Setting up the Freeplay Devo was straightforward -- all the more so because it doesn't rely on removable batteries or, necessarily, an external power source. As soon as the Devo is charged and switched on, the DAB part of the radio auto-tunes itself to all available digital radio stations and displays their names on the built-in LCD. The FM part of the radio is equally simple to operate, with the added benefit that it uses far less power.
The Devo receives all Band III broadcasts -- this covers every DAB station in the UK. The autotuner on the radio is acceptably swift at homing in on all available channels in your area. If you move the radio at some point in the future, these preset frequencies may change slightly and you'll have to retune the Devo by pressing the Scan button on the front. As you'd expect for a small radio of this kind, there are no recording features.
It doesn't take long to charge the radio for initial use using the built-in handle, but if you're near a normal power source you can plug in the bundled adaptor and listen to the radio using mains electricity -- this also charges the internal battery.
Sound quality on the Devo is average for a DAB, although the tone is slightly brighter than others we've reviewed. Although far from grating, there is an unmistakable transistor-radio tone to the Devo that means it never rises above its rank. Demanding listeners may ask a little more from this radio despite its tiny size, but for general listening we were very pleased with the fidelity. If you're looking for a more luxurious-sounding radio, you're probably not in the wind-up market anyway.
Listening to a pirate FM radio station revealed the Devo's good handling of a wavering signal, and the DJ's muffled cries of "Good evening London taaahhnn!" were decipherable even through his drug-addled slur.
The Devo's most impressive feature is its wind-up mechanism. This is surprisingly effective at transforming a small amount of winding into several hours of radio listening. Not only is this method of charging a welcome alternative to the fossil-fuel gobbling radios that occupy our homes and offices, but it feels good to be working for your music. Freeplay has put the environment first, as it does with all its products, and the Devo has turned out a welcome surprise. While extended DAB listening without external mains charging will wear your wrist out fairly easily, there's plenty to recommend here for FM listeners.
Edited by Michael Parsons
Additional editing by Nick Hide