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I decided last summer that I wanted to buy a DAB radio so I could listen to the BBC's Olympic coverage that was taking place partially on two digital only stations - the temporary Olympic one, and 5 Live Sports Extra. I am happy to use my t.v to listen to the digital radio usually but I wanted to listen on something more portable too. As I had both the tv and two perfectly good FM radios, I didn't want to spend a lot on another radio but I didn't want to waste my money on something that would have poor reception either. My dad would happily have lent me a radio as he collects them like some people collect stamps, but as I have a terrible habit of bending ariels, I decided it would be safer to get my own. It did mean that I was able to road test a few before buying, from solar powered to wind up ones. So I did have a good idea what features I did and didn't want. In the end I chose the Roberts Classic DAB radio which I bought from Amazon for £29 last May, with the RRP being £40.
AM and DAB reception through ariel.
FM frequency range 87.5-108MHz, DAB 174.928-239.2000MHz
Uses 6 AA batteries or mains lead [included]
Output power - 700mW
Headphone socket, 20 presets, LCD display.
WHY I CHOSE THIS RADIO
The cheapest digital radios on Amazon were made by brands that I had not heard of and not all of them had been reviewed. The Classic DAB came out as the cheapest product from a well known maker, that also met my criteria of being both mains and battery powered. I initially wanted a pocket sized battery radio but I couldn't find a cheap one that didn't have a built in rechargeable battery. I noted that these were described as non replaceable and I really didn't want to throw away my radio when the battery eventually couldn't be charged anymore. I am sure the manufacturers would argue that this stage takes along time to be reached but I still thought using my own rechargeable batteries in a radio without a built in one would be the best long term option. I also noted that some cheaper radios didn't include a mains adaptor in the box, which if bought separately wouldn't have made the overall purchase price as cheap as it first appeared, if you wanted to power it that way. The Roberts radio did however include the mains lead. The lead is a practical length and I use it when I am home. When I am at the allotment I use it off the batteries, which are 6 AA. The suggested battery life given in the manual is 20 hours, depending on the volume used for example. I think that is a bit optimistic even using batteries intended for high drainage devices - and I don't have the volume high at all. Therefore I only power it via batteries as a last resort.
LOOKS AND THE LCD SCREEN
With the Classic name, you would think the radio has a very traditional appearance. I did flirt with the idea of getting one of the retro looking Roberts radios, but in the end I decided to go for the more compact classic, even if it actually looks more modern despite it's name. [I have include a link to a product image at the end of the review in case it doesn't show here. ] It is sliver coloured with a black top and a curve ended shape. On top is the blue LCD plus the operating buttons. The overall look is a bit boring perhaps, but it sits unobtrusively all around the home. There is no sign of general wear and tear except to the ariel - see below - and a small scuff mark on the LCD screen, after more than a years use. I have carried it to the allotment in my rucksack, so it has been quite roughly treated and I doubt it would have suffered if you just kept it safe on your kitchen work surface! The radio feels light and almost flimsy as a result, but I have to say it has survived a drop to a carpeted floor so looks are probably deceiving in this instance. Size wise it is about 23cm long, 13.5cm high and 6.5cm wide - it looked bigger in the pictures online. This means it truly is portable, even if not quite the pocket size product I was initially wanting.
The LCD screen contains scrolling information about the song/programme or station, depending on what info the station provides. It is a decent size and whilst I didn't initially like the blue of it, I don't mind it now. The display can be dimmed but I don't think it is excessively bright and it is fairly easy to read. Sometimes when standing at an angle the letters are less clear, but it no doubt designed to be viewed close up.
SETTING UP AND RECEPTION
The radio came in a standard cardboard box, with a detailed instruction booklet. Should you loose your copy, there is a PDF version available on the Roberts website. I wouldn't normally worry about keeping the instructions for a radio, but this is one product that I suggest you do not try to set up without help, and I have had cause to refer back to the manual on many occasions. It is well written and illustrated, with perfect English and a sensible table of contents. Everything sounds relatively straightforward in there, but it is not always so in reality. The initial set up is actually quick as there is a one press digital auto tune function that works efficiently. I have access to about 45 stations here, which is a few less than I was able to receive on some of my dads more expensive radios, but it is also a few more than I am supposed to receive according to the various online postcode reception checkers I used. The FM tuning is carried out in the same way, and both can be done manually if you prefer. Setting station pre-sets was the more difficult bit. I will mention here that this radio is advertised as having 20 pre sets but you should bear in mind that in fact this is 10 each for the FM and DAB. I only wanted 1 or two, and I find it quicker not to use them at all in fact. The problem is that setting or deleting a pre-set involves holding and pressing what we call the infamous "volume/tuning" control which is a dial with a centre to be pressed. The fact is this button does not pick up every press and you daren't loosen a tight grip on it for a second or you will find it has moved on to another function..
EASE OF USE
The radio has 5 buttons on the top, including the on and off one. Most functions are accessed via pressing a combination of more than one. I wish they had risked cluttering the design and introduced a couple more with a single purpose function because the current design means the radio is not intuitive to use. The volume/tuning button I mentioned before is the worst as it only seems to respond half of the time, picking up the release of the button too late for example. So you may go to change the station, but end up in a menu for changing scan settings. To change stations, you press the station button, then press and hold the vol/tuning one before rotating it to find your station. If the station you want is at the end if the dial, the need to keep the dial pressed in as you turn results in wrist contortions! I have got used to it now, but I always know when my boyfriend is using the radio buttons, as the air goes blue!
The aerial is longer than I expected and flimsier too. I have managed to bend it slightly, but as I have done this to every radio I have ever owned, I am not sure I can blame Roberts. The sound and reception are not affected at all.
This is something I am really happy with, on both FM and DAB. I mainly use this to listen to talk radio, where the speech comes across as clear, crisp and natural. For music, there is less depth and richness to the sound compared to the more expensive ones I trialled, but it by no means sounds poor quality or tinny. It is responds well to be used at both low and high volumes - and the non intuitive volume control means you may experience both in close proximity. There is a headphone socket -(3.5mm) but whilst a stereo headphone does work, only mono sound is produced regardless. I suspect that any serious music fan will want a different radio for that reason if no other.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS RADIO?
This seems a well made radio with good reception and decent sound quality for the price. Unfortunately, the design as regards ease of operation is not great, and using it will take some getting used to. Even now, some buttons are either too sensitive or not sensitive enough. If you are patient, and are after a cheap DAB radio, this is worth trying but if you want something that is intuitive or really powerful or suitable for use with stereo headphones, then steer clear.
The Classic DAB is simple and good looking portable radio that gives you all benefits of DAB features. Now you can access more station in your area scroll text and search by station name.