The Feature Set
The Model 88CD has all the standard CD, radio, and clock/timer features, plus a few of its own. The rear panel carries a set-and-forget bass level control and a record output that doubles as a mixing input. Due to the lack of gain, you can't plug in a microphone for karaoke sing-along, but you could certainly hear alert tones from your computer if you connected your sound card to the radio. On the front panel are a headphone minijack and a switch that cycles through normal stereo, "wide" stereo, and mono (for clearer reception of poor FM signals).
The unit's tuner did an adequate job pulling in FM stations; we found it marginally better than the comparable Bose Wave Radio/CD. However, the Bose radio performed better with AM stations. The antenna jack is deeply recessed, leaving no room for the plug-in transformer adapter we like to use with our rabbit-ear antenna. Adding a short extension cable fixes this.
Listening to the Model 88CD
We turned the bass a bit below its factory setting when we began our listening tests. This level sounded best in our room and minimized the speaker/amp bass distress on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (Transformer). Even turned down, the bass sounded strong, deep, and warm, though it was somewhat subdued when we set the radio to wide stereo. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's voice on "Chambre SeparÃ©e" (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operetta) sounded a tad steelier than it had on the Bose Wave Radio/CD. The BÃ¶sendorfer of Malcolm Frager's Chopin recordings lacked the lifelike bass you would expect from a larger music system, but its upper register came to life quite nicely (again, with an occasional steely hardness). Overall, the Model 88CD's sound was a bit on the showy side, sounding better from across the room. Listening at that distance naturally reduces the stereo effect, since the left and right speakers are just a few inches apart. The wide setting was provided to restore stereo perspective under those circumstances. However, we liked it even close in.
At $400, the Model 88CD is a real value. It's not as pretty as the Bose radio, and it will take up a little more space on the table. But you will get a better FM tuner and high-quality speakers for your money.