radio antenna and plug the system into a power point. It automatically scans for DAB+ stations upon start-up and maintains an updated list.

The system has a big volume control knob, three large buttons for playback, changing functions and stopping playback, five smaller buttons for other features, and a small bass boost button. It all seems a bit thrown together with no thought given to usability — we struggled to find a reason for the different button sizes and positions. The bundled remote control does a much better job of organising controls, so we found ourselves using it during the majority of our testing.

There's around a metre of cable to connect each speaker to the receiver. This should be more than enough for most setups, but it's easy to add extra length with some standard speaker wire. The antenna is also around a metre in length, but we didn't even need to completely unwind it to find excellent reception in our metropolitan Sydney test location.

Sony CMT-FX350i mini hi-fi system: Sound quality and volume levels

The Sony CMT-FX350i is not an especially loud system. Producing 10W RMS at maximum volume, it'll get lost in a large room — we were sitting around three metres away from it and found maximum volume to provide only moderate-to-loud sound. The system also has a tendency to distort bass slightly at high volumes, with a small amount of clipping of low notes.

At moderate volume levels the Sony CMT-FX350i sounds impressively clean and detailed. We opted to use the Rock equaliser preset with Sony's rather interestingly titled ‘Dynamic Sound Generator X-tra (DSGX) Bass Boost Function' disabled. When listening to some hip-hop test music on our iPod and DAB+ digital radio, we found the system to have good treble detail. Treble is quite directional on the Sony CMT-FX350i's speakers, though, so you'll have to have them ideally positioned at head height and facing directly towards you for the best effect.

Mid-range sound is slightly recessed compared to treble and bass, but this is a trait that most similar sized mini hi-fi systems exhibit. It still has plenty of audible detail and doesn't sound muddy. With the bass boost disabled the Sony CMT-FX350i's speakers have moderate levels of bass — not enough to shake the desk we had them sitting on, but a nice accompaniment to fill out the system's sound. Turning on the bass boost has the effect of making audio boomier and more expansive, but we also noticed a loss of clarity.

Sony CMT-FX350i mini hi-fi system: Environmental policy and conclusion

Sony's environmental policy says that the company "explores every opportunity to reduce environmental impact" and aims to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The company's Web site details various initiatives to reduce waste.

The Sony CMT-FX350i is a decent but not overly impressive mini hi-fi system. We're happy that DAB+ digital radio is becoming more popular in low-end systems, while the inclusion of an iPod dock is another useful feature in the CMT-FX350i's arsenal.

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