There certainly isn't any shortage of AM/FM iPod-compatible radios these days; it seems we review five a month as it is. Though they all seem to share a very similar feature set, we're always surprised by the varying sound quality found across the board.
With the i525 from Cambridge Soundworks, we've not only found an impressive-sounding radio in a small chassis, but also an easy-to-use, highly capable unit that won't break the bank.
Measuring 3.5 inches high by 10 inches wide by 6 inches deep, the i525 is small enough to rest easily on a nightstand or end table, and its black-matte encasing is sure to mesh with most bedrooms and living rooms. For those looking to keep the i525 in the bedroom as an alarm clock, the eight varying levels of brightness should accommodate anyone.
All the various features and controls can be found on top of the i525, including the volume wheel and iPod dock. A headphone jack is placed on the right side of the radio, and an auxiliary input and AM/FM antennas are around back.
The i525 features dual alarms and all of the standard settings we've come to expect from these types of devices. Alarms can be set to either iPod playback or a specific AM/FM radio channel, and there's also an option to decide at what volume you're woken up to.
The spotlight feature on the i525 has to be its onboard Creative-branded X-Fi audio-processing technology that is supposed to enhance audio quality using different settings. "Crystalizer" is designed to help MP3s and other compressed-audio formats by restoring information lost in the compression process. We certainly could hear an immediate difference using the setting, and, for the most part, we enjoyed the change.
"Virtual Surround" is designed to create the illusion that the music is no longer coming from the i525 itself, thus creating a virtual surround sound effect. Unfortunately, this was the only mode that we really didn't notice much in terms of the desired result.
"Smart Volume" works more like a solid noise reduction filter, which really helped when we wanted the i525 to maintain a certain level of sound without having to reach for the remote to adjust the volume.