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portable stereos

Buying Guides - Portable Stereos

Types of Portable Stereos

Most portable stereos come with AM/FM tuners, at least two speakers and CD playback capabilities. The shape of a portable stereo can range from a small duffel bag with rounded edges to a mid-size suitcase with square sides, and it can weigh from roughly five pounds to more than 25 pounds (excluding batteries). A portable stereo may or may not include a clock on its display, a subwoofer (to pick up low frequency sounds) and more than two speakers (some come with additional side-firing or top-firing speakers). Many players are single-disc, though high-end models might accommodate three, five or more CDs. Some units have front loading flip-tops. A unit may offer playback of cassettes only, or it could have play and record capabilities. And in addition to a CD deck, newer units include one or more MiniDisc decks. Others come with one or more cassette decks (or any combination of the above).

 

Ask Yourself These Questions...

Most portable stereos come with AM/FM tuners, at least two speakers and CD playback capabilities. The shape of a portable stereo can range from a small duffel bag with rounded edges to a mid-size suitcase with square sides, and it can weigh from roughly five pounds to more than 25 pounds (excluding batteries). A portable stereo may or may not include a clock on its display, a subwoofer (to pick up low frequency sounds) and more than two speakers (some come with additional side-firing or top-firing speakers). Many players are single-disc, though high-end models might accommodate three, five or more CDs. Some units have front loading flip-tops. A unit may offer playback of cassettes only, or it could have play and record capabilities. And in addition to a CD deck, newer units include one or more MiniDisc decks. Others come with one or more cassette decks (or any combination of the above).

Where will you use the device?

If you plan to use the player at the park or on a beach blanket, shop for a high-powered model that's weatherproof. If you want to slip the unit into a bookshelf, check out a front-loading model (top loaders require extra vertical clearance to open the lid). If you intend to keep the player in a woodshop or kitchen, consider one with smooth electronic touchpad controls, because it's difficult to remove grime from rotary dials.

What type of music do you listen to?

If you play classical tunes at a moderate volume level, for instance, a small 10-inch high, nine-inch deep, 11-inch wide portable stereo will suit you fine. But if you listen to lots of rock and rap and want to really pump up the volume, go for a larger model (some measure nearly 30 inches wide). Also, shop for a portable stereo with a built-in subwoofer to pick up the low-frequency bass beats in rock and rap.

How much do you want to pay?

Portable stereos can cost anywhere from about $40 to $400. At the bottom of the price scale, you'll get a small single-disc player with two speakers. But it won't be difficult to find a CD/cassette/radio (with detachable speakers) that lets you pre-program up to 20 soundtracks, for less than $100. Portable stereos selling in the $200 to $400 price range may play multiple discs, have a cassette and/or MD (MiniDisc) recorder, come with a built-in subwoofer, higher total power output and other sound-enhancement features.


Consider These Important Features...

Sound

One way to compare sound is to check the total power figure. This figure tells you how much energy the amplifier can produce. In general, the higher the number, the louder (and more expensive) the system. But don't base your buying decision purely on power or manufacturer's claims. A high-powered portable stereo may not sound as good as a low-powered one with superior speakers. Though there are numerous factors that affect sound (such as the speaker drivers, your audio source and the conditions in which you're listening), another rough estimate of sound quality may be made by looking at the dimensions of the unit. The bigger the box, the louder it will sound, generally, as it probably contains larger speakers.

Power

Most players take from eight to 10 'C' or 'D' batteries or can be plugged into any 120-volt wall outlet, using either the supplied wall plug or an AC adapter as the energy source. To avoid running out of power when you're on the road, always keep spare batteries on hand. When possible, switch to the AC adapter or plug to reduce battery drainage.

Other portable stereo features worth considering include:

  • AM/FM pre-set buttons. Let you listen to preprogrammed stations with one-touch access.
  • Bass boost. Improves low-end sound frequencies to create a fuller sound.
  • CD synchro recording. Special circuitry that makes recording from a CD onto a cassette or MiniDisc much easier. Just press the record button on the tape deck and the CD player automatically turns on.
  • Digital filter. Reduces distortion noise, creating sound that more closely resembles the original.
  • Graphic equalizer (EQ). Adjusts the characteristics of the sound coming from the speakers to match the style of music being played. Common EQ settings are rock, pop, classical, jazz, vocal and disco. There are two types of EQ controls: preset (that automatically makes the adjustments) and manual (where you control the sliding switches).
  • Guitar amp input. Lets you plug in a guitar for impromptu jam sessions.
  • Karaoke. Also known as sing-along, this option enhances your singing voice with an echoing effect and amplifies it through the speakers.
  • Microphone input. Allows you to plug in a microphone for, say, singing in the park. Higher-end units can include dedicated volume controls next to the jack.
  • Record timer. Lets you automatically tape your favourite radio broadcast when you're away from home or turn on the stereo in the morning, serving as an alarm clock.
  • Sleep timer. Turns the stereo off after a predetermined time, so you don't drain the batteries.
  • Track programming. Programs a sequence of songs on a CD for playback in a certain order. Portable stereos typically allow 15 to 36 tracks to be programmed.

 

top sellers - portable stereos