Sharp GX-M10 Portable CD Stereo System

Dainty. Elegant. Classy. Understated. These terms apply to a great majority of iPod docks and speakers. None of them apply to the GX-M10. This boombox is a real bruiser. It weighs a beefy 16.8 pounds (20.2 pounds with batteries), and is 30.5 inches long. Roughly cylindrical in shape, it looks like something you'd use to knock out a Panzer tank. Except instead of being ordinance gray, it is exuberantly orange. If someone laughs at you for carrying around something so outrageous, you can express your displeasure by crushing them with it.

But once you get past the craziness of the thing, it's actually kind of cool. This boombox is the Swiss Army knife of playback. It packs a CD player, FM radio with 40 presets, and iPod/iPhone dock/charger (behind a flip-down cover) with an "old style" connector. There is a pair of front-firing, full-range speakers of 3-1/8 inch, and a pair of 5-1/8 inch subwoofers at each end of the cylinder. Powering these are two 17-watt RMS (into 3 ohms) amplifiers and a 66-watt RMS (into 3 ohms) amplifier. Last but certainly not least, there is a pair of accent LEDs that flash on each subwoofer cone.

Around back, you'll find a line-level audio input, as well as 1/4-inch inputs for microphone and guitar, with individual level control for each. You'll also find a video output and a headphone jack. Of course, there is a USB port (on the front panel). This is convenient for jacking in an iPad, for example; the onboard display shows song titles. The CD player also supports playback of MP3 and non-DRM WMA files. And, there is a radio whip antenna.

Digging a little deeper, you'll uncover a number of nice touches. For example, if you turn the unit on/off when set to a loud volume level, the unit automatically fades in and out to a softer level. And, there is a clock/timer/sleep feature. Of course, no self-respecting boombox is complete without equalizer presets; in this case, you'll find classics such as "Xbass," "rock," "vocal," "hip hop," "salsa," and the ever-popular "reggae."

My favorite thing, as noted in the owner's manual: "When enjoying loud music at high volume, sound vibration is transferred to the docked iPod or iPhone. This vibration may cause the song to shuffle if the iPod or iPhone 'Shake to Shuffle' setting is turned on." It's not a bug, it's a feature!

Something I didn't like: the subwoofers are placed on each end, just behind carrying handles. The handles are appropriately massive (a good thing given the unit's weight) but it would be all too easy to carelessly grab a handle and punch a finger or two through a subwoofer cone or surround. I wish there was a grille cover over the subs. Another small issue: at an extreme vertical viewing angle, the display characters vanish. Something I liked: the AC power supply in built in. Just add the cord – no external converter brick required. If batteries are your thing, you'll need ten D cells. It also runs off 12 volts; can you say "tail-gate party?"

Aside from orange metal speaker grilles, the build quality is strictly plastic. The various buttons and doors are plastic, but the hinges on the doors seem reasonably robust. Accessories are: a full-fledged remote, plastic iPad stand (the iPad is connectable via USB cable), and carrying strap. Retail price is $300.

I've listened to my fair share of boomboxes, and most of them sound pretty dreadful. Fearing the worst, I powered up the GX-M10, hands clenched, and.... it wasn't bad, it wasn't bad at all. Actually, it was pretty good. For starters, unlike most petite desktop docks and speakers, the GX-M10, thanks to its heft and sub size, pumped out some decent bass response. On tracks such as Adele's "Someone Like You," even at higher volume, the low end held together reasonably well. The bass boost of "Xbass" was bit much, but the "flat" or "rock" EQ settings provided a nice bass balance and a deliciously warm tonal quality. Similarly, the mid- and high-end sound quality was quite pleasant, with natural vocals and clean, but not overly crisp, percussion.

Compared to the petite docks that cannot escape a "small" sound, this large unit provided a sizeable, room-filling sound. High fidelity? Well, no. It is a boombox, after all. But a teenage daughter or son would appreciate the sonics, and the sound quality would even pass muster with someone with more refined tastes. I am surprised to admit it, but this boombox gets a thumbs-up for portable fidelity.

If you're looking for a svelte desktop dock, then keep looking. This behemoth is a throwback to the early days when boomboxes (and break dancing) ruled the earth. But with its updated technology (such as an iPod/iPhone) dock the inherent usefulness of an all-in-one like this can live on. Go ahead – dare to be different. Did I mention that it's orange?