My girl friend and I enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking up lovely food but as our kitchen is fairly small it's easiest when there is only one of us working in there at a time. As such is can get a little boring if you are preparing something which will take a long time.
We contemplated getting a small television to put in the kitchen to stick on when we are in there but decided we did not really have room for one, and to be honest when you are cooking you can't really concentrate on what is happening on the screen so we felt it was a bit pointless, instead we opted to buy a radio.
We decided to look for a DAB radio so we would have a wider choice of stations to listen to than with normal fm radio. We also wanted to find something which had an auxillary input which we could use to link up our non iPod mp3 players. Upon looking around at various options we discovered that there are huge amounts of products which are iPod compatible but finding something with a 3.5mm stereo jack lead (or similar) to use with other mp3 players etc was not so easy, particularly in the sort of style we wanted, a small compact single unit....and without spending very much.
After a good amount of time looking we stumbled across this one in our local Asda Living store which had only recently opened. We were looking round the various radios they had, most of which had iPod docks, but nothing else, when we noticed this one also seemed to have a stereo jack input. We picked up the box and had a good look, it did indeed have the stereo jack we wanted, and was a nice sized DAB radio (with alarmclock) with an iPod dock if we ever wanted it and even a remote control, all for just under £60. It seemed to be the perfect item for us so we purchased it.
***** The Radio *****
When we got it home I unpacked it and started to play with it. My first impression was that although it was fairly lightweight, it still felt well put together and certainly didn't feel like it would fall apart in your hands like some budget electronic things can feel.
Overall the radio is essentially a cylinder about 12 inches long and about 6 inches in diameter. on the front, in the middle, there is a small LCD display which is used to show which input you are using, the radio station you are listening to, volume changes etc etc. It is backlit with in a gentle blue which if used in a bedroom might cause a bit too much of a glow if you like a nice dark room, but for our purposes in the kitchen is perfect.
Above the screen is the iPod dock. several adapter plates come with the radio to allow you use differing models of iPod, though not owning one, I have not used this and hence don't know if the plates fit nicely, nor do I know if the dock works well or not. (I am contemplating getting a cheap secondhand iPod to use with this radio at some point and if I do I shall
update my review accordingly).
Below the screen there are 3 rows of buttons which are used to set the alarm time, select inputs, tune the radio, store radio presets etc etc. The buttons are fairly compact and match the look of the unit nicely without making the front look busy or cluttered. In operation the buttons do not have the mopst positive/quality feel about them, instead they are fairly clunky and clicky. This is not too much of a surprise to me for the money paid and the functionality of the unit. They do however work fine and make operating the unit simple.
To either side of the buttons/screen are the speakers, hidden behind grills. Overall this is a fairly simple and quite stylish unit.
***** Tuning and Operation *****
I plugged in the radio and set about getting it tuning. WHen I did this I was in our lounge and had the thin wire aerial just laying on the floor. I got a few channels but none of the BBC channels etc, which confused me a little as we live in an area with good radio and TV reception. On the channels I did manage to pick up, the sound was ok but a little thin/watery sounding if that makes sense, like there was a lack of depth to the sound. I was rather disappointed.
I then remembered having read that DAB radios can be rather fussy about their aerial locations, so I moved the radio into the Kitchen where it would be living and raised the aerial up along the window frame and retuned. This time it picked up all the channels and they sounded great!
I was actually rather surprised by the sound quality and volume of the radio, it is much better than a lot of budget radio equipment and provides nice sounding audio. Ok it'll never be able to compete with a decent Hifi setup or anything like that but for what it is, essentially a clock radio, it is really good.
Naturally as with any new piece of audio equipment, I had to whack the volume up to see what it was like. It went fairly loud and did not suffer too badly from distortion, though there was some vibration from the actual physical unit but this did not cause me any concern as it is only intended to be used for some light listen whilst cooking, not for filling a large room with music for a party or anything, which it would not manage.
WIth the radio tuned and several presets stored (a fairly simple and quick process) it was ready to be used. At this point I got the remote control out of the box and gave it a try. the remote is a lovely tiny little thing, smaller than a credit card and only about 5 mm thick. The buttons are the standard type you find on such remotes, raised bumps that click down when you press them rather than actual buttons.
I was quite impressed with the remote control as often such remotes seem like an after thought and don't work very well, or need pointing at the unit with precision aiming to get them to work - certainly not the case here. The buttons are very response and the remote works well from most angles. I can now be at the oven with my back to the radio and if I lift the remote to point upwards it operates the radio perfectly!
I'm not sure but I think the remote will also control the iPod if you use the dock, this is something I have not tested yet but will update if I ever do test it.
I have used the 3.5mm stereo jack on several occasions to link up my mp3 player to listen to my music and it works very well, sadly there is obviously no remote control functionality when doing this beyond volume control but I'm not too bothered by that, as I can make playlists etc on my player and have it play whatever I want easily enough. The sound quality when playing mp3s this way is again very pleasing.
***** Alarm Clock *****
This unit is designed as a radio alarm clock but I have never used it in this capacity and am unable to comment on it's functionality. I have read elsewhere though that it is not possible to change the volume of the alarm even when using the radio as the alarm and it is set to be rather loud, so this may be something to check out if you are considering this unit to be used as an alarm clock.
***** Conclusion *****
We have been using this radio in our kitchen for the last 2 months or so and I have to say we are both really pleased with it as it does exactly what we had hoped it would. We have listened to quite a lot of DAB radio which has been pretty good, though it does suffer sometimes from slightly disturbances to the sound quality which is caused by adverse weather etc, but this is a weakness of DAB radio in general from what I have read and in a budget bit of kit like this I think this only to be expected really. Listening to mp3s through the auxillary input works really well and sounds great.
It is so nice to no longer feel a bit left out when alone in the kitchen!!!
If you are in the market for a well priced DAB radio and iPod dock etc I would certainly recommend having a look at this one!!!