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Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo review: Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo

Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo

John Falcone Senior Editorial Director, Shopping
John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
Expertise Over 20 years experience in electronics and gadget reviews and analysis, and consumer shopping advice Credentials
  • Self-taught tinkerer, informal IT and gadget consultant to friends and family (with several self-built gaming PCs under his belt)
John Falcone
4 min read

One of our favorite tabletop radios in recent years was the Boston Acoustics Recepter, which combined straightforward design with great sound. Flash forward a few years, and the Recepter's replacement is finally here. The Horizon Solo is the smallest of the three tabletop models in Boston's line. All three models make use of the Personal Options Plan, which means they can utilize one of nine interchangeable grilles--available separately--with colors ranging from chili pepper red to olive green. If that's not enough, the Solo can sit horizontally or vertically, depending on your preference. The radio retains the Recepter's $100 asking price.


Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo

The Good

The Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo AM/FM clock radio has robust build quality; display spins for vertical or horizontal orientation; easy access to unique snooze bar; interchangeable color grilles available; great sound quality.

The Bad

No dedicated iPod dock; AC-only operation means no battery or charging option; rubberized finish attracts fingerprints and smudges.

The Bottom Line

The Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo is a heavy-duty clock radio, but its bare-bones feature set will have shoppers trading up to the iPod-enabled step-up model.

The Horizon Solo is 5 inches tall by 8 inches wide by 6 inches deep when oriented horizontally, but you can flip it on its side to fit into the tight spaces of a nightstand or kitchen counter; and the circular control panel can rotate accordingly, so the knobs and LCD screen are always level. The design is a model of simplicity: just three knobs (mode, volume, and tuning) and two buttons to toggle the dual alarms. The snooze bar, meanwhile, is disguised as the silver trim that frames the front speaker grille. Just tap it anywhere to buy yourself 10 more minutes in the morning--a nice solution for groggy wake-ups.

Knob-based controls are always preferable to a sea of tiny buttons, and the Solo's rubberized controls have a nice, tactile feel. All three knobs can be depressed to access additional functions, such as toggling the radio band, setting presets, and powering on and off. The blue backlit LCD is one of the most clear and legible screens we've seen in a long time--it can be manually set to 20 levels of brightness, and automatically dims as the room darkens.

The features list is pretty bare-bones--this is, after all, just a clock radio, albeit one that's intended for the higher end of the shopping scale. The radio receives standard AM and FM broadcasts--but don't look for digital HD Radio reception or RDS text support (song and artist info). There's no iPod dock, but the 3.5mm auxiliary input lets you connect an Apple music player--or anything else with a headphone jack. The dual alarms can be set to wake to the radio (the last station played), an alarm tone, or a combination of both. Up to 20 station presets are available, and you can mix and match AM and FM choices to your heart's content. The sleep timer can be set in five-minute intervals up to 90 minutes.

In addition to the auxiliary input, the only jacks on the rear panel are the power connector and AM and FM antenna inputs. An FM wire antenna is included, and you pretty much need it attached to receive any stations whatsoever. A stereo headphone jack is on the radio's front face. There's no remote control--though that's not a big deal for this sort of product.

The Solo is available in midnight (gray) and mist (white), and--if you're looking for a color change--you can purchase one of 9 snap-on "Personal Options Plan" faceplates for about $15 each. The one thing we didn't like about the body (sides and rear) of the Solo was that the rubberized plastic was a magnet for fingerprints, smudges, and dust--a matte finish would've been an improvement.

Smudges and fingerprints show up easily on the rubberized housing.

Despite housing only a single 3.5-inch driver, the Solo's audio performance was a worthy follow-up to the Recepter. Radio reception was excellent, with static non-existent on all but the most distant local stations. Flipping around the dial, we heard artists as diverse as Green Day, the Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, and Lil Wayne all sounded good--sonics were rich and full, with clear definition. Turning to talk radio (NPR), we found the voices to be totally neutral--that's good--giving the feeling that the announcers were in the same room as we were. For the stations where the baseline sound didn't have quite enough presence, we appreciated the fact that we could manually adjust bass and treble settings to our liking.

So, the question becomes: does a unique design and above-average audio performance make the Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo worth $100? The answer, these days, feels like a "no"--and that's partially the fault of the companion products in the Boston Acoustics line. Spend just a bit more, and you can get either the Boston Acoustics Duo (a larger stereo version of the Solo) or the Duo-i (same as the Duo, but with an iPod dock built into the top).

Alternately, look at something like the iHome iH9. It doesn't feel nearly as well built as the beefy 5-pound Boston, but the identically priced clock radio includes an iPod dock, stereo speakers, and a variety of niceties not found in the Solo, such as independent alarm volume control and one-/five-/seven-day alarm toggles. Likewise, we would've loved to see a built-in rechargeable battery (like the Tivoli PAL/iPAL) that would've turned the Solo into a semiportable unit--for taking from room to room or out on the deck. (There is a small battery on board for retaining alarm and preset settings during power outages, but that's it.) The addition of any or all of those sorts of upgrades to the Boston would've helped enhance its value in an increasingly competitive market.

Still, if you're just looking for a solid--and solidly built--basic clock radio, there's a lot to like about the Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo. Just be sure to price the other models in Boston's line before you take the plunge--you may be able to get them for as little as $30 more.

Editors' note: The version of this product sold in Europe, the Solo XT, also includes the ability to receive DAB radio broadcasts.


Boston Acoustics Horizon Solo

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 7