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Sony NAS-50HDE Gigajuke audio system

If stereos were Stetsons, this would be a ten gallon hat

DAB digital radio makes a perhaps unexpected appearance and performs well enough to not feel like an afterthought. If anything, the sound quality feels even better than on CD, and a quick listen to some cricket commentary confirmed this. Most DAB systems deal well with a nice lively signal with lots of information stuffed into it, but often lacks the more '3D' feeling that analogue signals seem to possess. But here there was enough subtly and detail to fill in the gaps and provide a good enough sound in DAB. FM fans will not be disappointed either as playback here is solid, warm and reliable.

But enough of the basic features - this system is really all about its powerful brain and the ways that it can set free the humble compact Hi-Fi to explore new horizons. An 80GB hard drive and internet connection give the system legs that earlier relatives could only dream of. A maximum of 40,000 tracks can be stored on the unit's hard drive and there are a pleasing number of ways to get the info onto the machine. A CD can be placed in the drawer and the Gigajuke rips it in much the same way as a PC might and pretty quickly too - officially, the Duke can record at 16x normal CD playback speed, which is currently one of the fastest around for this type of product.

Gracenote's CD database comes pre-loaded, so even without logging onto to the web lots of CD title and track inro is immediately available after recording. The database is by no means exhaustive - ask it something a little obscure and it struggles - but because the unit can go online to search, folk with more eclectic tastes can tag up their obscure MP3s. From here you can do all the things that you'd expect from an iPod or MP3 player, like search for a particular artist, album, or song.

Many consumers who might be interested in buying the Gigajuke will have stored all their music on a computer or portable player. Fortunately, the Gigajuke allows you to plug either in. It then simply copies all the tracks onto its own hard drive.

We made it a little easy for the Gigajuke and plugged in a fully loaded Walkman, but connection and download time were good. The unit's nice, large display took a while to decide how long our 1GB of MP3 and ATRAC songs would take to download, but in the end it took about 15 minutes to get everything from the Walkman stored away. No exactly quick, in other words - Sony really should have included a high-speed USB 2.0 port not the slow 1.1.

Next page: Verdict

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