Roberts Revival DAB RD60 £150
13th Nov 2010 | 10:00
The latest Roberts radio might have a retro look, but its performance is far from old-fashioned
The writer of this review is certainly not the only person to have walked into a shop and asked, in all innocence, "How much is that second-hand Roberts in the window?" only to be put right with the answer, "It's new."
Roberts has always been the king of the retro, making radios that were straight out of its 1950s catalogue, generations after that decade had ended. Or at least, radios that bore a strong external resemblance to those trusty old models.
Long gone are the 10-transistor circuits of yesteryear. The current FM models are powered by integrated circuits and this DAB model probably includes about as many transistors in its construction than Roberts used in an entire year in the early days of the 'tranny'.
The case is made of MDF and there's a text display on the top: tuning of both channels is digital (the usual twist'n'push control) and the push-buttons are momentary action types, rather than the latching ones used on the originals. But the overall effect is well done, complete with carrying handle and the use of four large 'D cell' batteries, which gives the RD60 a playing time potentially in the region of 100 hours.
Other modern creature comforts include a couple of mini-jack sockets for headphones and line output, another for line input, a USB socket for firmware upgrades and full text information on both DAB and FM. There are presets and a useful one-touch 'Favourite' button to bring up your main station in a single press.
One doesn't expect a small, mono radio to sound amazing. Nevertheless, the use of headphones does allow the electronics to give of their best (in stereo) and frankly the DAB performance of this model is more than acceptable. FM's not bad, either if you can arrange the antenna for good reception. (You could in principle attach an external antenna, but who on earth is going to go to that trouble?)
Compared with a dedicated, hi-fi, FM tuner, clarity is lacking, but it's perfectly listenable for speech and casual music duty. But that's not the most likely mode of operation and the internal loudspeaker is far more to the point.
Its success varies considerably from station to station, for the simple reason that it sounds extremely dull. That's easy to verify by moving from headphones to speaker and it's true even when listening on axis, even more so when off to the side.
One can mitigate this somewhat, bizarrely, by opening the back of the radio (it's hinged with a simple catch, to allow for access to the battery compartment) and listening from behind, but then the bass goes all to pot because the case is designed as a simple reflex-loaded speaker enclosure.
Bass and midrange are not bad tonally with the radio conventionally closed up and we were quite impressed at how loud it will go without any obvious rattles. The dull treble is most obvious on stations such as Radios 3 and 4, but works much better on highly-compressed pop stations which tend to be ear-splittingly bright.
Detail is fair for the breed and it's reasonably easy to hear everything that's going on, but things do tend to sound a bit flat dynamically. Of course, on the stations with the best subjective tonal balance, they are a bit flat.
We're torn between admiration for the looks and general build quality of this radio and reservations about its sound. On the whole, we prefer the sound of the fine models from Vita Audio, but there's a certain charm inherent in a Roberts and we could probably get used to it...
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