Hitachi TRK100DAB review: Hitachi TRK100DAB

The Good Quick to tune; easy to preset radio station preferences; FM radio option.

The Bad The design; tinny speakers; imprecise scan and manual tune facility in FM mode.

The Bottom Line This low-end Hitachi is unlikely to set the pulse racing. As an inexpensive noise box it does the job adequately, but poor sound reproduction means this is not the radio for audiophiles

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5.5 Overall

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The TRK100DAB is a radio to put in your kitchen or bathroom and have tinkling away while you make your sandwiches or wash your toes. Its no-nonsense approach to tuning and easy-to-operate presets make it ideal for switching on and forgetting about.

The TRK100DAB looks alarmingly like an obscure piece of medical equipment. Its white plastic case means it's light, but also makes it feel cheap and insubstantial, and doesn't help with the sound quality. The top panel is tilted forward at a 45 degree angle -- presumably for easy access to its buttons -- but it serves to give the radio an unwelcoming, clinical air. The LCD display screen is small (50 by 10mm), and is in the centre of the diagonally tilted top panel, where you'll find all of the function and mode buttons. The aerial is extendable, and is easily accessible at the top of the button panel. At 750mm it's also long enough to do its job.

The stereo speakers are tiny and are located on the front of the unattractive plastic case. Regularly spaced holes in the plastic allow the sound to escape -- it's probably grateful to be out of there. There's a headphone socket located on the left-hand side underneath the over-sized On/Off switch. The switch on our test unit didn't fully slide up, adding to the overall impression of cheapness.

The radio takes both mains via a 12V adaptor and batteries (six size C cells), making it potentially portable. The 12V Mains In is located on the back next to the battery hatch. Above this is an indentation to use as a handle and there are two small vents on either side for cooling.

When you first switch on the TRK100DAB, it automatically scans and tunes to the UK Band III DAB channels -- over 50 of them in London. It only takes 12 seconds to scan, and a bar chart lets you monitor its progress. Once the scanning has finished, the stations are put in alphanumeric order and the radio selects the first station on the list (probably 1Xtra). Station info automatically starts scrolling across the LCD underneath the static station name. This info includes artist and song name, plus various promotions.

You can scroll through the stations by pressing the Up and Down buttons and using the Select button when you find a station that looks promising. The previously selected station continues playing until you find a new one. You are helped in your choice by information on the LCD screen, which displays the station genre (such as rock or pop) and name.

The TRK100DAB can also receive FM broadcasts. Simply press the DAB/FM button to change between them. Find the stations by pressing the scan button or by using the Up/Down buttons. Scan will lock onto the strongest signal for a station, whereas using the Up/Down buttons changes the frequency by increments of 0.05 MHz. You may find this imprecise, and you'll probably have to trawl through blizzards of static to find the clearest signal.

The TRK100DAB does not support RDS (Radio Data System) and only displays the frequency in FM mode, so once you've come through the blizzard you won't be able to check the display to find out where you are (unless you happen to know the frequency range a station broadcasts in and can take a guess).

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