In the early Nineties, Trevor Baylis, a former underwater escape artist with the Berlin Circus, invented the clockwork radio, a landmark "Why on Earth didn't I think of that?" moment. He was inspired by a news report on how HIV was spreading like wildfire through Africa because there was no way to broadcast health information with no reliable power in vast swathes of the continent. Eventually, the Freeplay radio was manufactured in South Africa, and the first model was presented to President Nelson Mandela. With massive publicity, it became a huge success. Baylis went on to become 1999's Pipe Smoker of the Year (and no, Crave hasn't been smoking anything it shouldn't, it's all true).
Freeplay still exists, and continues to set a fine example as a humanitarian business, making ecologically sound products and providing them to isolated communities in the Third World. It also makes consumer products, like this Devo digital radio. The Devo is wind-up powered, with a mains plug in case your arms get tired, and an old-fashioned tuning dial to receive FM broadcasts. Continue reading...
Ah, radio. A medium that encapsulates all it is to be British, from Home Truths to Test Match Special, from the top 40 to regional gardening tips. A classless medium, where quietly passionate men like John Peel and Terry Wogan become national icons. And yet for such a comforting, cosy medium, radio is tear-arsing into the 21st century like few others (t'Internet excluded, natch).
Look at this PURE Oasis digital radio, for instance. It's come straight from the future! Simply designed, intuitive to operate, it immediately picks up a brilliant signal through its twangy rubber aerial, which you can twist off and store in a little gulley on the back while you carry it around.
We're sure you're all cutting edge technophile and have been podcasting for ages, but there are still plenty of people content with the 'wireless' on a Sunday afternoon. These people should get with the programme, quite frankly, and what better way to introduce them to the joys of MP3 and digital radio than through this BT Voyager? It looks just like a normal kitchen radio, but will sneakily connect to your PC, go on to the Net and then stream live radio without anyone even realising what it's up to.
If you put aside the very real* possibility that all this modern wireless technology is frying our brains like a cranial microwave, the Internet functionality is integrated well into this deceptively simple box. The software on the PC is easy to use, and once it's set up it will hide itself in the Windows background. You can then set up your favourite Internet radio stations and press buttons on the radio to tune in, which takes about 5 seconds per station. It'll also play MP3 files and FM radio, and it'll take a standard stereo input (for your iPod or MiniDisc player, as long as you buy an adaptor) and rather cleverly, it will play any normal CD from your computer's disc drive.
While the word Bush is synonymous with stumbling, stuttering malapropisms, the DAB radios that bear his name actually sound very good. The same can't be said for the styling of this radio -- the body has a unnerving, fleshy feel to it, rather like dead human skin. There are a series of nipples on the front of the radio that control various features and these feel and look like boils.
Despite being the tactile equivalent of holding a naked rat and changing tracks with its teets, the sound quality on the PSDAB2004 radio is impressive. We listened to the rap track Fat Joe's Best Behaviour on BBC Radio 6 and it sounded pimp enough to soundtrack a cruise down the Vegas strip in a sixteen-switch Cadillac.
Buying a DAB radio made by Xfm is like buying a television made by ITV. It makes you wonder whether you're a youthful trend-hopper gallivanting around the fringes of cool, or a walking billboard pimping another commercial outlet for homogenised pop. The Xfm radio, tragically, uses the same control interface as the BT Aviator, which means we tried to headbutt ourselves senseless in frustration when using it. It completely alienates any newcomer by proving almost impossible to switch on.
This is one of those blisteringly funny moments when a company decides that fifty years of interface design on the radio should be abandoned in a heartbeat. Rotary tuning control? No, no, that was much too easy! Let's bury that feature three menus deep and it'll seem all 'digital' and stuff when people need to change stations. On/off switch? How passé. Let's make the radio start up in clock mode and then make those cyberpunks press an obscure green button and then click through some menus. More menus!
You'll need pockets like a clown to really feel comfortable carting the PURE PocketDAB around. Imagine an iPod with a beer belly and you're close to how the chassis looks. Voluptuous is the word that comes to mind. Pure have laid out the controls on this new DAB in an attractive and surprisingly usable way. A large joypad in the centre gives lets you flick through digital radio stations -- depressing the pad selects one. A series of function buttons -- which let you do things like record live radio and change the equaliser -- orbit this joypad like tiny silver moons.
As with most DABs, there's an annoying lag as the radio tunes into different stations. It's not as bad as we've seen on some radios and given the PURE's elfin size we'd expect it to be difficult to pack in a more responsive tuner. The screen, though an uninspiring monotone, is clear and bright. We listened to an Ian Brown track on Radio 6 and were intrigued to see his biography scroll up the tiny LCD while the song played.
This is a world apart from the Sony CMT we looked at last week. The Denon feels solid and reliable where the Sony felt chic but flimsy. The Denon's speakers are weighty and firm, presumably hand-crafted by the indigenous people of wherever. They're laminate, but you'd be fooled into thinking this is hardwood -- the rear of the speakers use properly threaded bindings that will take a heavy gauge wire. Unfortunately, the bindings on the back of the DAB unit itself are not threaded -- they're those fiddly little clip bindings that won't take a speaker cable much thicker than fuse wire. Having said that, this is an entry-level system and it's unlikely anyone outside Camp Audiophile will want to replace the bundled cables with anything more exotic.
