Roberts Rambler RD-76 review: Roberts Rambler RD-76

The Good Easy setup; FM as a fallback; solid build.

The Bad Lack of electronic programme guide.

The Bottom Line It might not be to everyone's taste aesthetically, but the RD-76 is another good example of Roberts' approach to digital radio design: take a retro chassis and transplant a 21st century heart. If you like the way it looks, this is a great kitchen radio

7.5 Overall

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Roberts has keenly demonstrated its appetite for retro. As a big player in radio for several decades, the company is lucky enough to own the rights to an impressive reservoir of classic chassis designs. Robert's DAB formula is an appealing one: take an old design from the catalogue, strip out the insides and replace the analogue circuitry with brand-new digital components. What at first seemed like something of a cheat has proved exceptionally popular.

Many manufacturers make the mistake of assuming that a digital radio should, for some unexplained reason, look and behave completely differently from a traditional analogue radio (see the BT Aviator for the most obvious failure of this technique). Roberts has taken a rather different approach, trying as hard as possible to make the transition to digital radio more or less transparent to the average radio user. It's an approach that works.

What you tend to see from Roberts, evidenced in the RD-76, is a gentle integration of DAB circuitry into an appealing tried-and-tested chassis. Obviously there has been a substantial overhaul behind the scenes, but at a casual glance this radio could be 40 years old. So, we like the styling, but does the RD-76 pack enough of a punch with its receiver hardware to justify your jump to the world of digital broadcasts -- and the £90 price tag?

The RD-76 isn't the best looking Roberts DAB: that plaudit goes to the gorgeous Roberts Gemini 10. Nonetheless, it's an attractive retro-styled radio with an understated charm. You can choose from a range of trim colours -- our review model came in pastel pink, which we'd advise against unless you're the young heiress to a hotel fortune. It's also available in aquamarine, black, blue, cream, green and red.

The top panel is clear and uncluttered, with a large LCD topped off by buttons to activate the radio's main functions. To the left of this there's a volume control and an on/off button. These could have been more elegantly integrated, although it's only a small oversight. To the right of the LCD, there's a simple scrolling wheel to skip though stations. As you can see in our images, the top panel proudly displays Roberts' 'By appointment to' royal heraldic emblems -- this may not endear the radio to republicans.

The designers managed to sustain their interest over to the rear of the radio, which is a simple wood veneer with telescopic aerial attached. There's also a 3.5mm line out, headphone and power-cable port here. The whole radio is transported using the faux leather carrying strap, and will accept six C-cell batteries for portable listening.

If you've set up a DAB before, you'll be right at home with the RD-76. If not, don't fear, it's impossible to get this wrong. The automatic tuner inside the RD-76 activates itself automatically when the radio is first switched on.

Provided the external aerial is extended and well-positioned, the RD-76 will automatically seek out all Band III (ie UK standard) DAB broadcasts and list them on the LCD. The tuning speed is rapid and first-time users will have no problems.

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