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Radio has long played second fiddle to TV, and now it's fighting the Web. Traditional broadcasts are falling out of favour as , and online stations vie for our attention. How refreshing it is, then, to find a radio that bucks the trend. The Sony XDR-S10 is a digital and FM radio -- no Web or MP3s -- that puts all its energy into broadcasts. But, at £70 or so, it's fairly expensive for a run-of-the-mill device that lacks any unique features.
Few audio options
The XDR-S10's sound quality is good, which is just as well, since you're stuck with Sony's defaults. There are no options for boosting the bass or trimming the treble. If you want to bring vocals to the fore, you should look elsewhere. The speaker is loud, with good dynamic range, and the casing is sturdy, so there's no rattle. If you want to convince yourself it's real wood, as it appears to be, just don't look at the bottom, where you'll find a seam in the veneer.
The two-line, 16-character, backlit display does a good-enough job, but it's underwhelming when competitors like PURE Digital are moving to OLED screens, which are brighter and scroll by the pixel rather than a full character at a time.
Back to basics
The XDR-S10 has no bells and whistles. There's no live pause to prevent you missing the end of The Archers, and there's no card slot for recording. Line-out is notable by its absence, so you won't be plugging in any better speakers unless through the headphone socket, and there's no auxiliary-in, so, if you're after a radio through which to pipe your MP3s, this isn't it. There's a sleep button to shut off whatever you're listening to after 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes, but there's no way to set an alarm to wake you up, despite the radio taking a time signal from the digital network.
Surprisingly, DAB performance proved superior to FM in our mid-Essex test area. National FM stations were clear, with only slight hiss, but local stations were poorly received and exhibited a high level of interference. DAB was excellent. There was no gobble as the radio struggled to fix a constant data stream, and it offered up an excellent choice of 45 stations, including secondary services like BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Radio 4 Daily Service.