The funky design of the NX-02 mini sound system sets it completely and beautifully apart - it resembles no other CD player or boom box on the market. Indeed it's about as far from the traditional black rectangular box as you can get. At first glance, you might think it's an empty photo frame or Perspex tray on its side or some such contraption, as there are no visible speakers. But the two transparent "wings" are actually clear polycarbonate NXT speakers that vibrate to produce sound.
The centre panel houses a reverse back-lit LCD display showing the time or current mode of operation, the system control buttons, a built-in subwoofer and the CD compartment. In a nod to style-meisters Bang & Olfsen, the motorised CD door opens upward.
A headphone jack and a thin, tactile remote control complete the package. The remote is a very nice addition, but it's the only way to set the timer and access many of the other functions on the NX-02, so don't lose it.
Another design advantage - you can remove the base and hang the NX-02 on the wall - good for those with limited shelf or bench space.
The NX-02 is compatible with CD, CD-R and CD-RW discs. But note that this unit cannot play back CD-R/RWs recorded by MP3 or other compression formats.
The system also includes an AM/FM digital tuner with 20 AM and 20 FM presets; four equaliser presets which give you the options of rock, pop, flat and classical modes; adjustable bass and treble control (+/- six levels); a 20 track programmable memory; and skip, scan, random, repeat and mute functions.
There is a sleep feature that shuts off the system after either 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. There is no alarm function, however, which limits its appeal somewhat as a sound system for the bedroom.
There are also In and Out auxillary jacks if you want to hook it up to other audio equipment such as a VCR, MP3 player, subwoofer, TV or amplifier for alternative stereo sound.
Although this is a sound system, playing a CD on it actually draws a bit of visual interest. The clear cover of the CD door enables you to watch the playing disc spin round and the vibrating NXT panels reflect any light bouncing off them. It's also very tempting to press your palm on them to feel the sound vibrations, so you'll probably wind up with smudgy panels.
This brings us to a bit of a maintenance issue. The manual says you can gently clean the polycarbonate NXT speakers with a clean, damp cloth, but we believe normal wear and tear may sully the looks of the NX-02. We tried to spiff up the review unit, but found it hard to get rid of little marks, which over time might detract from its potent sex appeal.
TDK claims that the invisible SurfaceSound Speakers have a broader sweet spot that eliminates the 'beaming' or narrow sound field often associated with conventional speakers.
That may be true, but broad or not, the sound was not as deep or rich as we hoped it would be. The mini subwoofer may just be a bit too mini - we felt the base was lacking, even after we adjusted the bass tone level upwards. Playing with the equaliser modes didn't seem to help either.
Perhaps the 'wow' factor of the design sets up too high expectations for the sound, but the benefits of the NXT speakers are not as "clear" as they appear.