One of the Vita Audio range's signature features is the circular control array that sits atop all the devices. Officially called, the RotoDial, it sounds like some sort of ingenious new control method involving scrolling menu options or such like. However, it's actually more about aesthetics than anything else. Rotating the dial simply controls volume and pressing the dial brings the radio in and out of standby. It's thus down to the ring of buttons around the dial to control all the other functions.
There are four main function buttons for controlling alarms, sleep modes, input source, and DAB text information. A short tap of the Sleep or Alarm buttons will show the current settings and holding down the button enables you to edit the setting. Once in a menu, the arrow and OK buttons are then used to select options and adjust settings. It's a simple system that's easy to pick up and works well.
The Info and Source buttons work slightly differently. Pressing Info will cycle through a number of display options including programme information (or Dynamic Link Segment, as it's known), date and time, programme type, data rate and mode, and signal strength. Likewise, pressing the Source button will move through the DAB, FM, and Aux input options one by one.
The remaining five buttons control the tuning presets, which can store five DAB and five FM stations. To store a station, simply navigate to the station you want then press and hold the preset button for a few moments until a message appears stating that it's been stored. To navigate back to the preset all that's required is a tap of the assigned preset button. The process is easy and intuitive and switching between stations is super snappy.
So, from a functionality point of view the R1 is on a par with most other single speaker desktop DAB radios. The difference is most radios cost between £50 and £100 whereas the R1 costs considerably more. So, the big question is whether the improvement in audio fidelity and quality is worth the extra outlay and I'm happy to report that indeed it is. It's quite superb in fact.
The bass is beyond anything you could reasonably expect from such a small system and the overall sound is wonderfully warm. Yes there is a little loss of fidelity with the most complicated of music as the single driver struggles to maintain complete clarity in the top end while still delivering driving basslines, especially as you crank the volume. However, to expect better would be asking for miracles.
The debut performance of Portishead's new track, Machine Gun, on Radio 1 fortuitously coincided with my testing and it proved a superb test track combining as it does, the eponymous rapid fire bass lines and soulful haunting vocals of Beth Gibbons in one heady mix. Thankfully, the R1 ensured my first listen of this thoroughly intriguing track was as good as I could have hoped for, particularly as the neighbours might have complained had I dared to play it any louder.
The warm tone lends itself equally well to voice as the sultry tones of Terry Wogan's early morning Radio 3 show proved. Of course, a single speaker setup is never going to give you the spacial effect that convinces you that the person speaking could be in the same room as you (as a good Hi-Fi might) but then who'd really want to wake up thinking Chris Moyles was in their bedroom!
The R1 sells itself as the best sounding tabletop DAB radio on the market and in our opinion Vita Audio has every right to make such claims as we've yet to hear one that's better. It does have a few little ergonomic issues that we wouldn't expect to see on such a high end product but when all is said and done these wouldn't put us off buying one and neither should they for you.