If you’ve lived sometime during the last 25 years, you’re probably familiar with the compact 3-piece speaker system. You get a multifunction all-in-one amplifier and receiver and a pair of speakers. Sharp’s XL-HF202P takes that basic premise and updates it for the world that exists in 2014. What this stereo lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in features. Let’s take a look at this system, shall we?
The insane amount of buttons on the remote will give you a pretty good indication of what the Sharp XL-HF202P can do. There is AM Radio, FM Radio, CD player, RCA jacks, 3.5mm line-in, USB-in, headphones out, a Lightning dock up top for an iPhone or the 4″ iPod Touch. If you have a tablet or Android device, Sharp also includes a stand that’ll fit your device and a recessed pocket for the cable up to a 30-pin. Oh yeah, there’s NFC as well, however, I do not have a device that could test that. It has so many inputs, I’m almost halfway disappointed they couldn’t fit a cassette player, 8-track, and phonograph in there, too. Then again, it wouldn’t be as low profile as it is. The receiver portion is only 4″ tall. The power amp is 2-channel with 50w per channel or 100w in total. The twin speakers, which I couldn’t find any specs for, are a foot high and connect via standard speaker wire with a screw on/off easy connector.
There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve to the Sharp. Not because it’s poorly designed, far from it, but because of the afore mentioned insane number of buttons on that remote. In a smallish 5.75″ by 1.75″ remote, there are over 40 different buttons. What’s even more impressive is that they somehow found room for descriptive text around those 40 some odd buttons. It’s going to take a while to remember where everything is at. Most of it is in a fairly logical spot, it’s just learning the positions. The ones you’ll use most often, i.e., volume, navigation, and playback controls, are right in the middle. Input selection is at the bottom. The iPod, USB/CD controls, and Bluetooth have their own separate banks of controls. With with Bluetooth, these are actually colored blue. There isn’t a lot of duplication, but the skip controls double for the radio tuner. There is also a toggle between FM & AM and between Line-in & Audio-In.
Of all the functions the Sharp has, they all work very well. I tested my iPhone 5S with the Lightning dock, USB port, Bluetooth, and the front aux port. The sound was pretty consistent using each of them. The Lightning dock worked well, except for one caveat – the connector is very short and will only work sans case. Sorry to say this even includes very thin cases. The USB provides both 2-way info and power, but once again there was one slight drawback. USB has to be selected to provide power to the device. Unfortunately you can’t use this stereo as a USB charger. The 3.5mm audio-in port offers excellent sound when connected with a high quality audio cable. Bluetooth pairing and control were among the simplest of any audio device I’ve seen. There’s a pairing button both on the remote and the top of the head unit just before the cover for the iPhone dock. For the radio functions, both AM and FM worked very well. The included antennas couldn’t pick up some of the longer range stations, especially high power AM stations 680 and 728 out of Chicago, but local stations came in nice and clear. It also gives you up to 40 preset stations per band and it was almost too easy to set them. The CD player works too, but to be honest, when was the last time any of us actually listened to a CD? The last is the RCA jacks. They do their job and, honestly, I wish there were two sets. One last, and very welcome, feature is a standby mode. You leave it alone and don’t interact with it, the Sharp powers itself down.
I used this stereo two ways: music from my iPhone in about every way imaginable plus a CD to test the CD player and testing it as a home theater system via the RCA jacks. Overall, it features a balanced sound. The speakers are good, but not great. They’re decent in the treble and mid ranges, but bass is lacking in my opinion. That’s even with it turned all the way up and X-tra bass engaged. There is good news, though. The system has a subwoofer out jack for a powered sub and since the speakers aren’t proprietary, you can replace them with something a little more refined. However, for starter speakers, you could honestly do worse.
The balanced sound will do you well if you’re using it hooked up to a TV. In many ways, I actually preferred the sound to my sound bar. However if you are using this with a TV, make sure the larger speakers don’t block your TV’s IR remote port. As for volume, it won’t act as a PA for any concert halls, but it’s loud enough for a small to medium-sized room. Crank it up all the way and your housemates or apartment neighbors will notice.
The XL-HF202P has a street price just shy of $200. That price is pretty consistent wherever you go, including on Amazon. The Sharp’s pricing is about at par for similar systems and this has a few features I haven’t seen on the competition.
I’m not going to lie, XL-HF202P might be one of the worst names of any stereo system. Fortunately, it’s a pretty decent stereo. It literally has more features packed into a smaller space than any other Mini stereo I’ve seen. It’s also smart enough to save your power. However, it is held back a bit by mediocre speakers, which fortunately, can be replaced later down the road and you can add a powered sub to make up for the lack of bass. If you want a tiny stereo that could conceivably work with almost any audio source you can think of, the XL-HF202P from Sharp is a good buy.
- Lots of inputs: iPhone, USB, 3.5mm audio-in, RCA line in, Compact Disc, Bluetooth, FM Stereo, AM Stereo
- Easy Bluetooth pairing
- Consistent sound through inputs
- Automatically powers down into standby mode
- Internal dock for iPhone
- Includes standalone docks for iPad or other tablets
- Lacks Bass, even with X-tra Bass on
- Speakers just okay
- Lightning connector on dock won’t work with any case on iPhone