This £90 digital radio with integrated FM tuner and CD player looks like the perfect package, with everything you need for music on the move. However, while the brochure raves about the "stylish design", "clean lines" and "organic shape" with "great sound quality", the vast expanse of white plastic looks and feels rather cheap, and the sound quality leaves much to be desired. Speech is acceptable, but with music -- any kind of music -- the speakers deliver very muddy, indistinct sound. You can add some much-needed low-end thump by switching on the X-Bass button, but it doesn't make music any clearer. The BB-01 is crying out for a graphic equaliser, but it doesn't even have a tone control.
The designers of the BB-01 have tried to combine the street style of a boom box with the icy cool of an iPod, but the result doesn't work on either front. Where an iPod has a glossy finish that's easy to keep clean, the BB-01 becomes grubby within seconds, and the vast expanse of white plastic looks cheap rather than cool. At 2.8kg without batteries, it's also very heavy.
The control layout is good, with system buttons on the top left, presets and bass boost on the top right and CD controls under the blue LCD at the front. There are no tone controls or a graphic equaliser, and you can't connect an external device such as an iPod.
The BB-01 can run on 8 type C batteries or on AC power, and the power cable hides away in the battery compartment when it's not in use. The CD player is on top, and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right hand side of the unit.
At £90 the BB-01 is hardly cheap, but it does look it. The lid of the CD player is flimsy and difficult to open, the volume control feels fragile and the rubbery tuning button below the LCD seems to have been stolen from a scroll mouse.
Tuning the BB-01 is just a matter of pressing the Autotune button, which automatically finds and stores digital radio stations. Like other digital radios, the list may include stations you can't receive, such as London-only broadcasters.
You can use the Autotune button on FM too, although it only finds the next station rather than all the available broadcasts. The tuner is RDS-compatible, so you'll see station names rather than frequency numbers.
The BB-01 has four preset buttons that work in the usual way: find a station you want to store and then press the appropriate preset button to store it in that location. You can store four DAB presets and four FM ones.
To move between DAB stations it's just a matter of flicking the button below the LCD until you see the name of the station you want to listen to, and then pressing the button to tune into that station. The two-line display tells you the name of each station and what it is, and if you press the Display Info button it will show any additional information such as the signal strength, date and time or additional information such as the name of the specific programme you're listening to.
You know a radio's basic when the most exciting feature you can think of is the remote control, but that's the case with the BB-01. It's a nice remote, though, and it enables you to control all of the device's features from the comfort of your armchair. When you're listening to a CD, you can choose random, programmed or normal play, and when you're using the radio, the remote enables you to switch between presets and manual tuning. You can also select what information should appear on the BB-01's blue LCD display, which boasts two 20-character lines and scrolls when there's too much information to fit on the screen.
Other than the remote, there's very little to get excited about. The CD player supports CD-R and CD-RW discs, but not MP3 files, and there's no alarm clock or countdown timer, no input for external devices and no output for other hi-fi equipment. Then again, given the radio's disappointing sound quality, you probably wouldn't want to connect it to anything else anyway. If you want to record radio stations for later listening, or if you're looking for a DAB radio to supplement existing hi-fi equipment, the BB-01 isn't the device for you.
If the BB-01's looks haven't put you off, the sound will. It's just about bearable when you're listening to speech, but with music the sound is muffled, lacks definition and sounds muddy at low frequencies. The X-Bass system adds a little low-end punch, but it's no substitute for proper tone controls and it doesn't make the music sound any less muffled.
Whether you listen to jazz, dance, death metal, digital radio, FM radio or a CD, the results are disappointing -- and if the original audio isn't up to much, for example if it's overly compressed or suffers from poor signal quality, then music is almost unlistenable to. You can improve things slightly by using a decent pair of headphones, but even then the sound is hardly a great advert for digital broadcasting. If the BB-01 were a mid-priced ghetto blaster, the unimpressive sound quality might be acceptable, but in a £90 digital radio, it simply isn't good enough.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide