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It's refreshing to come across a digital radio that focuses on the essentials: great sound, good looks and a strong tuner. With the Roberts Expression, there's no media streaming, iPod dock or Internet tuner on offer, just a pared down radio that sounds as good as it looks. At under £100 it's hardly an impulse purchase, but it is a style statement within reach of most shoppers.
It could have been sketched for the art deco generation in Roberts' earliest years -- the 1930s -- or it could have popped up in Ikea mere days ago. The case is curved ash; the front and rear are drilled metal grilles. The tuning and volume knobs, alongside the six buttons mounted on the top, are rubberised. The only thing that lets it down is the grey plastic handle that feels as cheap as it looks. It rotates 180 degrees from front to back of the case, where it rests uncomfortably on a power lead that protrudes from the rear like a tail.
You'd be forgiven for thinking we were so focused on its looks because it had nothing else to offer, but that's far from true. It's light on resources, running for 100 hours on a set of four alkaline D-cell batteries. If you'd rather use rechargeables, simply flip the selector to NiMH and fit them. The integrated charger will top them up when it's plugged into the mains so it should always ready for action should you want to move to another room.
Sound quality is excellent. Classical music is clear and balanced, with excellent definition across the spectrum. Pop and rock sound full and rounded, while spoken content is warm, personal and very human. This is thanks in no small part to the fact that the grille hides two speakers and the radio itself has a Dynamic Range Control setting, which uses supplementary information sent out by the broadcaster to enhance quieter sounds.