Slip a disc
Pop a CD into the slot-loading player at the front and it will automatically stop whatever it’s doing and switch to the disc – a nicely intuitive touch. It has UPnP certification and connecting to my PC via my Wi-Fi home network was straightforward enough. The large screen means the set-up menu can display all of the alphabet at once so it’s easy to input your WEP key with minimal scrolling.
Yes, it's an iPod dock too, but a whole lot more besides
With my music folder made available for sharing via Windows Media Player, the Stream 63i was able to find my network, then identify the music source and stream the tunes directly. It’s also compatible with Macs and computers running Linux. The latest Windows Media Player 12 can serve MP3, AAC, WMA and WAV files but you’ll need to instal a different UPnP server, such as Twonky, to play FLAC files.
Connecting to my Buffalo LinkStation Mini Nas server was even easier – it scanned, it found, it played – and played and played without dropping the signal. Last.fm’s streaming service is included in the spec, but you’ll need a paid-for subscription to be able to use it. It will suggest new tracks based on your radio listening and usefully it’s backed up by a couple of dedicated buttons on the remote for repeat and random.
In terms of Wi-Fi reception range, it just about made it from one end of my house to the other (about 12 metres, with three brick walls in-between) which isn’t always the case with some Wi-Fi devices. At the extremes, however, it took a noticeably longer time to hook on to the network than when it was in the same room as my router.
The speakers are a pair of full-range, ported, 2.5in drivers offering six watts RMS which do a pretty decent job of throwing out the sound with a fair degree of oomph, helped by the solidity of the cabinet, which Roberts says has been ‘acoustically tuned’.
Next page: Tunesmith
But, and I know I'm going to get some abuse for this, AirPlay would seem to be a big miss on this. It's certainly a deal breaker for me...
It's a little disappointing the Roberts name on otherwise anonymous consumer kit like this. It should be covered in wood and leather, maybe even a little carpet, not chasing the shiny-shiny iPod design zeitgeist.
Generally, I am unsure about streaming. So you have 1 copy of your music that you can play in 3 different places in your home. Instead, I keep 3 copies of the actual music on separate players. All right, keeping them in sync adds a complication, but would setting up a streaming infrastructure and keeping a central storage unit switched on all the time. And with multiple copies, you can take one jogging or in the car.
Living with it is a different matter
I've used Roberts kit for years and there's always problems. The predecessor unit I have in the bedroom is quirky to say the least.
The touch front panel doesn't work; one needs to use the remote to control it. The screen is too bright but when dimmed to minimum can't be read in the dark as there's insufficient contrast. Blue is the wrong colour; red would be better at night. The snooze control works on all functions; adjust the volume and it switches off. The remote control's UI is unintuitive and needs to be learned. IPhones interfere with loud clicks & bangs. The radio alarm doesn't specify the channel; go to sleep listening to Radio3 and go through the channel changing rigmarole (snooze, etc.) to change to Radio4 in the morning. It's a bit unreliable and needs occasional rebooting (disconnecting) to reset.
In short lots of niggles.
On the good side, it's a brilliant high quality sound that belies it's size. Much much much better than anything else on the market. It looks great. It's solidly built. The functionality is great.
Would I buy another? Without hesitation as he positives far outweigh the negatives. But it still doesn't excuse the considerable annoyances.
That's the sound of Roberts running off the end of the dock ... and missing the boat.
£350 for an iPod dock that acts as an internet radio / streamer? Why not just buy an iPod dock, the excellent Tune-In app and save save yourself a couple of hundred quid in the process?
If this device was £99 - £120 (which it should be) then I'd be clicking 'buy' now but £350 would (almost) but me an iPad which would be far more usefull or a decent laptop and speakers. I'd really like a unit like this for my kitchen but not at this price.
"£350 for a souped up iPod dock?"
For that amount of money you could have a touch more than half a Bose Wave thingummy with DAB add on. Far more l33t than a Roberts ever will be. And for another £99 you could have an actual iPlod dock for it as well.