The humble micro system is in danger of becoming extinct. To survive, it needs to evolve into a future-proof, all-encompassing music system fit to grace the most style-conscious bachelor pad – and that’s just what Philips has tried to do with the MCi500H.
The stylish all-black unit doubles as a giant iPod, equipped with a 160GB hard drive – which, in layman's terms, is enough to rip and store around 2,000 CDs. And with Gracenote's built-in music recognition library, you don't even have the inconvenience of inputting track titles.
A sizable LCD screen is on hand to oblige with track information duties and cover art, and the speakers are reassuringly chunky suggesting a meaty performance in the audio department. The ska-influenced white trim around the tweeter and bass cones is a tad 80s, though, so we'd suggest keeping the grills firmly in place.
But the '500H has more strings to its bow than just a glorified storage box: courtesy of wireless technology you can also link it up to your home network giving you the freedom to stream tracks from your PC and access a wealth of internet radio stations. Those in big houses will also appreciate its multi-room facility, which allows the set-up of five zones.
If switching your PC on every time you want to access your music library sounds like too much hard work, Philips has thoughtfully provided software so you can drag and drop your collection straight to the '500H's hard drive, cutting back on faff time.
The unit also comes with support for USB devices, so you can plug and play MP3, AAC and WMA files from your portable music player or pen drive.
Music, come follow me
Of course, all that is well and good – but what does it translate to in use? A bit of a mixed bag. Disappointingly, the highest quality format for ripping CDs is 320kbps MP3, while the process itself leaves you plenty of time to put the kettle on between albums.
Playing with multiple zones is also a bit underwhelming, with the system refusing to skip forward or back in ‘Music Broadcast’ mode. However, ‘Music Follows Me’, which sees the sound jump across zones, is handy.
Sound quality isn’t bad, either. Music is big and bold, with plenty of weight and spaciousness. True, the bass is a touch flabby, but this is a pleasing, party-rocking delivery.
When you consider you can add a second unit for a total cost about the same as Sonos’ superb BU150, the MCI500H starts to make sense.