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If you own a cell phone with a digital music player, there may be times when you'll want to share your tunes with friends. Although every music phone comes with a headset for listening to tracks, private options for cell phone speakers are few. Sony Ericsson, however, is aiming to change that fact with a series of new products for its excellent Walkman phone lineup. The Sony Ericsson MPS-60 portable speakers, for example, offer a portable solution for music on the go, but if you want to rock the house a bit more, there's the Sony Ericsson MDS-70 home audio system. Besides offering impressive audio quality for its size, the MDS-70 presents an attractive design and a solid feature set that includes an amplifier, an equalizer, a subwoofer, an FM-radio antenna, and a remote control. At $249, it will take a bite out of your wallet, but it's a solid choice for blasting your Walkman phone tunes.
With a simple but stylish design, the Sony Ericsson MDS-70 looks like many other portable speakers on the market. Clad in basic silver, the triangular speaker bar measures 8.0 by 2.0 by 2.0 inches and weighs 15.7 ounces. The phone docking port sits on the bottom of the main speaker grille, while the twin volume controls, a function button, and a power LED light are on the top of the bar. On the back of the unit are ports for the FM antenna and the connector cable to the subwoofer/AC adapter, as well as a 3.5mm port for connecting the speakers to a stand-alone MP3 player.
Although the main speaker is easily portable, the subwoofer/AC adapter measures a bulky 8.0 by 5.0 by 2.75 inches and tips the scales at a weighty 2.1 pounds. It dwarfs the speaker bar significantly, making it a device not for use on the go (try the MPS-60 speakers instead). When carried together, the subwoofer and the speaker bar fit only in larger bags, and it felt like we were lugging around bricks to a construction site. By all means, this is a device for use in the home or transporting in a car. In terms of ornamentation, the subwoofer is pretty plain, with just an on/off switch.
A bonus of the Sony Ericsson MDS-70 is its handy remote control. Sporting a minimalist white and silver color scheme and measuring a compact 3.3 by 1.25 by 0.2 inches, it's small enough not to be obtrusive on a coffee table while remaining comfortable to hold in hand. You can't use the remote control to change tracks (you'll have to do that on the phone), but you can use it to change the function (from the phone to the FM antenna to a line-in device), activate the equalizer or surround-sound effects, adjust the treble or bass levels, and control the volume. The remote control uses a small lithium battery that, while easily replaceable, may be hard to find in stores.
Hooking up the Sony Ericsson MDS-70 is beyond easy. After plugging in the AC adapter/subwoofer and connecting it to the speaker bar, you need only insert your mobile into the deck. It's important to note that the dock is compatible with Walkman phones only, so even if you have another handset with a music player, you can't use it here. After you're connected and you've powered up the speaker, you can activate the Walkman player on your phone and listen away. Conveniently, the speaker bar will also charge your phone while your tracks are playing.
True audiophiles will be pleased to know you can use the Sony Ericsson MDS-70 with a stand-alone MP3 player, provided it uses a standard 3.5mm plug. After connecting the two devices, just press the function button until the corresponding LED is lit, and you're good to go. What's more, you can use the speakers to listen to your phone's FM radio. All you need to do is insert the included FM-radio antenna into the corresponding port on the speaker bar.
We tested the Sony Ericsson MDS-70 home audio system with the Sony Ericsson W600i Walkman phone and the Creative Zen Vision. Music quality for both devices was admirable, with clear and crisp audio at both high and low volume levels. As expected, though, the Zen Vision sounded better. The volume was louder than we expected, but to achieve the highest sound levels, you need to turn up the phone's internal volume control. Bass-heavy tracks tended to be muffled, but the bass and treble controls made a difference. Although the equalizer didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference to our ears, the surround-sound-effects function enhanced the quality notably. Keep in mind that it doesn't deliver enough sound to shake the walls, but for its price, size, and features, the Sony Ericsson MDS-70 provides listening enjoyment for quality alone time or small gatherings.