“The radio star isn’t dead just yet”
FOR Good sense of dynamism; organised; spacious; deep bass AGAINST Lack of bass detail; timing could be tighter
How many people do you think listen to the radio each year? No, it’s more than that. According to Radio Joint Audience Research, a mind-boggling 48 million adults in the UK listen to the radio each week – that’s 89 per cent of people aged 15 and over.
With so many people listening so often, you’d hope that their radios have a great sound quality and are easy to use. We have similar hopes for the Roberts R100 as we lift it from its box – especially given that weighty price tag.
Out of the ordinary
At first glance, the R100 doesn’t look like your average radio. There are no dials for tuning or volume and it has been designed to look more like a wireless speaker that’s been augmented with a screen and aerial.
There are navigation buttons on the right-hand side of the colour screen and volume and power buttons on the left (or you can use the compatible Undok app for IOS and Android.)
These are used to switch through the R100’s various sources – internet radio stations, FM radio and DAB broadcasts as well as Spotify Connect and Bluetooth for wireless use with smartphones and tablets. There’s also an ethernet connection for a more stable hook-up (2.4GHZ and 5Ghz signals), and a 3.5mm input.
We prefer using the smartphone app for controlling the radio as it’s much quicker to search for radio stations. That said, neither buttons nor apps are preferable to the satisfying click of a dial as you cycle through your inputs or crank up the volume up in a single turn… Never mind.
Ease of use
The icons on the screen are large and clear, the buttons – even if they’re a little less intuitive to use than knobs – are simply laid out and feel good to press, and the handle is comfortable to hold – which might be useful if you want to take it out and about, combined with a £40 battery-pack for 12 hours of portable life. There are two alarms as well that will activate the DAB, FM, or internet station of your choice (as well as a normal buzzer) that are simple to set.
You can set up to 120 station presets in all – split equally between internet radio, DAB, and FM – and take a modicum of control over the radio’s overall sound using the
“Internet radio stations, FM radio and DAB broadcasts as well as Spotify Connect and Bluetooth”
R100’s various EQ settings. We find ‘Natural’ works well across a range of music.
This radio handles the midrange well – important in a medium where speech is so prevalent. We go through an array of our favourite stations and the R100 renders a variety of voices without any harshness or distortion. There’s also a good sense of dynamism and clear distinctions from the loud choruses and smaller, more intimate moments. We listen to the score from Lin Manuel-miranda’s Hamilton; both its scale and contrasts are immediately obvious.
The R100 is well defined and spacious, its sound stretching out into our mediumsized testing room. And it can reach deep down into the bass too, as evidenced by a blast of the earth-shakingly deep frequencies and punchy drumbeats of Lorde’s Royals, played through Spotify.
We would like a little more detail from that bass though. The padded boom of each inflating note is a touch indistinct, the R100 putting across a solid block of bass rather than the textured, layered sound that’s in the song.
It also doesn’t time as well as it should, lacking the decisiveness in striking basslines or powerful guitar riffs that’s needed to get your head thrashing (or hand conducting, depending on your choice of music) to your favourite track.
Despite The Buggles’ 1979 prediction, the radio star isn’t dead just yet. Robert’s R100 is an easy-to-use, more-than-suitable source for stations across the broadcasting world. Whether you’re looking to replace an outdated FM radio or wanting something to fill your kitchen with a bit more music, the R100 is a sensible choice.
It might not look much like a radio but its buttons and screen are both easy to use
An extra £40 buys you the battery pack that slots into the underside