This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above

Reviewer: Ken Micallef
Digital Source: Raysonic CD128, Sony Playstation One
Analog Source: Kuzma Stabi/Stogi turntable/arm combo, Denon DL-103 cartridge, Auditorium 23 Denon step-up transformer [on loan]
Preamp: Shindo Allegro
Amp: Art Audio Diavolo
Speakers: DeVore Fidelity Super 8s
Cables: Auditorium A23 speaker cables, Shindo interconnects
Stands: Salamander rack, 2" Mapleshade platforms (8" x 15" x 2"), Blue Circle custom amp stand
Powerline conditioning: JPS Labs Kaptovator, Shunyata Black Mamba and Anaconda Vx Powersnakes, Hydra 4 [on loan]
Accessories: Mapleshade Surefoot and Heavyfoot brass points and IsoBlocks; (8) RPG ProFoam damping panels/ceiling treatment, Mapleshade Ionoclast for static cling
Room size: 24' x 12', short-wall setup
Review component retail price: $149.95

A Day in the Village
Lenny Cecere runs a small Greenwich Village institution called Something Special. Here, amid the bric-a-brac, percolated coffee and candy for sale, the 82-year old Matt Lauer look-alike rents mailboxes, performs notary service and distributes sage wisdom and sly humor to the many folks who use Something Special as both local watering (or caffeine) hole and all-around hangout. The store on the street level floor of Lenny's landmark-designated building is particularly popular among SoHo's rich and famous who regard Lenny's mailboxes as their personal address away from home. The Beastie Boys, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Patti Smith, Famke Janssen and other showbiz notables can be seen picking up their mail at Lenny's. Sarah Jessica Parker even served coffee in years past when her schedule in the city was less than sexy.

A typical day at Something Special finds Lenny holding court and serving coffee as fellow seniors -- like 'Philly' DeCicco and his brother Jimmy who in the '70s were on a first name basis with Sullivan Street mobster Vinnie 'The Chin' Gigante and Frank Sinatra -- shoot the breeze, argue about the Mets and Yankees or pass a summer day watching the endless people parade that courses down Houston Street. Get Lenny talking and eventually he'll tell you about the huge cache of NOS tubes down in his basement. I have heard about this tube stash for years with no physical proof to back up the story. You see, after completing his army tour of duty in '45 and marrying Lucy Iannattone, Lenny trained at RCA's school for radio electronics at West 4th and 8th Street in Manhattan. He worked for Kodak as an electronics and machine maintenance technician for some 25 years during which time he began collecting radios. You own old radios, you gotta stock NOS tubes. I figured that the rumored tubes were all smashed and swept away but one day Lenny surprised me with a beautiful old Zenith tube radio from the '50s. Returning to the basement, he unearthed more goodies: a crusty Audiovox AM/FM from the '70s, a nondescript '80s shortwave, a nifty looking RCA solid state and a truly space-age low profile WestClox model. Radio nut that I am, I grabbed the Windex and polished up these beauties, all of which worked wonderful, to the point where I almost expected to hear broadcasts from decades past emitting from the radios' ancient facades.
Radio Renaissance
No matter how modern or loaded with gadgets and doodads, any new radio that purports to play music must reckon with the past. Some folks get radio, some don't. For some, it's simply the squawk box in the car or a morning wake-up call. For others, listening to music on a radio, tabletop or otherwise, holds a particular magic. Anyone who grew up in the '70s recalls listening to the radio late at night, slowly rotating the dial as stations from across the country came into ear shot, every new station playing different play lists, their local cultures and regional flavors shining through. Even if you couldn't travel to these cities, the radio would take you there. Nashville, Louisville, Atlanta, Chicago, New York - my wood-veneered RCA tabletop pulled in all manner of AM top 40 stations, in an era when the radio played great music 24/7. Switched over to the FM dial and the nascent underground radio scene was in full bloom, playing King Crimson, Soft Machine, Joni Mitchell, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Winter and everything else. The radio was magic. The radio was power. And sometimes, such as when the station (WRPL "with Calvin" in Charlotte, NC) played the entire LP of Dark Side of the Moon, the radio was even hi-fi.

30 years later, music-only radio (of the hardware variety) is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, thanks in no small part to The Tivoli Audio Model One, a small, extremely fine-sounding table top radio box with a small speaker that could. My personal favorite among the current radio renaissance is the Music Hall RDR-1 Radio. In my 6moons review I wrote: "Sitting on my kitchen sink blasting out sounds over and through my ears, the RDR-1 presented a wide and deep if not particularly succinct or detailed soundstage yet it -- and the music it produced -- pulsed with life. The essence of music was fully revealed by this mighty mite and toe tapping, air guitar and serious late night listening were all accommodated. Like many of you reading this, I own a rig costing in the tens of thousands but while listening to the RDR-1, I never once thought, "Hmmm, it could use more resolution" or "I need to clean up my power". No, the Music Hall RDR-1 got on with the business of music, plain and simple. And in doing so, it allowed me to get on with the business of living - uncomplicated, unconcerned, anything but serious and majorly fun."

