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As a digital specialist who rolls its own transports from computer slots to the world's most over-engineered Esoteric VRDS sleds, Teac's inclusion of a CD player in a machine that at least on perception will probably compete with B+W's $600 no-CD Zeppelin Air was perhaps to be expected. For half the price it surely goes the extra mile. What more could one want from a table radio? A digital iPod dock perhaps? For inexplicable reasons that remains reserved for Teac's cheaper model. Team B+W of course implements one for their unit.

With a fully integrated concept like the SR-100i, built-in signal processing for a digital loudness control, 4 preset EQ curves and bass boost is of course ubiquitous. Onboard profiles include flat, pop, jazz, classic and rock. These response contours are predetermined by the maker to be most suitable for those musical styles. Listening to jazz in classic mode is then verboten by the audiophile police. Ticket! Just kidding. Loudness by the way engages a very noticeable presence/treble boost.

Teac's remote retains all the iPod's own functionality even if the vital menu button isn't part of the wand's central circle—which otherwise duplicates Apple's—but one row below. Regardless, remote navigation through menus and playlists is not merely possible but easy. It includes shuffle and repeat modes. The SR-100i can also play MP3/WMA files burnt to CD up to 320kbps. A jeweler friend recently returned from an Indian vacation not just with 20kg of precious stones but numerous such discs containing up to 162 songs each. Here I encountered snafus.
When such files were in a single folder (this the display indicated correctly) the track numbers would soon stop showing properly. Let's give two examples. With Nino's Kalaam-e-sufi CD things started off fine with 0101 to indicate folder 01 track 01. As I kept hitting 'next' in succession I eventually ended up at 0140 for the last track. So far so good. Skipping backwards however through tracks no longer reverted the display. It kept showing 0140 whilst I was clearly listening to earlier tracks. Sometimes the actual track would briefly show—say 0127—before reverting back to 0140 for the track total. At other times the actual track wouldn't show at all. With that disc back/forward commands on the remote eventually stopped working altogether. I had to eject it as it otherwise just kept stubbornly playing. A reboot didn't rectify this issue.

I next tried Nino's Inteha disc with 75 MP3 tracks. Upon insertion this one immediately showed 0175 even though I clearly began listening to the first track. I could forward to the next track but the display didn't confirm its identity*. Very soon skipping tracks in either direction fouled up. It thus seemed that Teac's machine was fine playing such material from beginning to end. Once I attempted navigating at will even through a single folder it locked up. Another snafu occurred whilst changing volume. Between steps 06 and 07 on the dial the signal cut out for a second each time while output scaled up or down across these values. Otherwise volume tracked fine and without brief interrupts. (I later learned that this single DSP-related skip is normal).

The owner's manual warns that "if the file information contains Japanese, Chinese or other double-byte characters, playback is possible but the name will not be shown correctly". I don't think this was the case as standard Indian (not Sanskrit) employs the European alphabet but for the benefit of the doubt it's certainly possible that these discs contained non-standard characters.

Another aspect of the miraculous is applicable only to those reviewers who usually write up hifi separates whose fancy footers cost more than the entire Teac deck. What do you compare it to? My usual desk top system is an AIFF-loaded 160GB iPod Classic, Onkyo's ND-S1 digital-direct iPod dock, the NuForce HDP preamp and Dayens Ampino integrated amp (volume control bypassed) and matching Dayens Tizo monitors. Needless to say, the SR-100i couldn't remotely compete. This was particularly true on overall scale, separation and in-sight. You'd not expect it to either. Conversely you would expect it to beat whatever speaker sickness is built into an iMac or computer monitors. And that it promptly did with a fat lead. Not only are its drivers bigger, they benefit from digital equalization for a bit of bottom-end help. Meanwhile Teac's circuitry mustn't do battle against any direct power/signal pollution from a computer.
More relevant perhaps is talking about what kind of a space the SR-100i can load. My friend Nino is a voracious music nut. With a Quechua mother and Peruvian Inca roots, he has an annual pachamama celebration on his Siwss farmhouse property in the canton of Fribourg. About 60 friends gather 'round a dug-out cooking pit to make merry. There are plenty of pot-luck vegetables and meats but always also Nino's famous fish soup in that giant pot. For last year's do and besides the obligatory Andean live music from a troupe of Peruvian expats, Nino used a Bose iPod table radio. This was set up outdoors on a low stone wall blanketing a good crowd plus grazing cows all set against uninterrupted vistas of rolling Swiss hills. Undistorted volumes from the Bose were plenty adequate to get people to sway hips or shake booty without overpowering their many conversations. This cheap and clearly weathered black box served the occasion just fine. To mix up Nino's non-stop programme variety we routinely swapped iPods. On sheer fun I dare say that the attendees enjoyed themselves, the sun, scenery, delicious food, drink and music far more than the average Spock-eared audiophile - he with the designer hifi in the lonely man cave. I'm certain the SR-100i would have served the occasion just as well.

