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  • The Life Pursuit

    • 8 out of 10
    • Belle & Sebastian
    • The Life Pursuit is a sort of Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. You get Belle & Sebastian's peanut butter (its wistful, often irresistible pop) dipped in a 'Have A Nice Day!' and glam 70s chocol

  • Pressure Chief

    • 6 out of 10
    • Cake
    • Pressure Chief, Cake's latest album, didn't immediately grab me. In fact, it took perhaps half a dozen listens before I started truly enjoying it. Any

  • Machine Gun Etiquette

    • 8 out of 10
    • The Damned
    • Punk rock is mostly associated with three chords and a bad attitude, but the Damned were one of the few bands of the era bent on bringing musicianship and a good sense of humor to the scene. And while
  • Goodbye Jumbo

    • 8 out of 10
    • World Party
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  • Mezzanine

    • 6 out of 10
    • Massive Attack
    • "Black Milk" knocks me off my feet in this collection of moody and eclectic songs. Massive Attack uses samples and keyboards in a very unique way, but not all the songs pack the same punch.

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In-Depth Review

Jensen JiMS-525i

The Jensen JiMS-525i is a docking digital HD Radio system for iPods and iPhones with support for the new iTunes tagging technology. At an S.R.P. of $149.99, it's the least-expensive of the two tabletop HD Radio system that support tagging at this time. (The only other system with tagging as of this morning is the Polk Audio I-Sonic ES 2, priced at a whopping $499.00.)

NOTE: We pause our regularly scheduled programming to provide this brief overview of the new HD Radio technology.

First of all, HD Radio is not satellite radio (i.e. Sirius and/or XM). HD Radio is completely free of charge -- all need to enjoy it is a new HD-compatible radio.

HD Radio, if you haven't heard the commercials (which run regularly on most of the stations I've been listening to), is a new digital radio standard being championed by dozens of electronics manufacturers including Jensen, Polk Audio, Alpine, BMW, Cambridge SoundWorks, Denon, LG Electronics, JVC, Sony, MINI Cooper. Mercedes-Benz, Onkyo, Yamaha, and dozens of others.

In a nutshell, HD Radio lets existing stations transmit multiple broadcast channels. And since HD radio is broadcast digitally, its sound quality is generally higher than analog AM or FM broadcasts.

For example, our local public radio station, KUT, offers a combination of news, music, comedy, opinion, and other types of programming throughout the day. Now, one of its new HD channels (KUT2) is 100% news and information and the other (KUT3) is 100% music. In other words, if you have an HD Radio you now have three different channels of KUT programming to choose from instead of one.

Finally, some (but not all) HD Radio stations support the new iTunes Tagging feature, which I'll get to in a moment.

For more info about HD Radio, visit the official HD Radio Web site at: http://www.hdradio.com.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, a review of the Jensen JiMS-525i HD Radio.

The Jensen JiMS-525i is a handsome tabletop audio system:

 

It can play and recharge your iPod touch, iPod nano, iPod classic, iPhone, iPod (5th generation), iPod (4th generation) and iPod mini, and play AM, FM, and HD radio, or any audio source you can connect to its through its 1/8-inch line-in jack (cable included).

The stereo radio receiver has digital tuning, 10 AM radio and 20 FM radio presets. It also supports SIS (Station Information Services) and PAD (Program Associated Data) text messages. So the bright blue LED display tells you the name of the station and what your listening to on stations that support these services.

There's also an S-Video jack (with included cable) for playing video from your iPod on a TV (not tested for this review).

Finally, there's a dual alarm clock with snooze and sleep options.

The overall sound quality was good but not spectacular. The bass response, especially at higher volume levels, wasn't particularly noteworthy. Don't get me wrong, though, it didn't sound bad for a $150 tabletop clock radio/iPod speaker system. But it didn't sound great, either.

Now let's talk about the iTunes tagging feature -- what it is, how it works, and which iPods support it.

When a station that supports tagging plays a song, a message appears on the LCD display informing you that tagging is available. If you press the "Tag" button on the wireless remote, the radio stores the tag and the LCD tells you it was stored successfully. The next time you connect your iPod, the radio transfers the information about the tagged song(s) to it and the LCD tells you it was transferred successfully. The radio can store up to 50 tags and each time you add one it reports how many tags are in its memory and how many remain.

But it's not until you sync your iPod with your Mac (or PC I suppose -- I didn't try it) that the magic happens. After you sync, a new playlist called "Tagged" appears in your source list:

After you sync, the Tagged playlist will contain information about all of the songs you've tagged. Next to each song is a "View" button; click it to see the song in the iTunes Music Store and purchase it if you so desire.

It generally works as advertised but there are a couple of gotchas. For one thing, only a couple of newer iPod models support tagging -- the iPod nano (3rd generation), iPod classic, and iPod (5th generation). So you can't take advantage of this cool feature with older iPods or any iPhone.

Another issue is that I only found one station in Austin where tagging actually worked. Several stations claimed to support it, the radio stored and transferred the tag information to the iPod successfully, but the information that appeared in the Tagged playlist for those songs was useless (songs 15, 18, 19, and 24-26 in the figure above).

I'm not sure where the disconnect occurred -- the radio or the radio station -- but I am sure the feature wasn't very useful to me since it only worked with an oldies station and I already know (and own) almost every song they played.

Finally, the iTunes Store doesn't always do the right thing if it can't find the correct song. For example, when I clicked the View button for "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles, the iTunes Store offered to sell me a version by the Silver Beatles, a Beatles tribute band. Yuck! Sure glad I noticed before I clicked the Buy button.

There is one last thing. While my first generation iPhone worked fine (other than not supporting tagging), when I plugged in my iPhone 3G I got the dreaded: "This accessory not made to work with iPhone. Do you want to turn on Airplane Mode?" error message. Like so many other accessories, it worked fine after I tapped "No," but I felt obliged to mention it. On the other hand, that's not surprising -- I've observed the same behavior with many accessories I got before the iPhone 3G existed. So I'm not counting it against the Jensen JiMS-525i.

The Bottom Line

The Jensen JiMS-525i is a pretty good all-around tabletop radio/iPod speaker system/alarm clock. It won't win any awards for sound quality but it doesn't sound bad, either. While the iTunes Tagging feature didn't really work for me, HD Radio is in its infancy and I expect it to improve as more stations support it. And you have to give it some credit for being the least expensive system (by far) with support for tagging.

Just The Facts

Pros:Nice multi-function wireless remote, audio in and video out jacks and cables, iTunes Tagging support, informative multi-line LCD display.

Cons:Marginal success with iTunes Tagging, unexceptional sound quality.

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