Revo AXIS XS £200
3rd Jan 2013 | 14:18
The AXIS multifunction digital radio returns with a host of new features
Apple's moving to the Lightning Connector for the iPhone 5 and new iPods, and then dragging its heels when it came to licensing the technology, has led to a spate of audio docks offering wireless streaming.
An update of 2010's award-winning AXIS multifunction digital radio, the new XS adds Bluetooth audio, a side-mounted USB port for charging and an in-the-box remote controller.
Just like its predecessor, the new AXIS offers DAB/DAB+ and FM radio. Connect it to your network through Wi-Fi and you can also stream audio from your Mac or UPnP-compatible NAS drive, putting your digital record collection at your fingertips.
You can tune in to internet radio stations and podcasts too, giving you a huge range of streaming broadcasts from all over the world.
If you want to use it as a bedside radio it has two alarms, and the 30-pin dock on top of the unit is retained. Around the back, an AUX port lets you play audio from anything with a headphone socket, and stereo RCA ports mean you can connect the radio to your existing stereo setup. There's also a composite video out port.
As you'd expect from a Revo radio, the interface is a pleasure to use. Instinctive menus make it easy to navigate. You can select local UK stations, BBC services or podcasts, or choose from the full range of over 16,000 internet radio stations from all over the world, logically grouped and sub-grouped according to genre and location.
You can also select from your self-chosen favourites, popular internet stations or streaming services you've added yourself. As a result, finding your way through the huge range of streaming broadcasts is a simple affair, and not the chore it can prove on some internet radios.
The 3.5-inch colour touchscreen is attractive and responsive, though the buttons are a little small and some are too close to the edge of the screen, making them slightly awkward to press due to the bezel getting in the way. It's only a trivial irritation, though.
The AXIS XS supports Colour DAB Slideshow and RadioVis, so images and textual messages provided by DAB and FM stations are displayed. These can include station logos and information about the programme or song currently being broadcast.
Its lightly redesigned appearance is minimalistic and modern. The front of the AXIS XS is dominated by the screen, which shows the time and date when the radio is in standby mode, and its rather large volume knob. The only other physical control is the power button. Sleek and stylish, you could put a Revo AXIS XS just about anywhere without it looking out of place.
It also comes supplied with a remote controller, unlike the previous version where this was an optional extra. Unfortunately it's very limited in function, with volume and track controls but nothing to help navigate through menus or select a pre-stored favourite radio station at the touch of a button. This is annoying as most Revo radios have a more comprehensive controller, and with touchscreen controls still a necessity, you can't put your AXiS XS on a shelf out of easy reach and rely on the remote for general operation.
The new XS adds Bluetooth connectivity for streaming your sounds from an iPhone 5 or other Bluetooth-enabled device. It isn't apt-X compatible, though, so you can't benefit from the superior codec when streaming from your Mac.
A USB port on the side lets you charge your mobile gadgets while streaming, and it's 2000mA, so it can charge an iPad. There's still a 30-pin dock connector atop the device, with Universal Dock Adapters for a wide range of pre-Lightning iPhones and iPods supplied.
Revo has a reputation for getting quality sound from relatively small devices, and the AXIS XS is no exception. Despite its single driver, its sound stage is broad and well defined. Lively treble sits atop a crisp, clear mid-range, and a bass port at the rear makes sure the lower end of the sound spectrum isn't neglected. It has enough volume to fill a reasonable sized room without distorting, and if you need more, you can connect it to an external speaker set-up.
Unfortunately, audio streamed through Bluetooth is noticeably weaker than the sound you get from a mobile device connected directly to the radio. It's far from poor, but it's a little less lively, losing some of its definition. To an extent this is what you'd expect, but we've heard better from other Bluetooth streaming audio devices.
AXIS XS is another fine product from Revo. It looks good, has a great build quality and packs in a huge range of features without ever becoming unwieldy. We'd have liked apt-X and a better remote, but we're very happy with everything else.