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There's an understandable train of thought harboured by those in the know that, despite all of its conveniences, DAB radio simply isn't very good, and if anything is actually a step backwards from FM. The reason for these heinous thoughts is two-fold. Firstly, there's the simple fact that DAB is often transmitted at low bit-rates so sound quality is no better or in some cases inferior to its analogue forbear. Secondly, reception still seems to be a bit of a problem and unlike FM or even AM, where a poor signal will simply result in a crackly or muffled listening experience that deteriorates linearly as the signal drops off, when a DAB signal breaks up you get either no sound or a horrible digital noise that renders the programme unlistenable. All of which may make you wonder why you'd ever consider spending £160 on a DAB radio.
Well, just as we saw with the B&W Zeppellin, which demonstrated how the iPod's inferior sound quality (when compared to other mp3 players) could still result in a thoroughly pleasant listen, the Vita Audio R1 shows that DAB really can sound brilliant.
The R1 isn't just about DAB, though, and if you do prefer to listen to FM, or even your mp3 player, the R1 can do this also. It doesn't have some of the fancier features like recording and rewinding of radio programs, seen on such devices as the Pure Evoke-3 and nor does it have that essential characteristic of a truly portable radio, namely battery power. However, it does possess all the basics required of a small tabletop DAB radio, like sleep and alarm functions, making it the perfect bedside radio for the audiophile.
Made by the same fair hands that brought us the Ruark range of loud speakers, Vita Audio's products have a truly enviable heritage when it comes to sound quality so we have high hopes in this department. However, the other skill that high-quality speaker makers almost always seem to possess is an eye for design and Vita Audio is no exception. The R1 is a thoroughly attractive little beasty and one that I and all the TR staff would be more than happy to have adorning our bedside cabinets, kitchen worktops, or conservatory windowsills.
The rounded sides, pressed steel front and back panels, and chunky controls combine to create a pleasingly simple, retro look that would suit any home style, old or new. What's more, if you don't like the wood veneer finishes there's a choice of high-gloss (vita) red and (dream) white lacquers as well. A dark grey finish used to exist too, and you may still be able to find these in the shops, but they're no longer produced.