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I've never completely got over the romance of radio. Whether it was the experience of gathering around the old wireless with its glowing valves, or listening to the far flung world through the ear piece of an old crystal set, I'm not sure. But for me it is still encapsulated in those magical moments in the early hours of the morning, hearing the cultured, if slightly crackly tones of Jonathan Agnew and the Test Match Special Team describing the fall of a wicket in some foreign field.
Whatever sport it is, I want to know what's going on, wherever I am and whatever time of day. That's why my Roberts Sports Radio has been a great friend and travelling companion over the years. For quite a long time I've been using their R984 and now the R9994 is available, styled on similar lines, but with a built-in speaker.
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At 105 mm x 70 mm x 30 mm with 90g of weight, the R9994 is chunkier than the R984, but of course it has to accommodate the speaker. The FM, LW.MW bands on this smart black and white radio are clearly marked through a window on the front and the station tuning selector is a rotary action control situated on the top corner. Also on top is the on/off button and a socket for headphones, or an extension speaker, should you want one. The volume control is also a rotary action on the side.
There are two band selectors. One lets you choose between FM, LW and MW, while the other allows you to make the selection between FM stereo and FM mono. Stereo and tuning indicator lights help to let you know that you're where you want to be.
For a small, personal, pocket radio the build of this is impressive. You feel confident that the controls are sturdy and accurate. It comes with a belt clip, but you can still slip it into a top pocket, which I like to do when I'm using the earpiece particularly.
Having the built in speaker is a real bonus now. During the five days of a test match, I have only one ear available to the rest of the world. The other is occupied by an earpiece. However, there are circumstances where I simply have to remove it, such as when I'm in the shower, or bath. Obviously I can't take a mains radio in there with me, but I can leave my Roberts on the side on speaker. There are even occasions when I'm in the company of someone who would like to share the thrills of a Vic Marks analysis. Simple. I just go to speaker.
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A small, analogue radio is never going to give you fabulous sound, but of its type I'd say it was very good. I've only given it a rating of four for sound, but that's simply because it is what it is. You can't expect the kind of sound you'd get from two good quality speakers. It picks up a good clear signal on Radio 4 LW and on R5 MW, and indeed on many other stations. Although this is promoted as a sports radio, there's nothing wrong with it for general listening, of course. Through the headphones I can get a very full sound and through the speaker, which of course is the unique feature of this model, I feel I am getting a sound to compete with the other small radios that I have about the house. Roberts have done a good job with this.
Now, thanks to the built in speaker, not only can I listen to the test match on my travels, or out in the garden, I can annoy the rest of the world with it as well.
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The radio takes two AAA batteries which last a long time when the radio is used with headphones. I assume that consumption is higher when the speaker is in use, but I haven't yet been able to gauge this more accurately for myself.
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The RRP is £35.00 but these are fairly widely available online at around £31.00. A DAB personal radio of the same standard would cost you more than twice that, and from what I've heard, the reception isn't always so good on those. If the stations you want are on FM/LW and MW, why pay more? The belt clip and an earpiece are included, by the way.
In this world of satellite television and video phone apps, it could be easy to overlook the excellent sports coverage that is still to be found on radio. Not everything needs to be seen to be enjoyed. Like a good novel, the skilful use of language by the commentators can stimulate your imagination and the experience becomes richer because of it. The Roberts R9994 helps me access such experiences.
This is a radio that suits my needs well. I push its buttons. It pushes mine.