“ CD Radio Cassette With 8 Watts (RMS). „
It is a strange world indeed when it comes to audio equipment and market trends, or rather what the brands are trying to do to coerce buyers into thinking what is best for them. Or so it appears to me. Ten years ago, the advent of portable sound in a living room could be had from a very well made portable stereo unit offering owners the choice of using audio cassette, CD, auxiliary option and a large amount of analogue radio wave bands on offer. Nowadays, as CD players become almost extinct unless you coerce yourself into buying a rather expensive micro box that can't be moved easily from room to room, it is impossible to find a portable CD player with stereo speakers that has decent sound quality backed by likewise build and good features. The last CD player that I purchased to replace my venerable six year old Panasonic RXED50 with its old fashioned double cassette player and handy AUX point for additional devices such as a record player or iPod was a Sony CFD 50S that has as much sound quality as a youth yelling into a paper bag. With a rather awful bass boost button and nothing else to amp the sound up, the rather poor output of sound and quality in tandem had very little appeal - with the only redeeming feature of the Sony having an AUX output that allows me to add my iPod or additional devices.
Panasonic on the other hand continued to stick with traditional and sold their RXED50 "Ghetto blaster" as far as 2008 when finally, the last stocks dried up replacing their portable stereos with portable iPod docks - not exactly what I was looking for and not exactly what I expected from a company at one point were the best for sound quality and features. When I saw the RXED55 portable CD stereo on an auction site recently, I knew I had to have it, even though it doesn't offer an Aux point for additional devices, I needed something that was a bit more powerful than the Sony to play my 100s of CDs I had bought over the years as well as a decent radio as opposed to just living with DAB all the time - as DAB radios can only pick up so much!
It has to be said though that whilst the Panasonic RXED50 was available in the UK, the RXED55 was only released for a short period and seems to be quite a rare portable stereo that when it appears on auction sites, suddenly gets high bids. I bid on three of these stereos earlier this year, only being pipped to the post each time by last minute bidders and at retail it had an initial cost price of £86 to £95 when it was first sold on the market, with second hand prices managing to secure prices between £60 to £80; proof that it seems to keep a good level of price if a good condition unit comes up at auction. Eventually I managed to get one at a cost of £65-00 from EBAY UK.
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
* Brand & model: Panasonic RXED55 Double Tape CD & Radio Stereo.
* Also known as RXED55 EB (UK model), EG (Europe model).
* FM/AM radio with LCD panel (not DAB) with digital tuner.
* 24 radio-preset capabilities.
* 20-watt stereo sound output with additional Virtualiser tweeters.
* Full logic remote control (requires 2xAA batteries).
* 32 watts maximum power, 8/16 watts per speaker.
* 6/7 preset additional sound settings.
* Headphone socket (small 32mm sizing).
* Sleep timer function, double cassette tape players with cue & review.
* Single CD player, able to play CD/CD-R/CD-RW.
* General size: 49cm width by 14.2cm height by 29cm depth.
General Quality & Design
Compared to the all silver RXED50, the Panasonic RXED55 is a rather dark affair. It has a combination of dark graphite silver and black contrasting colours to differentiate the decals, buttons and overall design, culminating in a rather dark stereo unit that probably was designed to fit in with darker decors of the 1990s. It has a standby red dot LED to the left hand side of its main central viewer LCD panel within the lighter section of silver in the middle of the Panasonic's fascia and the panel is slightly larger than the blue LCD panel on my old RXED50 model and lacks the cool blue light, offering a light lime yellow green background that makes it a bit harder to see the thinner numbers and decals appearing.
In many ways I can see why this stereo is professional looking as opposed to the far more appealing silver RXED50 model but what makes it more professionally looking also makes it far less appealing - it seems to shoot itself in the foot as the tape cassette controls, main volume controls and sound settings which can now be obtained without the remote control are in dark greys with white writing.
But oh when it comes to general usage, the Panasonic wins back my heart! Everything on this stereo moves with oiled precision and one button simplicity from the way the buttons eject the double tape cassette doors, from the way the central front loader slowly emerges to accept a single CD for playing and from the general soft touch and tactile surfaces that this stereo has in abundance, it is little wonder that the stereo remains so rare on the second hand market. The main three function buttons stand out above all else where everything else is dark grey. Blue round "gel" like buttons activates the radio, cassette or CD dependent on your preference whilst a similar roller wheel that can access each number of a disc manually if you don't have the fully logic remote control to hand can also act as a tuner for the digital radio.