Based on the 5.5 x 12-meter listening room where my serious mid five-figure hifi lives, the SR-100i's output capability was perfectly adequate to go well beyond background drizzle into civilized adult party mode. That's not rave extremity but wine 'n' dine occasions where music sets mood without taking center stage. If it conjures up an old-timey farmer's family gathered 'round a Sunday kitchen for a few FM tunes from a faraway station in the big city, the table radio designation is just a bit deceiving. Being physically rather bigger than an ordinary table radio the SR-100i also sounds bigger. What will surprise hifi snobs the most is just how quickly one forgets hifi soundstaging with all its artifice. To meet the Teac's far more point-source semi mono presentation without real complaints on its own terms isn't that hard. Rather than lean and edgy, the voicing already in 'flat' mode is warm and full-bodied. Frankly listenability in the comfort zone—if most certainly not on resolution or finesse—is superior here to many affordable hifi separates systems which for all their purity and raw resolution lack the sneaky intelligence of strategically administered equalization.

Whilst the SR-100i does clump everything together far more than any real hifi would (on scale due to the close driver spacing enforced by the unit's width; on separation/detail due to seriously compromised resolution), what's left is cozy and meaty. The latter aspect reminded me of the way bodybuilders look when not leaning out with a short-term diet for that shredded competition look. They have no real muscle definition just mass. Within the obvious limitations of how that term applies sonically, that's what the Teac sounded like; portly, friendly and big rather than sprinter lean and fast. Given its intended applications including Nino-style pachamamas, that voicing struck me as perfectly à propos. Obviously selecting bass boost or one of the precalibrated response curves adds a number of quite different sonic profiles.

Ideal scenarios for the SR-100i include waiting rooms, home offices, kitchens, bedrooms, balconies, patios, studios and desk tops. For the latter the SR-100i only lacks a PC-happy USB connection. But once you think about it, you'd need to set up your computer monitor unnaturally high to park the Teac beneath it. In most all desk-top cases the SR-100i will sit quite off center or well above a computer screen in a wall shelf. This separates sound from screen-centered video. That's why the standard USB input wasn't added. The one useful item that arguably is lacking to squeeze real blood and sweat from today's cheap miracle is Teac's digital-direct iPod feature. That you get in some of their receivers and the €200 SR-80i table radio. Why not in the SR-100i? Perhaps that would have been too good to be true given it's got the CD player? As is and to keep miracles real, my review loaner misbehaved just a bit on MP3 CDs. Those played back fine but soon locked up on navigation features. I'm not sure how many would-be owners would even play such discs; and if so, if they'd insist on skipping around them rather than running them through from start to finish.

Bottom line: For €300 and in three different grill color options Teac's SR100i is a cleverly packaged very user-friendly marvel of integration and big corporate midfi muscle. I can't tell you how it holds up to competitors. This product category is outside my usual focus and ken. Given that our contributors on 6moons and most of our readers tend to spend more on CDs (or file downloads) in one sitting than Teac gets for their machine however... heck, our kind could put this rakishly shaped box in the bathroom. We'd enjoy tunes while we soak in the tub just on Sundays and geek out already on excessive luxury for a song. It's all a matter of perspective, imagination and expectations. And I still can't figure out just how little something like this box can cost to make/package/ship such that its makers actually write a little profit whilst the European retailer sells it for a mighty €300 and thereby pockets the lion's share. Ha. To me the entire concept reeks of black magic. Actually make that white. Or as a non-English speaker spelled such surprise encounters unintentionally in a recent email, unbealivebole.

TEAC website