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Acoustic Solutions SP150 review

Preside over around-the-clock dinner parties

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Our Verdict

Good budget compromise if you don't need a streaming device/recorder

For

  • Idiot proof

    Solid sounding CD player/jukebox

    Cavernous hard disk

Against

  • Can't play or record MP3s

Here's a sophisticated device that does a straightforward task at a high standard: copying your CD collection to an internal 40GB hard disk.

Unlike other digital jukeboxes with wireless bells and whistles, there's little extraneous fat to obscure this product's key selling point, and 40GB will swallow a typical music collection many times over. If you were planning to spend £200 on a new CD player, this product makes more sense.

Admittedly, this sort of money will buy a standard CD player from a familiar audiophile brand (with better audiophile features), but it won't offer such flexibility. The downside is that this is a one-trick pony, and even two hundred notes may seem excessive for a static silver box in this age of delightfully mobile digital audio.

Let's assume that the premise of the SP150 appeals to you. This is a classy-looking device that will sit happily alongside the rest of your hi-fi separates, as it resembles a high-end CD player.

Setting up the player is simple thanks to the clear and well illustrated manual: connect the RCA leads to a suitable amplifier and you're ready to go.

Spin a conventional audio CD and the SP150 will do its best to identify the album from the built-in CDDB database. Subsequent software updates enable you to update this, but only by CD (the SP150 can't directly connect to the internet).

Play tracks and they're automatically transferred to the hard disk for playback later. You can also choose when to start the file compression process, either immediately, or later during standby mode.

Three quality levels are available, from most compressed (128kbps) to least compressed (320kbps), and it can be turned off completely if you're not too bothered about saving space, or want to record genres that don't respond well to compression (eg classical music).

Compression is a necessary evil if you have a huge music collection, but we predict that most users will keep it to a minimum and try to save disk space in other ways. Even at maximum compression levels, tracks sound fine for everyday playback, though audiophiles will notice the effect on audio fidelity.

As a CD is copied to the hard disk, you can listen to a 25 second preview of each track as it's transferred. Unlike some of its close competitors, the SP150 also enables you to access tracks already stored on the hard disk while recording a new disk.

We're also impressed by the playback functions. As well as random selection, dinner party fans will love being able to mix tracks together using Segue, while those with a short attention span will appreciate Intro, which plays the first 15 seconds of each track.

More advanced functions include the ability to assign quick keys and adjust the output signal level so it matches the input sensitivity of a connected amplifier. This player really grows on you, and the only major letdown is that it won't touch MP3 tracks or discs.