Over the last few years Apple computers have had their fortunes not just reprieved but completely reversed, becoming the creators of the must-have items of the start of the 21st Century.
This miraculous turnabout has been in part due to the iconic iPod, the sleek, white, micro hard-drive that holds enough music to outlast the patience of a cadaver. You'll also have noticed that every company who isn't Apple has started to flood the technology marker with a deluge of cruddy iPod design homages, all-white bodies and smooth lines and utterly pappy to their last unoriginal microchip.
Until the iTech XFM DAB Radio that is. Alright yes, it's white, and yes the company does have a lower case ‘i' at the start of the name and yes the radio itself looks like a giant Anadin but it also a happens to work, it's stuffed with features and looks very cool.
Wisely iTech, who make technology, have teamed up with British radio station XFM, who make music on air, bringing this branded product to market under a name the average Brit has heard of. Setting the radio is simple. Open box, plug radio in, radio scans and alphabetically lists all the radio stations and then you listen to them. Nice. If you want to change station, you press a button and the stations available appear and you chose another. You find one you really like then hold down one of the numbered buttons on the top of the radio for 2 seconds and that station will become a pre-set. The great strength of DAB is that you get near-perfect sound out of low strength signal, that's not to say it's perfect, and hearing digital distortion for the first time can be a mildly upsetting experience as digital ‘Burbling' obliterates out the voice ‘Tom Archer'.
Beyond simply being a well-designed radio the XFM DAB also contains a standard FM receiver and the ability to play MP3s with a slot for either SD or MMC in the reverse of the body by the carry handle. A small amount of internal memory has been included, that will allow you to record and reply up to 10 minutes of digital radio. As soon as the DAB function is activated the system begins to record, so at any point when, you want to have something repeated, all you have to do is press the replay button, which ceases further recording and locks the content. You then use the numeric buttons on the top panel to control reply features. When you have listened to your hearts content you simple hold the reply key and the content is wiped and off you go again, listening to live feed. And if you aren't happy with any of this, you can just plug another sound source into the Aux-in socket, and simply use the speakers. It's a shame that the record duration capacity cannot be expanded, especially as you have a SD / MMC slot, but the more you replay them the more you miss live.
Gripes, I have a few, but then again too few to mention, well almost. When we're talking about portables, battery life will always pop up. Not since the ghetto-blasters of the 1980's have domestic electronic devices required 5 D-Cell's (except Maglites, which are metal whooping sticks with a bulb on the end, filled with batteries, just to add gusto to the clobbering-power), and the 5 batteries add a fantastic 750g to the weight, making it 1.7Kg fully laden. The batteries will last between 8-10 hours, so every hour you are burning 75g of D-cell (That's HP2s, for readers over 35). Even though you could bench-press the walkman and build up your biceps, for the sake of all our futures, use the adapter (if not rechargeables), the environment can't stand that level of waste! The radio also purports to be an alarm clock, and while I really like clock display and the ease of alarm programming, you will need to have a reasonably big bedside table to fit the 383mm long x 124mm wide x 125mm deep beast next to your dentures and copy of Jilly Cooper.
Overall the iTech FM DAB is an impressive product. It combines good design, easy to-use-controls and loads of features that make you want to choose it over the competitors. The batteries are laughable but the manufacturer's literature is devoid of the power rating of the two speakers, so you may find that when fully loaded with D-Cells, and mounted on your shoulder, you can relive the 80's and deafen yourself with crisper, clearer radio, although the configuration of the handle, which results in the speakers pointing down when being carried, suggests avoiding it.