There's always been an odd appeal in fitting old devices with cutting edge electronics. We've seen this revival of old designs in cars like the PT Cruiser and phones like the Nokia Fashion mobile. It seems that while we enjoy the clarity and convenience of digital gadgets, we sometimes miss the warmth and character of our old analogue friends.
The Roberts Gemini 10 is a DAB radio in a classic 1950s case. The chassis on our review model had been manufactured in the last few months in the Roberts factory, but from the outside you could barely tell it wasn't five decades old.
Unlike most DAB radios, the £90 Gemini 10 is minimalist. This radio is ideal for anyone who wants to switch from analogue to digital without learning much about how digital radios operate. There's a volume control and a tuning control, and that's it. The Roberts is perfect for older radio listeners averse to new-fangled gadgets. Even if you have no hang ups about new technology, we think the Gemini 10 offers appealing tone and believable1950s styling.
The Gemini smells amazing. Before we'd even plugged the radio in, it was obvious this was something special. It's a leathery, wooden smell: the kind of smell you'd expect if you stuck your head in an antique grandfather clock. It's definitely not what we're used to from digital radios.
The Roberts is compact -- about the same size as a small school lunchbox -- and weighs 1.5kg. The chassis is constructed of high-density wood and clad in leathercloth (convincing imitation leather). The speaker fascia at the front of the Gemini is a strong metal gauze, so there's no chance of an errant finger or sharp object damaging the speaker cone inside.
The top of the radio is neatly organised. Royal insignia are printed there to remind you of Roberts' heritage - both Prince Charles and the Queen get down to the Roberts sound.
The volume and tuning controls are clearly labelled at either end of the control panel and are both simple rotary controls. Along the top edge of the control panel there's a row of four buttons including a power switch and FM/DAB radio toggle. The Gemini 10's LCD display is brilliantly clear and simple -- station names are displayed in large, easily legible type.
On the rear of the Gemini 10 there's a telescopic aerial which, like most of the Gemini's fittings, is finished in a pleasant gold. The aerial is very rigid when extended and feels unlikely to bend or snap except under rough handling. When transporting the radio, the aerial can be safely stowed against the rear of the Gemini where it clips into a small binding. There is also a headphone socket and a stereo line-out for wiring the Gemini into your HiFi.
One of the Gemini's more unusual features is its hinged back panel. This opens to reveal the inside of the Gemini which -- shockingly -- is almost entirely empty! Is this some kind of scam? Where's all the digital electronics you paid for? The answer is not sinister at all, DAB radios simply don't occupy much space. The Gemini's mostly hollow chassis is actually likely to be the reason for the radio's good acoustics - but more about that later.
Besides a lot of empty space, the inside of the Gemini also contains a battery compartment which takes four LR20/D sized batteries. You're more likely to use the Gemini with its bundled mains power supply, however.
As soon as we switched it on, the Gemini auto-tuned to all the available DAB radio stations. We could then scroll between them using the tuning wheel, finally making our selection by pressing down on the rotary control. This was without a glance at the manual - we rate this degree of usability pretty highly.