Back to the radio itself, there are line-in and headphone jacks on the front along with five buttons for assigning radio presets. Adding a preset is much the same as it is on most devices; tune to the station you want and hold down the preset button you’d like to use until the preset logo appears. Ten FM and five AM stations can be stored, which is just about enough.
Round the back there are connections for external AM and FM antennas but there are also internal aerials that do a very good job so you’re unlikely to need these. The iPod dock supports video-out and there’s a composite video-out connection on the back for piping your videos to a TV. Finally, there are a couple of pairs of phono sockets, one of which is a second line-in while the other is a line-out. By pressing the adjacent button this be set to either follow the Duo-i’s volume level or ignore it.
Of course, the last piece of any audio device’s puzzle is its sound quality and here the Duo-i once again excels. Its powerful stereo speakers provide plenty of warm and rich volume to fill a room, though they won’t match a proper Hi-Fi when it comes to cranking out the big beats at your house rave. They’re also lacking in both a full and enveloping stereo effect (due to the close proximity of the two speakers) or the pure clean tone of a proper Hi-Fi – not to mention the true thump of a proper sub.
Bass, though, is well handled with Boston’s BassTrac audio processing constantly keeping levels just right. This is particularly noticeable at low volumes where, on lesser devices, bass will often peter out. With the Duo-i there’s always a satisfying warmth that makes music feel complete.
The overall sound isn’t quite as smooth and refined as that of the Vita Audio R4 but then the R4 leans towards a more traditional ‘Hi-Fi’ sound that cuts back on the bass in favour of treble clarity. Of course, it does cost three times as much (and has more features) so we’d expect that. Likewise, the Meridian F80 takes sound quality to a whole other level but again it costs significantly more.
So, while the Duo-i isn’t setting any new standards with its sound quality, it does give you as much, if not more, than you could expect from a small desktop device. And, for its price, it’s largely without rival.
The Duo-i is a wonderfully realised take on the high-quality desktop radio concept. It has superb sound quality and it’s a pleasure to use. So if you ”can” cope with its lack of DAB radio we cannot recommend this radio highly enough – it really is that good.
Score in detail