The Music Hall did it all: umpteen presets, fully functional, credit-card-sized killer remote controlling adjustable bass, treble and volume; a smart wooden cabinet with rounded styling; clock and alarm (radio/buzzer); alternate rotary tuning; 3-inch 7-watt speaker; detachable power cord; and even a record output jack. For my money, the $199 Music Hall is the one to beat.

Sony's ICF-M1000
Which brings us (finally, some of you might be thinking) to the subject of this review, Sony's ICF-M1000 The Radio. An oblong shaped box finished in gorgeous piano black lacquer, the rather hefty The Radio is as simple as simple gets. Sony wasn't fooling around when they designed this retro radio. Heck, there is almost nothing here to tell you that this is a current production radio, save the raised plastic wedge that reveals a backlit digital readout. No remote. No detachable power cord. A single knob to adjust bass and treble.

Actually, you get three chunky knobs, one for tuning, one for volume, one for 'tone' as they used to call it. Headphone jack 'round the side. Two mini plug receptacles 'round back, one for connecting an MP3 player, another for outsourcing the line signal to a better speaker. Oh, and there are three tiny buttons on the plastic wedge, for band/clock, radio/line in and power. Otherwise, that's it. Except for the digital readout, The Radio looks exactly like one of my old radios from the 70s, right down to the fuzzy, gauzy material covering the unit's facade. No manual to read (though it is included), no presets to worry about. Just the ticket for baby boomers checking the morning news or blasting weekend tunes while the enchiladas fry in deep fat. But does The Radio make music on par with the Music Hall? For $150 you'd hope that Sony, who lost market share on everything from SACD to MP3 players, would get their game in order. Do they?

The short and sweet answer? They don't. This is undoubtedly the most overpriced, feature-lacking radio on the market today (though I have not heard everything). No matter how long I attempted to break-in the unit by playing music at different volume levels for extended periods, The Radio produced a rather muddy, closed in, boxy sound that resolved everything from classical to jazz to AM talk in a monotonous one-tone representation, though the soundstage of the little mite was acceptable. The tone knob was practically an insult. Turn it all the way up and the sound became moderately clear, all the way down and you'd want to turn off The Radio altogether. The Radio lacked a sense of musical life, any sense that someone had actually listened to music when designing the thing. The 3 1/8-inch speaker and plastic port sounded better with the grille removed and it played acceptably loud. But The Radio's reception of FM stations was a big let-down when compared to my memory of the Music Hall, which even here in the canyons of Manhattan pulled in Newark's jazz station WBGO with crystal clarity. Through the Sony, WBGO was basically a tour through different levels of static. Moving the radio improved the signal while the static remained. My body was the best antenna. I moved closer to the radio and the static stopped. Even if I moved my body around when ten feet from the radio, reception changed. Nuts!

NPR news broadcasts sounded as good as needed and hair rock on another station was appropriately loud. Where the Music Hall somehow extended music out into the room with high fidelity, The Radio worked best as a talk radio blowhole. Jump factor was moderate when I could tune in a good jazz station, though static was still present. Changing the antenna from internal to external (via a small switch on the back) improved reception even when no external FM antenna was attached (and Sony doesn't bother to supply one). The biggest problem? Playing acoustic jazz at slightly past ¾ total volume caused horrible distortion in the bass frequencies, the speaker totally bottoming out, farting and generally going postal. This was true with any acoustic music played at the ¾ volume setting. So much for room-filling sound.

I couldn't imagine owning The Radio and at normal volume levels I can't see how the unit's speaker would last very long anyway. If it is bottoming out now and producing flat, distorted bass notes, what will happen in two year's time? And a lack of remote control in the year 2007 is impossible to ignore when everything from my inflatable bed to the fan comes with a remote.

My small RCA transistor radio, though tinny sounding and lacking in bass by comparison, produced a greater level of fun and satisfaction and was static free in the same room compared to The Radio! I was half tempted to take The Radio down to Lenny's and compare it to the golden oldie Zenith tube radio he cherishes but then I figured, why insult the past? Sony needs a serious rethink of their priorities if they want to compete with the Music Halls and Tivoli Audios of the world.
Manufacturer's website