Roberts Revival iStream £200
15th Mar 2011 | 10:00
It's classically styled, yet crammed full of technology, we meet the radio that streams, surfs, receives and replays
Best known for its classically styled desktop radios, Roberts has launched a feature packed contemporary radio, that retains the iconic 'Revival' look that keeps them selling by the truckload.
What makes this black-only beauty so special is its connectvity: FM; DAB; Wi-Fi internet radio; media streaming; USB-A and a traditional line-in.
So, not only are you spoilt for choice in terms of receiving broadcasts, you can also playback lossless audio files from your home computer, with all the portability that comes with a small 1kg box. The 100-page manual explains all, but ours was ready in just five minutes.
A wireless, wireless
Calling this a 'radio' distinctly undersells it, but it's true, not least because its most impressive functions rely on wireless connection to a computer network and, hence, to the internet.
This at once means that you have access to not only your local quota of DAB and FM stations, but also the 17,000 or so internet radio stations. Foreign radio, special interest stuff, or even your usual fare which may very well be available in better quality via the internet than on DAB.
The bitrate may be the same, but the coding systems used for internet radio are generally more efficient than DAB's MPEG 2.
Since you're connected to your home network, it makes sense that the Revival iStream can also play audio files on your home computer, as long as they are the right format. Obviously that includes the usual MP3 and also MP4/AAC and, we were delighted to discover, FLAC as well.
WAV doesn't seem to be, though, nor are other lossless formats. It's not that it matters so much for a little portable, just that true audiophiles are likely to have their digital music library in an uncompressed or lossless format anyway.
There's also the option of tuning to the subscription 'personalised radio' service at last.fm, and a USB socket on the top of the unit allows you to plug in suitable music players or memory sticks.
Modern traditional values
The retro look of the Revival iStream conceals the inevitable hi-tech innards, though the loudspeaker is nothing fancy – a single drive unit, bass reflex-loaded by the case. The back side of the case hinges open to give access to the battery compartment.
On the top, the layout manages to be nearly as retro as the rest of the case, with a pair of knobs and some push-buttons. The knobs are twist-and-push controls, which look after tuning, input selection and also a selection of options in menus, while the push-buttons bring up the main menu, give information choices and so on.
When we reviewed the non-iStream Revival a few issues ago we were rather disappointed by its dull sound. Either the iStream was always different or Roberts agreed with us, as this radio seems very well balanced on the whole.
It's not the cleanest, or least coloured, or loudest table radio we've ever heard, but it does have a nice general quality that makes the most of lively music, does a fair job of quieter, more subtle stuff, and reproduces voices very well with excellent intelligibility.
Bass is obviously limited, while treble consistency is good off axis. Maximum loudness is fine in a room of about 20 square metres and we didn't detect any obvious rattles or whistles from the cabinet.
There are quite a few competing products around, but as internet-compatible table radios go this is good value in terms of both features and sound.
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