Sony XDR-S3HD review: Sony XDR-S3HD

  •  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
  • Overall: 5.9
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 5.0
  • Performance: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Tabletop clock radio with HD Radio reception; retro, faux wood design; knob-based volume and tuning controls; wireless remote; includes bass and treble controls and sound expander function; auxiliary line-in jack for connection to any iPod or portable device; flexible volume, sleep, and alarm options.

The Bad Single rather than dual alarm; no CD or satellite radio support; fat power supply; the quality, availability, and reliability of HD Radio stations can vary widely.

The Bottom Line The Sony XDR-S3HD lowers the price for HD Radio without compromising on quality.

Editors' Top Picks

Editors' Note: The rating on this review has been lowered from due to changes in the competitive marketplace.

HD Radio technology has been around for years, but finding products that support it remains something of a challenge--even as an overwhelming majority of home and car audio products offer plug-and-play support for Sirius or (especially) XM satellite radios. By contrast, HD Radio is still largely limited to extreme high-end AV receivers (the $2,500 Denon AVR-4308CI or the $2,000 Onkyo TX-NR905) or pricey tabletop radios (the $300 Boston Acoustics Recepter HD or the $500 Polk Audio I-Sonic). Or at least that was the case: Sony's XDR-S3HD lowers entry-level price for a standalone HD Radio to just $200. The catch: It's just a radio. But for those looking to listen to all-digital radio broadcasts--including HD2 multicast stations that aren't available on analog bands--that may well be enough.

Design
With dimensions of 5 by 11.88 by 6.75 inches (HWD), the XDR-S3HD is a standard boxy tabletop radio, but it's got a nice (albeit simulated) cherrywood finish and a speaker grille covering nearly the entire front face. The LCD readout is mounted dead center, and displays all the station information, menu options, and so forth. The controls are found on the top side--the nine buttons along the front edge are hedged in by volume and tuning knobs. Alternately, you can opt to use the wireless remote control. Unlike the flat credit-card remotes that ship with a lot of radios, this full-size clicker has 27 buttons including a full numeric keypad. The extra buttons make the remote a better choice for navigating the setup options (such as clock, alarm, and preset settings), but if you misplace it, the radio's built-in controls can access all of the same functions--you'll just need to dive deeper into one of the LCD menus.


Rear-panel connections are limited to antenna, headphone, and line-in jacks.

In addition to a stereo auxiliary input and headphone jack, the radio's rear panel includes connectors for AM and FM antennas (both are included, or you can attach your own). While there's no built-in iPod dock, the line-in jack will let you connect the Apple player--or any other device--to the S3HD's speakers. One small annoyance: The XDR-S3HD has a nondetachable AC power cord. The 12-foot distance is ample enough, but it's got a power transformer awkwardly placed halfway down its length. That's countered by a nice design touch: The underside of the radio has a silent exhaust fan that keeps the innards cool.

Clock and alarm
With no built-in CD player, satellite radio, or dedicated iPod dock, the clock and alarm functionality represents fully half the value of the XDR-S3HD. On the plus side, the alarm can be set to wake to any station preset, the line-in source, or a buzzer, and the volume can be locked in as well. The latter point is a nice touch, since it lets you drift to sleep with the radio barely audible (the sleep timer can be set at 15 minute intervals up to an hour), but wake up at a suitably high volume to rouse you out of bed. On the downside, there's only a single alarm, not the standard dual alarms you'll find on most such units. Also, while the LCD can be set at one of three brightness levels, it has to be done so manually; by contrast, some competing radios have a built-in light sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness according to the room's ambient lighting. It's also notable that the S3HD is missing a snooze bar--once you turn off the alarm, it's reset until the next day.

Editors' Top Picks

 

ARTICLE DISCUSSION

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy

Sony XDR-S3HD

Part Number: XDR-S3HD Released: Aug. 15, 2007

Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Aug. 15, 2007
  • Built-in Display LCD
  • Color cherrywood
  • Tuner Bands AM/FM
  • Type HD / AM / FM clock radio
About The Author

John P. Falcone is the executive editor of CNET Reviews, where he coordinates a group of more than 20 editors and writers based in New York and San Francisco as they cover the latest and greatest products in consumer technology. He's been a CNET editor since 2003.