Despite housing only a single 3.5-inch driver, the Solo's audio performance was a worthy follow-up to the Recepter. Radio reception was excellent, with static non-existent on all but the most distant local stations. Flipping around the dial, we heard artists as diverse as Green Day, the Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, and Lil Wayne all sounded good--sonics were rich and full, with clear definition. Turning to talk radio (NPR), we found the voices to be totally neutral--that's good--giving the feeling that the announcers were in the same room as we were. For the stations where the baseline sound didn't have quite enough presence, we appreciated the fact that we could manually adjust bass and treble settings to our liking.
So, the question becomes: does a unique design and above-average audio performance make the Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo worth $100? The answer, these days, feels like a "no"--and that's partially the fault of the companion products in the Boston Acoustics line. Spend just a bit more, and you can get either the Boston Acoustics Duo (a larger stereo version of the Solo) or the Duo-i (same as the Duo, but with an iPod dock built into the top).
Alternately, look at something like the iHome iH9. It doesn't feel nearly as well built as the beefy 5-pound Boston, but the identically priced clock radio includes an iPod dock, stereo speakers, and a variety of niceties not found in the Solo, such as independent alarm volume control and one-/five-/seven-day alarm toggles. Likewise, we would've loved to see a built-in rechargeable battery (like the Tivoli PAL/iPAL) that would've turned the Solo into a semiportable unit--for taking from room to room or out on the deck. (There is a small battery on board for retaining alarm and preset settings during power outages, but that's it.) The addition of any or all of those sorts of upgrades to the Boston would've helped enhance its value in an increasingly competitive market.
Still, if you're just looking for a solid--and solidly built--basic clock radio, there's a lot to like about the Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo. Just be sure to price the other models in Boston's line before you take the plunge--you may be able to get them for as little as $30 more.
Editors' note: The version of this product sold in Europe, the Solo XT, also includes the ability to receive DAB radio broadcasts.