At around £300, Onkyo's T-4555 DAB/AM/FM tuner is not a cheap separate. In fact, it's quite pricey. But as with most things in life, you generally get what you pay for, and in this case Onkyo claims you'll receive excellent digital and analogue reception.
The T-4555's design and construction is notably second to none. From the stylish brushed aluminium allure that graces Onkyo's range of separates, to the overall solidity of the chassis, the new Onkyo receiver impresses with its exemplary build quality. To the rear sit gold-plated stereo outputs, alongside DAB, AM and FM aerial connections. The dot matrix display is easy to read even from a distance, which you may find yourself doing, thanks to the sturdy remote control.
One of the most notable characteristics of the T-4555 is its future-proof design. Onkyo has prepared its attractive new tuner for the pending upgrade of DAB to DAB+, by making the DAB tuner board removable and upgradeable by a home user. How vital this is to the average person is debatable. But after paying £300 for a DAB separate, a less costly upgrade in future may appeal.
In addition to the various aerial connections to the rear is a Remote Interactive socket for use with Onkyo's DS-A1 iPod dock. Also handy are 12V trigger ports for synchronisation with other hi-fi components. DAB reception is handled by a chipset from Frontier Silicon, a company that claims to produce 70 per cent of the DAB chipsets on the market. The guts of the rest of the system is the work of Onkyo itself.
Autoseeking 51 DAB stations took about 15 or 20 seconds and in a London home environment -- where temperamental signal strength can be an issue -- reception was excellent. Minor signal dropouts were noticeable on one or two stations due to weak signal, but the vast majority of stations were received flawlessly. DAB's sound quality is limited by the fact that it's built on old standards of audio compression, but the Onkyo does a stellar job making DAB sound as good as it physically can.
We listened to a wide variety of talk and music radio and detected no interference from adjacent broadcasts. Promises of noise-free audio are justified but don't expect a weak FM signal to be free of noise; it isn't.
Heavy investments in design and construction usually ends up costing the consumer. At £300, Onkyo's beautiful and high-performing T-4445 comes at a premium that the casual radio fan may want to avoid. While it's not strictly a weakness, it's a pricey piece of kit that would be hard to justify in the mind of the typical radio fan.
Also, while we trust a devoted radio aficionado would have the ear and dedication to fully exploit the precision tuning capabilities inside this model, in our testing conditions that reflect the average household, we didn't discern a notable difference in FM performance between this and competing models.
There is no doubt in our mind that this is an Class A piece of kit. It's beautiful to look at, exceptionally well built and on decent hi-fi equipment, sounds terrific. To some people the future-proof design may be neither here nor there. But if you're looking to invest then you'll be safe in the knowledge that you won't have to spend quite as much dosh when DAB+ rolls out.
Overall, Mr Average Joe almost certainly won't appreciate what he's getting for his premium investment. Audiophiles, on the other hand, will adore the T-4555 and won't regret investing in such superbly designed hi-fi equipment.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday