The next wave of digital radio is here and Roberts, makers of radios for longer than we care to remember, has launched a new bedside DAB digital radio that comes with live pause, but can its latest attempt match up to the competition?
The Roberts Sound 39 surprised us it is built quality or lack of it. It surprised us, because when we reviewed the Roberts' Gemini 1 in November 2004 we loved the fact that the radio was simple to use, well built and generally a pleasurable experience.
This time however it's a very different story, the radio is clunky, plastic to touch and the volume and tuning dials look as though they are about to fall off (and before you ask, our review unit is brand new).
Buttons for the player are scattered on both the top and the side of the player and the unit sits on a non-tiltable plastic stand. When it comes to the design, for us, about the only thing this radio has going for it, is the large two line display screen at the front which allows you to quickly see the radio station that you've got selected. It is especially handy for seeing it when you're eyes are half stuck together waking up in the morning.
Conscious that the bright blacklit screen maybe off putting to those actually wanting to get some shut-eye, Roberts has built in an auto-dimming sensor on the top of the unit that dulls the screen according to available light.
The most puzzling button on the unit however is one that will take you straight to Classic FM's digital offering. You can't programme it so unless you are a big fan of Beethoven or Bach you're stuck with this bright red button that does nothing.
Like the Pure Digital Evoke 3, the Roberts Sound 39 main strength is the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward radio at the press of a button.
This time called PausePlus, the system works is an identical way to the Sky+ service and allows you to rewind up to 35 minutes of radio as long as you've been tuned into the station for the last 35 minutes. This is an extra 5 minutes more than Pure Digital's Evoke-3 but the implementation of the feature isn't as easy to use.
Rather than just keeping it simple, Roberts baffles the user with multiple button presses and words like Delay rather than more simple terminology such as fast forward and rewind.
At £50 this would be a tempting offer. The sound is okay, but nothing to write home about and the reliance on a flexible wire aerial means that you might spend 30 minutes getting it in the right place on the wall with a drawing pin before you can guarantee yourself a decent reception.
But the Roberts Sound 39 isn't £50, it's £120 which seems like a big premium to pay for the confusing live pause option.
Our advice, if you aren't fussed with the live pause, rewind or fast forwarding features to look elsewhere. If you are fussed put in an extra £80 and get the Evoke-3. It has so much more going for it.