I had read about worldspace radio in a New Scientist article, and was attracted when I saw a Hitachi going a bit cheap at a computer fair. I paid £90 for mine as new. I was bullshitted by the salesman who incorrectly told me that it was also suitable for resolving the new DAB broadcasts, and without reading the bumph, the fascia suggested that this might be possible. My main reason for buying was to be able to hear BBC broadcasts at high quality when I travelled in Europe. In the event, this has not been a practical outcome. Set up is easy, and the instructions are fairly easy to follow. If you set up on mains and then go to battery, I have found that the memories can be a bit fickle. Sound quality on FM is excellent. Depite the apparent digital input pad for frequencies, it was not apparent until I played with it, that the short wave coverage is not continuous, and I could only enter one of the European frequencies for World Service. Short wave coverage is disappointing. I have found in North London that the Worldspace Afristar beam is receivable only outdoors or through a very thin window. Position is critical, and this meant that when I did try travelling, If there was not line of site to the South, then the set would not work, and this limited its use in most hotels I have stayed in recently. There are a selection of stations receivable in London including Bloomberg, CNN audio feed, WRN and from time to time, the African Service of the BBC. If you are keen on world music this is a good way to hear a wide variety of stations and styles, but for talk, the choice is limited. There has been a trial of US Public Radio. One main problem is that a number of the services intend to charge, including Radio Caroline and PBS. We have no culture of subscription radio in this country, and it is doubtful if any money would come out of the UK. These subscription services seem to be aimed at countries where there is little access to hi quality west ern radio, and for them it might be a good idea, but £5 may be excessive in some third world areas. I would never pay £5 pcm for a radio station. It makes no sense in the UK at the moment. Whilst this is a brilliant idea, I am not sure that it translates well in Western Europe. There appears to be a big following in Asia, and there is an active message board hosted by Yahoo, where most of the messages come from India and the middle east. update, december 2003 I can see there is a lot of interest in this review, but mainly from non members. The worldspace mailing list on Yahoo has started indicating that virtually all the channels on Worldspace are becoming encrypted, and essentially worldspace is becoming a subscription only service. In the UK, this is a complete no brainer, and we are reluctant enough to pay for premium TV. The key word there is premium, and quite frankly there is not enough added value in Radio. The worldspace service is being aimed at third world nations, but priced at a first world price. They are asking the same sort of prices as a single premium television channel, but without the service. As a global operation, they are not in a good position to service individual subscribers and complaints are common. Quite frankly, unless you have a real need for constant access, say, to popular music, or country music, Worldspace is a waste of space. Update Jan 2004 There is now convincing evidence that worldspace channels will all be encrypted payment only channels. For Europeans with access to sattelite and digital radio, this is a nonsense, and there is no reason for us to be here.
I have been using this portable worldspace receiver for 6 months now. In that time i think i have evaluated it thoroughly enough.I have used it in kenya,east africa,and in the united kingdom;Manchester and scotland. These areas are covered by the Afristar beam,scotland being on the outer most part of coverage. In my opinion,it is quite a brilliant piece of equipment.For the price you pay for it it is definitely a wise buy. In summary i have here it's pros and cons (some of them) Pros: 1.Simple operation and electrical compatibility. 2.Simple assembly. cons: 1.When you put the power off,preset stations may be erased,so you have to leave it on stand-by. 2.Doesn't produce sound in stereo unless connected to an amplifier via lineout.
The Hitachi is the only portable Worldspace receiver that is CE marked for sale in the EU. Rather larger (deeper) and heavier than most world band radios such as the Roberts R861, but otherwise it looks just like an ordinary portable. Besides reception on the Worldspace band the set also receives on FM, MW and SW and 10 preset stations can be programmed on each band. The set can be powered from mains, 4 D cell batteries, or 12v. Good strong signals from the Afristar Beam 1 in the SW of England, although the footprint seems to cover all of the UK. There are currently 36 audio stations QRV on Afristar Beam 1 including WRN, CNN, Bloomberg plus numerous music channels, and also two data services (check www.worldspace.com for latest and to subscribe to the newsletter). My favourites are BOB and VOYAGER, both American based playing alternative rock and pop with very little advertising. The transmissions carry station identification data which is displayed on the front LCD screen. Interface to a PC is possible through the data connector. A clear line of sight to the satellite is required (approx. SSE from the UK), although even curtains will attenuate the signal too much for reception. The detachable antenna can easily be adjusted for direction and azimuth, and indeed it isn?t practicable to use the antenna mounted on the set. minus points - just three niggly points that would otherwise have mad it a great set: 1. the mains plug connects to a socket on the back of the set which means that the set can?t lie flat on the window sill etc. 2. the manual up-down tuning on the vhf band is very slow, although direct entry of frequencies is possible. 3. the length of cable attached to the satellite antenna is annoyingly short and the extension lead is rather too long and unsightly for most circumstances; however with a couple of F-connectors and the right coax the DIYer should be able to make a small extension cable to suit. Overall this is a handy set providing clear digital reception of stations not normally heard via any other media.