Roberts Stream 202 DAB/FM/net radio
Full stream ahead or does this digital radio run out of puff?
The Stream 202's sound quality is also a little disappointing, with the sound feeling somewhat unsatisfying, especially on classical or rock. ZZ Top’s Looking for Some Tush had little depth in those dusty blues riffs and Holst's The Planets felt like it hadn't taken off. Things improve a little, however, with broadcast speech, the sound of which is clean and crisp.
The machine seems to feel more at home and playback quality improves upon selecting the FM option. OK, so we run the risk of upsetting the FM-is-great-DAB-is-bad brigade. ‘Of course it sounds better FM is better than DAB!’ we hear you cry. But we're not just talking about the amount of information coming down the pipe necessarily, the machine just feels a little more sure-footed in FM mode.
You'll find all the standard ports you need at the back
Thankfully, the online experience is a much happier one. The Stream 202 quickly finds local networks and access keys are easily entered through the central control dial by selecting from a number and character menu. Alas, there's a lag time between turning the dial and the screen reacting, so it's easy to shoot past and select the wrong character. The internet search menu and search engine bring things back into line with a simple, well-arranged menu system. Those categories are just getting wackier - World Tropical radio, anyone?
Search and load times for internet stations are good, with selection and playback time averaging between three and six seconds. The unit also takes the time to provide an alternative to some of the self-indulgent, sycophantic babble broadcast as it includes a listing for the most popular internet stations out there.
Bit rates aside, the unit enjoys playing internet radio more than DAB and selecting a station with a decent bit rate results in the radio hitting its stride. Streaming tracks from a home computer also produces decent results. The radio’s media player supports MP3 and WMA, but the playback of DRM-protected content isn't supported. Tracks are accessed is by Windows file-shares or the UPnP protocol with the later providing the more satisfactory experience due to its more straightforward and hassle-free operation.
The internet and streaming capabilities are by far the best features of the Stream 202. But the other features aren't strong enough to really justify Roberts' claim that this is a 'universal' player. This is not a bad radio - we just know that Roberts can do a lot better. And at £150, the price is a little on the heavy side too.
The Stream 202 feels like it was perhaps a little rushed in its development. Hopefully, Roberts will get it right next time. But there are similar products from other manufacturers waiting in the wings - keep an eye open for them in these pages very soon.