Another design decision we're not thrilled about is the use of dangling antenna leads for the radio instead of a proper retractable antenna. Granted, anyone who thinks they'll be lugging this behemoth around is delusional, but there's just something about a telescoping antenna that makes a boom box feel legit.
The TDK Three Speaker Boombox offers iPhone/iPod support (via USB), AM/FM radio, and USB stick media playback (MP3, AAC, WMA). You also get a slew of auxiliary input options, including RCA, minijack, and a quarter-inch instrument input that can be blended with the other audio for instant karaoke/block party high jinks.
It's worth noting that TDK's unique support for iPhone and iPod takes its audio signal from the dock connection's digital output, leaving the digital-to-analog decoding to TDK's integrated converters. The company also throws in an EQ with 5dB of cut and boost, represented on an OLED display on the front and controlled using the system's oversize aluminum knobs.
Radio junkies will appreciate TDK's inclusion of both AM and FM bands, along with five presets for each. Using the dial on the right, you can tune stations using either a manual control or a seek mode, both of which are a bit slow if you're the type who really likes to blaze through the dial. For supporting broadcasts, station ID and song info text scrolls across the speaker's smaller OLED screen on the left, near the volume knob.
We're a little disappointed that a speaker system in this price range doesn't offer a remote control (even as an accessory). We also think that TDK's device agnostic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach stopped short by not including support for Bluetooth. Had it, we wouldn't need to worry about perching devices on the top of the speaker, since they could simply stay in our pocket.
Under the hood, the TDK Three Speaker Boombox includes three 5.5-inch drivers: a 15-watt woofer at the center, flanked by two 10-watt stereo speakers with edge-driven tweeters at their center. Because the speakers aren't covered by a grille, TDK utilized woven carbon fiber speaker cones that can stand up to the elements. Altogether it's 35 watts RMS, which doesn't sound like much, but you feel every watt. Turned up just halfway, it's a house party.
With its dedicated woofer, it's no surprise that the TDK Three Speaker Boombox delivers serious low end. That said, it's not gratuitously bass-heavy and offers a surprisingly balanced, refined sound that falls more in line with Bose than Creative.
TDK also must have done some nice work with the internal DSP, since the system holds its sound quality sweet spot well through the first half of the dial. To our ears, this three-driver beauty sings best with the volume dial pegged midway at 12 o'clock--loud enough that you can really see the woofer pushing some air, but not so loud that the police will show up. Of course, if it's your intention to get noticed, the TDK Three Speaker Boombox has volume to spare. After all, there's a reason the volume knob goes up to 11.