Fred Hamilton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This review has been both helpful and infuriating to many people over the last year or so. I wasn't very happy about my XR-H66MD, but a lot of people really are, and they feel I was being too negative. They're probably right. It wasn't what I was looking for, but apparently it is exactly what a lot of people are looking for. So I've re-written my review again so it's a little more balanced. I didn't throw away any critical data, I just tried to make it a bit more balanced. For the record, though, this didn't really start out as a complete review, it was originally a list of gripes that I wanted to air to warn and educate potential buyers (because smarter, more demanding customers lead to better products), and hopefully motivate Aiwa in the future to spend as much time on the "soft" features (user interface, quality of features, ease of use) as they do on the hardware (which is very good on this system).
Just so you know, I sold my XR-H66MD in December of 1998. This means I don't have the system or the owner's manual anymore. While you should feel free to send me feedback if you want, any sort of technical question ("Can the XR-H66MD do this?", "What does the green button on the lower left front panel do?", etc.) about the performance or operation of the XR-H66MD should be sent to JJ at email@example.com. JJ has an XR-H66MD, loves it, and has graciously agreed to answer questions about it from potential buyers. Thanks, JJ!
OK, here's the revised review...
In May 1998, I was in Japan on business. Of course I went shopping, and was VERY excited to see Aiwa's XR-H66MD system for sale, and for only 49,000yen (about $350US at the time)! I'd been waiting for it to come out in the states, but here it was in front of me. Thanks to this list, I was aware that the FM tuner might not cover the US frequency range. But I played with the demo and saw that it covered both the Japanese and US frequencies (76MHz - 108MHz, in ridiculously small .05MHz steps). So I took the plunge and bought it.
From a hardware and feature list perspective, it is a great value, particularly if you can find it for $300-$400 (I think it still retails for $599 in the US). A system with a 3CD changer and 5MD changer, good sound, etc. is a great deal. A lot of people just want to insert their CDs and Minidiscs and listen to them, and this unit does a great job of this. At a basic feature level, this is a great deal.
But as I dove down deeper into the features of the unit, I was more and more disappointed. Here is this wonderful piece of hardware (CD and MD changers, power amps, digital in (from MD), digital out (for CD only, by the way - there's no MD digital output), capable of doing everything I want it to do, but it's coupled with a very illogical user interface and (imho) half-assed feature implementation. It's sort of like PCs - G3 and Pentium class processors deliver performance something like 100 to 1000 times faster than we had 10 years ago, but it still takes just as long to boot the damn PC, or load a PowerPoint file, etc. It's basically because the software is bloated and not written very well (but let's not get me started about Microsoft). Well, the firmware for the XR-H66MD is definitely not taking full advantage of what the XR-H66MD's hardware is capable of. That's the main reason I'm disappointed. It's like having your kid grow up and work at Taco Bell when you know he's smart enough to have been a doctor.
So the basic features are OK, probably good enough for most people. But here is my original list of comments that may be of interest to "power users":
If you just want to listen to a bunch of CDs and minidiscs (imagine that!), this is a great product.
As a power user, I was pretty disappointed - I've bought some WONDERFUL products (particularly their 3 head analog cassette decks) from Aiwa over the years. They generally have all the features and performance I want and everything's very logical and easy to use. I've never had any complaints about their products before now. But this product is undercooked. It looks good on the outside, but for the power user, it promises more than it delivers.
I put my XR-H66MD through medical school for this? :-)
If anyone wants to talk to me about this review, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (but remember I don't have the system or the manual anymore).