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Roberts Gemini 10 review: Roberts Gemini 10

There's always been an odd appeal in fitting old devices with cutting edge electronics. 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

Chris Stevens

See full bio
5 min read

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.

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8.3

Roberts Gemini 10

The Good

'50s revival styling; solid build; simple tuning controls; clear and bright LCD display.

The Bad

Occasionally audible distortion on low bass notes at high volumes.

The Bottom Line

Above all else, it’s the style and build-quality of the Roberts that really won us over. Things really were built to last in 1950s Britain, and this radio appears to share its most important materials and construction with the 50s original. Couple this with a rich tone and simple controls and it’s difficult to find fault with this DAB from the past

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.

Design
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.

Setup

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.

If you move the radio to a new location and you notice the reception getting a bit choppy, the Gemini can retune all its stations if you press the 'Auto Tune' button. Unfortunately the Gemini doesn't store your favourite stations as presets.

With no preset option, Roberts may have taken the Gemini one retro step too far. On the other hand there's no room for confusion. The Gemini is simplicity itself. Roberts have eliminated the possibility of the Gemini 10s throwing a newcomer, and purged it of anything that is not essential to basic radio listening.

Features

Curiously, the Gemini's strength is its lack of features. It really does let you listen to the radio and little else. The only luxury on the Gemini is the 'Info' button which lets you read a little more about the song that's currently playing -- provided the station you're listening to broadcasts that information.

The only other feature worthy of note is the Gemini's LCD crisp 16 x 2 character display. This is backlit by a delicious amber-coloured glow and is perfectly in keeping with the overall style.

Performance

Switch the Gemini on, and aside from the instant warm-up, you're back in 1940. Jazz FM had no right to sound so good through the Gemini's Lilliputian 1W speaker, but it did. We listened to a double bass solo and the Roberts handled it easily, although the radio did distort when we increased the volume.

Roberts shouldn't have allowed the volume control to be turned up to a point where the Gemini's internal speaker starts making curious fuzzing noises instead of reproducing low-frequency transients. Unfortunately this situation is all too common even on new digital radios and integrated HiFis. We're not sure why manufacturers don't limit the volume of their amplifiers to a point below distortion.

Aside from this small annoyance, the Gemini sounds superb at medium volume and produces some of the vintage warmth its styling promises. The low end sounds rich and rounded without becoming muddy, and vocals come across distinctly -- the single speaker dutifully providing both treble and bass ranges.

This really is the perfect radio for listening to jazz music on. You expect a warm bass and a frisky treble from a jazz performance and the Gemini delivers. There is a certain old-school charm to the Gemini which makes it easy to forgive its fairly noticeable colouring of music. There definitely was a vintage edge to the sound the Gemini produced which is not ideal for modern pop music, but really shines with the spoken word and more dynamic music like jazz and classical.

The Gemini holds a radio signal extremely well -- we noticed no static during our auditions. Its batteries last around 20 hours.

Edited by: Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by: Tom Espiner

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