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Just like the army of passionate enthusiasts who prefer vinyl records to digital music, there's a segment of the listening population that still enjoys AM and FM radio. And whether they're listening to sports, talk radio, news and weather, or just the local adult contemporary station, these dedicated radiophiles are looking for a radio that looks as good as it sounds--something for which they'd pay a premium and be proud to display on the desk or in the kitchen. It's exactly that sort of person for whom the Cambridge SoundWorks Radio 705 was created. The $50 tabletop AM/FM radio doesn't have any bells or whistles to speak of, but it's one of the cooler-looking radios we've seen in a long time--and it sounds pretty good, too.
The Radio 705 is available in three colors: arctic white, silver/white, and onyx (black). Its otherwise straightforward design is highlighted by a tuning knob that takes up nearly the entire right half of the front face. It's what's known as a Vernier dial, a nested mechanism that spins the outer dial at a slower rate than the inside knob so as to allow more refined tuning changes (a similar tuner is found on the competing Tivoli Audio Model One). Three LEDs help you further zero in on a station (you want the green one lit, and the two flanking yellow ones extinguished). Analog vs. digital tuning is a matter of choice, of course, but there's at least one disadvantage to the dial: unlike a digital radio, you can't have any station presets.
Below the tuning knob are the minimalist controls: only a volume knob, a band selector, a tone control, and a power button. The entire left half houses the single 3.25-inch driver; it's magnetically shielded, allowing worry-free placement near CRT TVs and monitors. The entire radio measures just 5 inches high by 8.5 wide by 6.5 deep, but it tips the scales at a somewhat beefy 4.25 pounds, bespeaking its heavy-duty build quality.
Around back, things are similarly ascetic. A down-firing bass port gives a bit of gravitas to low frequencies. Connectivity is limited to one headphone output and one auxiliary input (both are standard 1/8-inch jacks). The input allows the Radio 705 to act as a speaker for virtually any audio device, such as an iPod--all you need is a $5 patch cable. If the built-in AM/FM antenna doesn't pull in your favorite stations, you can snap on the included external FM antenna (essentially just a 3-foot wire); it uses a standard RF coaxial connection, so do-it-yourselfers can rig a longer one if they'd prefer. Unlike some radios, however, there's no separate external AM antenna, nor a jack to add your own.
The Radio 705 lacks any clock or alarm function, but it does offer a 30-minute sleep timer--just depress the power button for a few seconds, and the color will change from green to yellow. Otherwise, that's it. But we're not going to fault the Radio 705 for lacking features, since Cambridge offers a collection of beefed-up sibling products: the $179 Radio 820HD (which adds a more modern design, HD Radio, digital tuning, and stereo speakers); the $199 Cambridge SoundWorks Radio 735 (basically, the older Radio 730 with an external iPod dock); and the $249 Radio CD 745 (an update of the Radio CD 740, also with an iPod dock thrown in).