Sound Quality & Enhancements
Like before however with the RXED50's preset sound settings, though the sound settings can't be changed on both Panasonic stereos, the quality of sound and power behind the sound quality is absolutely superb. At a minimum level the stereo speakers offer 8 watts per speakers but doubles the power when the sound settings and extra bass are activated, totalling 16 watts out of the 32 watts of full power that this stereo has - allowing far more power than even my RXED50 model, but the RXED55 here has far more base and depth than before and the speakers won't vibrate when the sound is adjusted half way towards the louder sound level. Thus whilst each speaker has Panasonic's patented "Virtualiser" tweeter functions built in as well, it gives you double the amount of sound settings on offer and of the six offered, each one comes with a worded choice from "Soft," "Rock" "XBS," "Clear", "Vocal" and "EQ-Off," indicating a balanced level of sound without the extra high tone, middle and bass parts of the 7 channel digital equaliser shown on the screen. Of course it would be perfect to be able to change each of those channels but it follows the similar route to the other Panasonic RXED50 where the sound settings can't be manipulated for your own choice. Over my older model, the best compromise I have found with the sound is to set this model onto their basic "EQ-Off," setting as it has enough power to give off a good balance of treble, bass and tone without being far too tinny compared to the "Clear" setting where the tone is at its highest, treble is muted and bass is non-existent.
Thus I can have a thumping club sound in my living room if I choose to wish, from soft concert hall depths to the sound of a small club if I wish - but it really depends on the quality of the music being played through the system in the first place and of what style - stereo imaging is very present with pop music from the 1990s for example and the player has a crystal clear clarity that none of its rivals from supermarket brands and others can hope to attain.
Though I have few tapes these days I still have audio story tapes which are good to listen once in a while, and it is good to see that both tape players have the Panasonic/Japanese trait of offering cue and review within the fast forward and rewind mechanisms, almost offering the same kind of instant accessibility when selected like each track on a CD when that function is activated.
Though the tape players, CD player and radio can all be accessed by manually pressing the buttons, the fully logic wireless remote control holds the key to all the accessible features that the Panasonic offers. Without it, you lose the possibility of accessing all of the sound settings as well as being able to have display functions on the multi LCD screen. Being slightly older as a second hand model, the LCD panel on mine has a dimmer screen too due to it age and there are no brightness or lower dim settings for the light either, though it works better in the evenings when there is little light compared to during the day.
Other Functions & Downsides
Apart from the instant realisation that Panasonic no longer produce this rather well built ghetto blaster, the RXED55 only suffers from other downsides such as not having the much needed AUX point that would enable me to add other devices such as an amp fitted record player or iPods, or other devices that could substantially turn this stereo into a powerful amplifier on its own. For those who have budget televisions for example that may offer limited sound settings, a stereo unit like this with an Aux point can enhance the sound. But I suppose, having my more modern Panasonic iPod dock substantially offers this more modern capability against the RXED55 that doesn't. Also, like the previous silver RXED50, the 55 model is still quite long in terms of a being a portable player and though it may require a table of its own or shelf due to the extended length, at least it can be carried safely due to its carry handle - you can't do that with a micro "cube" HIFI - and overall weight for this stereo is 4.5kg which isn't too heavy.
Aside from all the features previewed so far, the LCD screen of the Panasonic can also show the time as well as 24 presets of radio stations that are easy to program through the remote control unit. Unlike Sony, the Panasonic can save both the time and the programs by fitting 3 AA batteries into the back of the Panasonic where you will also find the battery compartment. Largely, I find that the 3 batteries for memory can last between 4 to 6 months before giving up. These days though I seldom program a radio to record or save my favourite stations let alone take advantage of the stereo's clock that will display when the model is switched on as well as on standby. Given the model's high watts, it isn't an option I take to save on energy - but at least this stereo is like its previous one I have, where the clock can act as an alarm to wake me up with music of my choice as well as offer a sleep with an auto switch off mechanism.
Firstly I am glad that I managed to off load my Sony CD portable tape player. Though its only saving grace was an Auxiliary point, I was never that happy with the poor sound quality and the Panasonic RXED55 makes a great replacement, even though I've had to sacrifice on the lack of that all important Aux point to increase play capability with more modern devices. However, for sound quality the Panasonic RXED55 is hard to beat even though it is no longer sold, it is worth looking out for on auction sites. Though the sound settings won't be for everyone, at least there is enough crystal clear quality that some of the settings allow for and the extra Virtualiser tweeter functions also improve the sound if you don't want the extra sound settings on top. More importantly, the stereo is very well made and quite durable. It is a pity that for all that Panasonic have tried to steer buyers away from their portable CD players in lieu of their less feature packed iPod docks, that I still prefer this type of music player to their iPod docks - proof that even if new tech comes onto the market to replace something that shouldn't be obsolete - the sound quality suffers as a result. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2013.