One of the fun things about being a reviewer is that you never know what to expect next. I was somewhat surprised when a company asked me if I would review an Alarm Clock Radio. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Alarm Clock Radio’s and have used one for many years, but I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what on earth I could review about it, maybe how loud the alarm is?

I agreed to do the review because my existing alarm clock is on its last legs. It has been abused one too many times resulting in it being a major endeavor to change the time, requiring lots of slapping, banging and cursing. The concept of having a unit that actually works was quite appealing.

After a little go around with my good friends at Canada Customs who periodically seem to think I deserve special treatment, and slap bizarre and I think random charges on items that are for promotional use only. UPS finally delivered the item.

Boy was I in for a surprise! The first thing that caught my attention was the size and weight of the shipping container. Here in the Barrett household we use our own method of volume measurement, the base unit is known as a Clint Box. Clint is one of my favorite Music Video distributors, and inevitably sends me 40 DVD’s at a time. The boxes are always the same size, so we refer to them as Clint Boxes, even the regular Mail Man has taken to saying “Morning, looks like you got another Clint Box”.  Anyway this shipping container was approximately 3 Clint Boxes, i.e. huge!

Taking my trusty exacto knife I hacked my way inside. The unit itself came in a rather attractive white protective bag, and a pair of white gloves! The significance of the gloves I have to admit I am not quite sure about, but it certainly is unique.

Both my wife and I said “wow” when we set our eyes on the Sonoro Cubo, this is not your $20 WalMart rollback special. This is a working piece of art. It is quite large at 9 ½ x 8 ½ x 5 ½ inches, it is also pretty heavy. The exterior of my demo unit is finished in a lacquered maple of the highest quality, the Cubo is also available in a variety of other colored finishes, but I really like the one I have.

There is a saying, ‘the devil is in the details’ and these people have gone all out on the details. About the only thing this unit cannot do is make the coffee!

The layout of the controls is somewhat minimalistic but functional and elegant. My first adventure after setting the clock, which incidentally has a built in battery backup system, none of that waking up to the flashing 12:00 because the power went out overnight, was to try out the built in CD player. This was another “Wow” moment, the acoustics from this unit rival high end stereo systems. The built in sub-woofer gives  a richness to the sound that fills the room.

I noticed that you could also plug in an external device, such as an MP3 player. While I don’t own one of those, I know, I must be the last person in North America that does not have an iPod, or a cell phone! I do have two portable DVD players, so I hooked one them up (cables supplied by Sonoro), and once again, I was amazed. The audio quality far surpassed the speakers that I normally use.

Next up was the radio feature. Everything has been thought of, you can use the internal antennae or an external (supplied with the unit), or your own. You can configure up to 6 preset stations, or manually adjust the tuning. The digital tuner operates in either a manual mode allowing fine tuning in 0.05 MHz steps, or, if you are lazy like me, you can use the ‘scan’ mode to find stations.

Oh, I guess I should mention the basic function of being an alarm clock. Well even here the Sonoro Cubo is pretty swanky. You can choose to be woken by one of the preset radio stations, a buzzer, or by your favorite CD. Better still you can select which track to wake up to. You can also set up to two alarms, I think this is a great feature, many families run on different schedules, with one person getting up at lets say 6am, and another at 8am. The Sonoro Cubo can handle this.

I have to say that this unit is way too good to hide in the bedroom, this is the ultimate media player for the kitchen or other high traffic area. One feature that I have not talked about is the headphone socket. Personally I think the speaker system already built into the unit is top of the line, but if you so desire, you can also add your own external speakers.

OK, now the downside, it ain’t cheap! The Sonoro Cubu is being offered through Saks Fifth Avenue, and the retail price is $350. Ouch, I hear you say, but for the outstanding quality of both the audio and the physical design it is a bargain.

I know that some of you are techy freaks and want to know what is inside it. Well the good news is that in about a week I will be interviewing one of the Sonoro Cubo folks. With me in Canada, and them in Germany it takes a little while to find a mutually agreeable time slot, that 9 hour time difference is a damn pest!

Simon Barrett

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