a shiny thing Denon UDM 51 Micro Hi Fi System
Real hi fi in a little box

I was looking for a baby stereo to go in the bedroom. Nothing flash, you understand, just something small to put on relaxing tunes at night and for lie-ins. I would expect to be able to play CDs and listen to FM radio. Line in would be nice, so I can hook up an MP3 player. A sleep timer is pretty much essential, but a wake-up timer would be the icing on the cake. Sound quality is not the overriding criteria here, itís just something to bear in mind. After all, If I want to listen carefully to something Iíll use the grown-up separates downstairs. What Iím after here is something that is tiny, and convenient.

Being me, I went to visit Mr Sony. Had he had a CMT-SE1 in stock Iíd have walked out with it on the spot. I had a quick listen to the demo model and it seemed pretty good. It was very shiny, but then again the speakers looked a bit bulky for a micro system.

I then walked round the corner to a more independent shop. I asked the nice man what he would recommend for the requirements above. He said ĎWell, you probably want one of the systems that normally sit thereí, pointing to an empty space between two tiny speaker cabinets. As luck would have it, Mr Courier came through the door of the shop with a box. It had in it the missing system, all brand new. At this point I could feel the will power slipping. ĎWould you like to have a listen?í Itís not a quiz. Itís a good thing I stood back as the box was opened. Shinion radiation burns are no laughing matter!

I hadnít taken any CDs in with me: this wasnít a Ďseriousí audio shopping session. The chap went off and found a CD to play. Oh my! This was a proper stereo, but tiny. I had to have it. That one. Put it in the box. Hurry up.

Iím sat writing this, on my bed, listening to Depeche Modeís Songs of Faith and Devotion. It sounds lovely. Actually it sounds slightly unnerving, as Depeche Mode should. Iíve been looking at the SC-M51 speakers, wondering how they can sound so good and be so small. Iíve put them on cheap steel 600mm stands, which Iím sure helps. The bass driver is 110mm in diameter. I think it could have something to do with being made by Mission. They have 4mm post terminals at the back rather than spring clips. On their own they are £70 (UK).

The main unit (UD-M31) has an aluminium fascia sporting some shiny buttons, the CD drawer and an attractive fluorescent display that is semi-mirrored. It looks very good indeed. The volume control has a nice weight to it, even though itís just an encoder. The power button has a multi-coloured LED in the centre: red for off, green for on, and yellow for off-but-programmed-to-do-something later. The wake-up timer is a nice touch. It means I can use the system as an alarm clock. You can set all sorts of options for what you want to listen to (or record) and for how long. You can also set it to switch off after a variable time.

The tuner has RDS with EON support so you can listen to traffic reports from the comfort of your own home: handy!

Iím still bowled over about this system. £250(UK) gets you a great looking and sounding system that takes up very little space and doesnít take 2 hours to set up. If I were a student again, Iíd get one like a shot.

You should be able to that tell I like this system a lot. The only thing not to like is the remote control. Itís a small matter, but itís just a bit naff given how ultra-cool the rest of it is. Overall, however, everything just works, and happens to look fantastic too. Having one of these set up properly in your lounge will annoy the arse off hi-fi buffs, because theyíll think it shouldnít sound that good. I know the bass doesnít exactly rock the foundations, but if you want that, buy a subwoofer. The unit has a line level output for it.

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