SQUIXX FIXX.... First things first.. my initial reason for buying the Grundig was because it fit into my budget (it was less than half the cost of the Sonys), and because in that price range, it was the only CD player from a manufacturer I had heard of and whose name could pronounce without getting a degree in Cantonese or some other oriental tongue. APPEARANCE The dull metal blue finish of the Squixx does stand out substantially from the sea of silver and grey discmans from the shelf, which is how it caught my eye in the first place. The circularly arranged silver buttons are a nice touch, but the button in the top right hand corner seems to be a dummy, which feels a little cheap. The only reasons I can think of why Grundig did this is because the button might serve some elusive purpose on higher-end models, or perhaps they thought it helped establish some pattern. Either way, if it doesnt serve a purpose, it shouldnt be there. When the sales rep handed me the piece, the first impression I got was that it was a little larger and heavier than the other sleeker (but elusively expensive) portables on the shelf. Perhaps cumbersome would be a better word... the sony I had was half as thick, and probably weighed a good 40% less. The two cutway sections on the lid are a nice touch.. and I recommend that whatever player you wind up buying, make sure you can see at least a part of the disc through the lid. Sometimes if a CD you have isnt playing, it's a little easier to figure out whats wrong if you can see the spin up cycle. What really bothered me though, is the slightly second-rate and plasticky feel to the player. The lid flexes every time you press any of the control buttons, and the buttons make a very audible clunk when you press them. There's too much give/play in the body, and that indicates poor quality control. The paint job on the player, on the other hand is great, and after more than a year of usage, Ive go t no paint peeling off, so mixed feelings on the build quality. FUNCTIONALITY The model I bought came with Grundig's earphones, rather than the street-style headphones that are available today. I have a major complaint here... Ive checked in the mirror and with a few friends.. my ears are normal size ears with no visible deformities. Grundig's earphones then, are meant either for the Tolkein's Elven-folk, or Enid Blyton's 'Big Ears'. To say that things get a bit snug when you put them in is a definite understatement. The flip size, though, is that they sound great, but every few songs, youve got to take them out for a few seconds to give your ears a breather. To be absolutely fair, this Grundig sounds FANTASTIC. The clarity of the sound is first rate, with very little distortion even at higher volumes. The acoustic amplification is pretty uniform, with perhaps a little bias towards the midrange, which is where most of the audible sound is, anyway. (A lot of this had to do with the earphones, which are pretty capable little buggers). The Ultra Bass Boost system has nowhere near the punch that Sony's DBB discmans offer, but it adds a decent amount of bass kick to the sound. Battery life too isnt too bad.. a pair of Duracell AA batteries give me enough juice for abt 3-5 days of frequent play with the volume levels cranked up pretty high. There's no getting around the fact that the Squixx has no skip protection. Despite the cheap price tag, you'd expect at least some level of Electronic Skip Protection. This really defeats the purpose of a discman, since it skips when it gets a bit of a jolt. This to me, is a major disadvantage. It'll work fine if you're listening to it while in a bus, or if it's in your backpack, or basically in any environment that doesnt involve random and sudden changes in motion. Take it for a jog or try hooking it up to your car player however, and you'll be sorely disappointed. Also, the lack of a backlight on the LCD display sorta sucks. SUMMARY For the price, the Grundig's not a bad buy at all. But if you're not looking for an elaborate set of bells and whistles, then it's a very capable performer indeed. The sound is absolutely fantastic, and the earphones, although a tad uncomfortable, compliment the player superbly. The lack of both ESP as well as the backlight is inexcusable. On the whole, a capable performer till you can afford the more expensive Sony portables.