DAB radios and iPod docks are everywhere, but audiophile-quality sound has so far played second fiddle to convenience and aesthetics. British audio companies have a fine reputation - and Vita Audio certainly keeps its side of the bargain with this top quality DAB radio-come-iPod-system.
Our gloss black review sample (it’s also available in walnut for £279.99 and in gloss white for the same price as this sample) is deeper than most of its rivals - something that proves key to its stunning audio performance - and is fitted with DAB, DAB+ and FM tuners, and an iPod dock. An overlarge blue LED display sits below that top-mounted dock, and between two speakers with 3.5-inch drive units that promise 20W of power.
Around the back is a telescopic aerial as well as left/right phono inputs and outputs, though with an iPod dock and speakers of this quality you’re unlikely to want to attach other devices or route audio to another system. Still, it’s nice to have the option to hook-up a PC or laptop, a record deck or CD player. A single 3.5mm jack stereo input adorns the front for easy access, as does a headphones jack.
The R2i’s user system depends on Vita Audio’s own RotoDial design. The large dial is largely for volume, with left and right arrow keys used to toggle between sound settings (loudness, 3D sound and EQ settings). Dedicated controls for preset radio stations (which double-up as iPod controls), sound settings, source and clock radio functions are also placed around the central dial. It keeps the design looking clean and uncluttered, though it’s not the most intuitive system we’ve seen - it takes a bit of getting used to.
The R2i is, however, the finest sounding product of its type we’ve laid ears on. The 3D Sound mode is best forgotten, but no matter; iPod tracks and DAB alike enjoy some precise treble effects and serious, but stable bass levels that together put the R2i at the top of the tree. Pushed to high volumes, this 3.6kg unit doesn’t suffer from any distortion - just clear, full and layered sound that impresses even from relatively small, compressed MP3 files. DAB auto-tuning proves fast, with tuned-in stations enjoying those same sound qualities as an iPod or iPhone.
The slightly counter intuitive RotoDial aside, our only criticisms of the 120 x 340 x 185mm R2i are its teeny remote, which is often slow to issue commands, and the fact that our iPhone 4 brought-up a "this accessory is not optimized for the iPhone" message - though we managed to play songs from it, and charge it, without any problems.
iPod docks with real audio value are rare, but Vita Audio has achieved just that with the R2i. Yes, the price is high, but not significantly so compared to the big brands’ iPod goodies. Chuck in a DAB and DAB+ tuner and the R2i is one of - if not - the finest compact iPods system around, and perfect for bedside tables, studies and living rooms alike.