Price (RRP): $499
Fusing ‘music and fashion’, the MCR-040 micro hi-fi system is clearly aimed at casual music lovers who are fed up with the tinny-sounding smaller iPod docks out there and want something with a bit more beef that also looks good. You can buy the unit in one of 10 different body colours, from a sensible dark grey or white through to bright red, pink and turquoise blue. It’s classic hairdresser territory, to be honest, perfect to place on a shelf at a small businesses or in a study, when you want room-filling sound but where a full separates system would be overkill.
It couldn’t be more straightforward to get the MCR up and running – aside from plugging the power cord into the wall socket, you only have to connect the stereo speakers by way of the simple clip mechanisms and insert the DAB+ antenna lead and you’re done. Unlike some competitor units, the speakers are detached from the main body, allowing you to place them apart and increase the sound stage.
To tune the DAB+ radio stations in, it’s a matter of pressing the input button to cycle through to the ‘DAB’ selection, and the auto-tuning robot thingy kicks in, finding all the available digital radio stations for you. It’s almost the same gig for FM; just change to the FM input on the remote and hold down the tuning button for the auto-scan to initiate. Choosing preset stations is simple on both, although the manner of doing so is confusingly different depending on the band. On DAB+, however, you just find the station, hit ‘memory’ and ‘enter’ and you’re done, so long as you want to store them sequentially. Up to 30 preset stations can be stored this way and in any order you like. For the iPod, it’s just ‘dock and rock’.
The MCR-040 is placed in the middle of the iPod dock market, with more functionality than the simple iThingy playback units and less aesthetic chicanery than the ‘luxury’ end. Far from making any compromises, however, the primary-coloured Yammy units are an iPod dock, a slot-loading CD player and a DAB+ and FM digital radio all rolled into one. They look good, demonstrating a solid, functional design ethic, there’s ‘Advanced YST’ to squeeze the maximum possible sound out of the small speakers, the iPod dock charges your Apple device and the radio is high quality. Other features include a USB port, for direct access to music off a thumb drive, a headphone socket and you can even plug in a PC or a non-Apple music player using the 3.5mm Aux input on the front of the machine.
The MCR-040 is a solid unit with rounded buttons that have a good, firm feel when you push them, overall exhibiting reassuring build quality. Only two of the cute buttons affect function: one is a play/pause button and the other is, bizarrely, a ‘stop playback’ button that works with CDs and iDevices but obviously not the radio. Some functions are only available on the remote which makes sense for a system intended to be placed on a bookshelf, but I personally missed the ability to skip tracks without finding the remote to do so.
“The docking cradle charges my iPhone 4 in spite of a not optimised for your device” error message flashing up as it’s plugged into the MCR-040 unit. In action, the bass has a consistently sound footing but higher ranges get away from the MCR-040 a little as you pump up the volume. As is the way with digital music, it gets better if you ensure your MP3s are originally recorded at a decent bit rate (320kbps min. recommended) and if you don’t, be ready for a bit of distortion. The sound will fill a small room but not, we find in practice, a large space.
You can pick up this Yamaha micro system for well under $400 at the stores of any of the battling electronics giants and that’s a lot of bang for your buck. The MCR-040 is the best sounding iPod/CD combo we’ve heard for a while, it’s well designed and, while we’d be surprised if the more funky-coloured units sold a tenth of the dark grey, white or black ones, the option to buy it in one of ten colours should make it a popular choice.