Radio Shack's Realistic System 200 Review
Editor's Note: Enjoy the Music.com is very proud to offer the first review by Mark J. Rochlin, brother of this site's Creative Director Steven R. Rochlin. Mark is a longtime music lover, saw Rush in concert during their Hemisphere's tour, and is a longtime classically-trained drummer who enjoys both acoustic drums and his highly-prized Simmons SDS 8 kit. While this is an April 1 article, we want to thank Mark for chiming in with his very first authentic, and very authoritative, review as seen below. We know you'll enjoy it!
Today I received the most amazing unit to evaluate, the Realistic System 200! New for 1988, this unit represents a new peak of the Tandy / Radio Shack line and continues the tradition of quality and value that makes Radio Shack famous and guarantees their continued success. Their System 200's ingenious design revolves around both sonic excellence and ease of use. Styled in a custom made faux walnut-looking rack with matching speakers, this unit will enhance the style of your living room. Radio Shack has taken the unique approach of enclosing the entire unit within one single chassis. This allows them to invest into their system where it counts, the internal electronics.
Radio Shack has eliminated many of the stumbling blocks for the audiophile. Each portion of the unit is specifically matched, thus eliminating the guesswork of matching individual components to see what works well together. Their brilliant engineers have done all the work for you so that the optimal combination of player, amplification, signal processor and speakers has been achieved. Additionally, by combining all the components into one cohesive unit, they also have eliminated the use of interconnect cables. It is well known that each connection, cable and contact, increase the resistance that can degrade signal quality, suffer insertion loss, plus it can introduce a point of failure within the signal's chain. Let's look at each facet of the system.
Rack Shack's Realistic Hi-Fi Stereo Impresses
The dual cassette portion features a continuous play mode so you can have up to two hours of uninterrupted music. High speed dubbing is included for those who want to make spare copies for their car. An included microphone inputs allow you to make your own music and preserve it in the highest of modern analog quality. The manual buttons have a solid feel and emit a satisfying clunk when engaged.
The fully featured amplifier section includes volume and balance sliders along with a revolutionary five-band equalizer. Quite a step above the normal treble and bass tone controls, as this way you can customize your sound preferences with far greater precision to achieve a truly authentic sound quality as the artist intended.
But wait, there's more! Included with the Radio Shack's Realistic 200 stereo hi-fi system are a pair of huge 28.5" tall wood enclosures that exactly match the included faux wood rack in both height and style. The 6.5" drivers have plenty of room to breathe within such a large cabinet, and the look is utter perfection! They come complete with top quality 20-gauge copper wire with soldered end bits that and ready to go. After this complete study, it's now time to put this system thru its paces. I wanted to get a feel for how well this impressive stereo system can handle anything. Since I have a wide taste in music, will be using several genres to get a feel for the overall musicality of the Realistic 200 stereo system.
Now it was the big test – I reached into my special stash for the one record that will make or break any system. The Criterion collection pressing of This is Spinal Tap. This album will test any system, so I put it on and let it play to really give the Radio Shack System 200 a work out. I pushed it up to eleven, dropped the needle down and waited to be thrilled. On Big Bottom, the bass and drums had that high quality rattle that literally had the speakers bouncing up and down. The guitar cut out front on Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You like it was on fire and the full on distortion on the riffs were something to behold.
It's no secret that reproducing David St. Hubbin's vocals is a challenge to any system. And here I must admit that proved to be just a little too much of a challenge. I felt that was pushing the envelope for this system, as some of the subtle tonal nuances of the vocals came out a little flat. That's why this album separates the wheat from the chaff as it were as this system seeks to achieve an authentic sound. Alas, as good as it is, the Radio Shack System 200 came up a little short. It is like the difference between those proprietary lossy CODECs versus the longstanding, authentic, and freely available truly lossless FLAC that is playable on hundreds of millions of stereo systems / cellular mobile telephones today.