Michael Brown Jun 24, 2008

Cambridge SoundWorks SoundWorks i765

At A Glance

Table Dance

An all-in-one marvel of a home-entertainment system.

Lap Dance

Large footprint; plethora of options render the alarm clock difficult to program.

The tabletop radio made a major comeback a few years ago when Tom DeVesto, cofounder of Cambridge SoundWorks, left that company to form Tivoli Audio. But Tom’s old company hasn’t lost its knack for building great-sounding audio gear either, and the Cambridge SoundWorks’ SoundWorks i765 is a tabletop radio on steroids.

The i765 includes not only an AM/FM radio but also a slot-fed CD/DVD player (capable of playing burned MP3 and WMA files, as well as CDs and DVDs), an alarm clock, and an iPod dock, too. So the i765 has you covered whether you want to wake up to your favorite tune, a specific radio station, or even a movie on DVD. All this functionality comes at a price, however; the i765 retails for the princely sum of $500—that’s a lot of lettuce for an alarm clock.

But if you’re a heavy sleeper envisioning yourself waking to Al Pacino on the TV inviting you to say hello to his little friend (you know, the line from Scarface ), be aware that if the alarm is set to DVD, it will simply play the disc from the beginning—there’s no way to cue up a specific scene. A docked iPod will play whatever song you set it to play before you go to bed, but you can’t do this with a CD. And of course, the two independent alarm clocks can play any preset AM or FM radio station, too.

The front-panel LCD shows the time, but it also comes in handy when you’re programming the alarm clock, storing radio stations in the 24 presets (eight for FM1, eight for FM2, and eight for AM), or displaying song titles from a disc, a connected iPod, or broadcast Radio Data Text (if your favorite FM station supports that feature).

There’s a large, programmable snooze bar on top of the cabinet, so you can postpone the inevitable from between five and 22 minutes. The placement of the iPod dock, however (and the lack of any substantial support for a docked player), leaves us concerned that an awakening sleeper might damage the i765, the iPod, or both if he or she gets too aggressive while reaching out for that snooze bar.

But with all its features, the i765 is obviously much more than an alarm clock. In fact, we had to study the manual for 15 minutes to figure out how to set it to wake us up. And it’s a good thing we used our familiar box as a backup; because for all that, we didn’t get it right the first time. If you’re living in a small apartment or want something for a vacation cabin, this little box connected to a TV can serve all your audio and visual entertainment needs (apart from gaming, that is). There are composite and S-video outputs in back, so you can connect the system to a TV, a front-panel headphone output, an auxiliary input (in case you don’t have an iPod), and a rear-panel audio out (in the unlikely event you’d like to connect to a larger amplified speaker system). The remote control, which has no fewer than 43 buttons, can manage every one of the i765’s functions as well as those of a docked iPod.

Although we’re getting to this last, sound quality is one of the most important features when you consider any audio device, and the i765 doesn’t disappoint. The amp delivers 4.5 watts to each of the stereo speakers, and 13 watts to the down-firing, ported subwoofer. The box delivers huge sound with bass to spare—no complaints there—but there’s one other thing you should be aware of: The i765 is pretty small for a multifunction device, but as an alarm clock, it’s a behemoth that will dwarf anything else on your nightstand.

Correction, 4/14: This story has been updated with the correct retail price. --mb


Cambridge SoundWorks SoundWorks i765

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