This is a footsoldier of the DAB revolution -- a step up from the bedside alarm-DAB radio combo. Sound quality is excellent for a DAB, though it's still got that unmistakable strangled sound to it -- DAB is still far from a match for CD, as there's just too much compression and not enough bandwidth to the signal. Hopefully things will change as the technology evolves, but even the best DABs leave us slightly disappointed. Switching from CD to DAB is like putting a bucket over your head. Nonetheless, the D-M35DAB is top of the troupe of freaks. -CS
Slot-loading CD players are great. Tray-loaders are ugly protrusions that spoil the futuristic allure of our favourite toys. So what could be better than a Sony slot-loading CD system that also has a DAB digital radio? Nothing, we say, which is why we've got the Sony CMT-GPX9DAB set up on our desk, laying down some urban grooves and generally causing a disturbance to those around us.
The system has that unmistakable Sony chic about it, something that's completely destroyed by a tape deck. It's like buying a brand new DVD recorder that also has a slot for Betamax tapes. Flanking the silver unit like two wooden beasts of the night, the 35W speakers can keep up with drum 'n' bass, while providing the sweet detail of a Norah Jones CD.
Adding a DAB radio to your hi-fi separates system usually involves balancing another layer on the teetering mass of equipment that makes up your stereo. Not so with this DAB Audio Adaptor.
This weasel is not much bigger than a glasses case, and plugs into your hi-fi via old-school phono connectors. A few seconds later it'll tune itself into every DAB station going. Continue reading...
This new Denon D-M35DAB digital radio micro hi-fi certainly will bring all those boys to the yard. They'll stare at its sweet body and wish they had one too. You'll need a long extension cable to get it out to the yard, but once it's there, you'll be the talk of the ghetto.
Not only is there a double row LCD that scrolls digital broadcast information, but the power supply upgrade and new Denon speakers give a larger and more powerful sound than its predecssor, the D-M31. Denon also claims the dynamics are improved and treble is allegedly smoother.
When you think digital radios, the cool minimalism of a PURE Digital may come to mind. But what if you want a blingtastic chromed-up silver egg? Step forward the GCR 1930 DAB stereo clock radio from Goodmans.
It's the size of an Easter egg from someone who doesn't want to buy you a really big Easter egg, but doesn't think a creme egg will quite cut it, and it offers everything you would expect in a stereo clock radio. Goodmans claim it's available 'in chrome and frosted glass effect finish'. In other words, silver and green plastic. To be honest, it looks a bit of a dog's dinner: from the front it's mainly egg, from the back the speakers makes it look like a menacing alien. Perhaps he wants his egg back.
Welcome to the new Crave. We thought Crave's crack team of highly-trained gadget monkeys were having far too much fun to be left on their own, so we've decided to join them and Crave is now part of CNET.co.uk, a brand new Web site which launches today.
Crave will continue to keep you up to date on the latest gadget gossip, but will now also be able to give you access to in-depth product reviews on many of the things the Crave team have been lusting after, as well as to personal technology and consumer electronics News and Digital Living features to help you make sense of the technology you already own.
Digital radio for hobbit's little pocketses? If you're looking for a full-blown DAB that will jam into your rags, this is it.
As well as doing everything you'd expect a full-sized digital radio to do, the PocketDAB 2000 will record and playback MP3s. You can store entire radio programs in its clever little belly. There's also the option to pause and rewind live digital radio.
BT’s decision to call this digital radio the Aviator 10M was an oddly appropriate choice. This is exactly the kind of radio Howard Hughes would have designed -- it’s ludicrously big and endearingly ambitious.
We dragged the Aviator out of its box this morning. This thing is huge -- it’s almost exactly the same profile as a four-pack of toilet paper. Unlike the Gemini 10, it took a bit of fiddling before the Aviator would even let us listen to the radio. Seeing as this is its most basic function, that’s slightly embarrassing for something so grandiosely titled.
Ah... those sweet childhood memories -- huddled around a valve radio waiting for it to warm up; sitting cross-legged on the floor, listening to the shipping forecast while the smell of baking bread floated through from the kitchen. When we laid our hands on the Roberts Gemini 10 digital radio, it took us right back in the wayback machine.
For a start, the Gemini smells amazing. Before we’d even plugged this sucker in, it was obvious it was something a little special. It’s a kind of leathery, wooden smell; the kind of smell you’d expect if you stuck your head in an antique grandfather clock – definitely not what we’re used to from digital radios.
Digital radios are better because they're easier to tune, or so the story goes. But how easy is easy? Today we unpacked Sony's sleek little black box, wheeled it down to the track and checked its nought-to-radio time. Here's how it went:
0:00 On the start line. We open the box and take out the radio, earphones, remote control, power adaptor and instructions.
We had the freakiest experience with the Sonus 1-XT. It's a DAB radio that talks, not just the way that all radios talk, but also to provide feedback as you punch the buttons and turn the knobs. You can even pat it in the middle of the night to find out the time.
When we plugged it in, the friendly female voice said, "Welcome to the Pure Sonus 1-XTwith IVOX. Autotune in progress, please wait." We waited, it tuned, we twiddled the knob and selected Radio 4. We touched the handle on the top and it said, "The time is 8:43pm."
The poor old wireless is going through a few changes. Adventurous owners of Pure's The Bug DAB radio can now download an experimental version of its system software that receives the beta version of the electronic programme guides (EPG) broadcast - sometimes - by the BBC and commercial stations.
Did I risk my bedside Bug? For you, anything. After just twenty minutes faffing with USB cables and pernickety device drivers, and only one complete failure resulting in an utterly dead radio, I reset, resurrected and had my EPG. Continue reading...