If there’s one niche where retro styling concepts modelled on products from the 20th century has caught on it’s with DAB radios.
Perhaps the most impressive example of all is the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo, which makes a play for being one of the best DAB radios by pairing an unusual but convincing design with a simple and fuss-free execution of its digital radio duties.
Able to tune in DAB/DAB+/FM radio stations, the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo is essentially a souped-up version of the Roberts Rambler BT – it adds extra audio oomph and charges for the privilege.
That makes it an expensive product for what it is – a good-looking DAB radio with thoroughly acceptable sound quality – but it does come with a few extras.
Its faux leather (vinyl) covered carrying handle and battery option enables the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo to go places. Sure, having to insert four AA batteries is a little awkward and it’s hardly as impressive as a built-in lithium-ion battery would have been, but it does the job.
What we also liked about the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo was its Bluetooth streaming, which we (for once on a DAB radio) executed without any serious issues with volume when playing music from a smartphone.
Is the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo going to blow you away? No – it’s primarily going to look great in a kitchen or bedroom, and send your ears more than acceptable sound quality. Easy to use and to live with, the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo is expensive for a modestly ambitious product, but worth it if you want a good-looking retro DAB radio that’s easy to live with.
Roberts Rambler BT Stereo DAB radio price and release date
Consequently, it costs more than the £119.99 asked for the original. As well as that price difference, this improved version comes in different colour options; duck egg, dusky pink, navy blue and green.
- Retro 1970s styling
- Weighs 1.15kg
- Faux leather and carry handle
A smaller, cuter and not quite as retro take on a DAB radio compared to Roberts’ flagship Rambler RD70, the intriguing design of the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo is based upon the original ‘Rambler’ radio of the 1970s.
That’s an era a lot of potential purchasers of this DAB radio will remember, unlike the ‘museum piece’ look of the 1950s-styled Roberts Rambler RD70. While the sides of the Rambler BT Stereo are simple and clean oak panels, its front is mostly taken up by a chrome and black speaker grille with faux leather vinyl on its carry handle, and on panels that stretch right across its back.
You’ll even notice the same feature colour on the sides of the two tactile knobs that sit either side of the top-mounted control panel. That panel also hosts a 3.5mm headphones jack.
Measuring 94 x 235 x 142mm and weighing 1.15kg, the Rambler BT Stereo is relatively small. That has consequences for the modest quality of its audio, but it looks great on a kitchen countertop, in a bathroom or on a bedside table. It’s got a long, angled telescopic aerial that stretches to 78cm and, accessed from underneath, a 3.5mm line-in for cabling-up any audio device you can dream up.
Its aesthetics are impressive – and important – because that’s essentially what you’re paying for here. Sure, this Rambler BT Stereo does sound good, but its status as one of the best-looking DAB radios around is really what’s on offer here. Either way, the Rambler BT Stereo is the most convincing ‘retro’ DAB radio around – and the build quality is excellent.
- 20 preset radio stations
- LCD brightness can be tweaked
- Battery life is 10 hours
The Roberts Rambler BT Stereo is simple to set-up – perhaps too simple. It has five buttons on the top, one of which is autotune. That makes it easy to use right out of the box, but how often does one need to autotune? Not often, which makes it being assigned to its own button something of a waste.
What we did like is the dedicated dimmer button, which toggles through high, medium, low and off for the LCD display. That’s useful when using it on a bedside table, as are its dual wake-up alarms and small snooze button.
While it lacks a colour LCD display, at 82x23mm its display is unusually long and has very large lettering, which at least makes scrolling text easy to read.
It’s easy enough to switch to battery power by inserting four AA batteries, though the 10-hour battery life that creates isn’t much; a lithium-ion battery would be hugely preferable.
- Stereo speakers
- No EQ settings
- Bluetooth streaming works well
What you hear is what you get on the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo. Having no EQ settings accessible in the onscreen menus is an oversight; being able to tweak just treble and bass settings can make such a big difference.
Lucky, then, that the default sound on the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo is very acceptable. The extra £30 you’re paying for the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo over the Roberts Rambler BT gets you a well balanced soundstage that easily fills a kitchen or bedroom with audio containing plenty of treble detail and just enough low frequency backup.
Its sound does lack a bit of width, but it’s not a huge issue. Just be aware that, if you’re a fan of bass-heavy music, this definitely isn’t the sound system for you.
We’re reasonably impressed by Bluetooth streaming, too. It’s easy to pair a smartphone and you get either song titles or the album name as scrolling text on the LCD panel. Though the streamed audio is rather quiet and lacks sparkle, it’s not as poor as what you get from most DAB radios that offer this feature.
Should I buy the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo DAB radio?
Buy it if…
You’re after a DAB radio for a newly-decorated kitchen
If you’ve done-up your kitchen and you think duck egg, dusky pink, navy blue or green might work, the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo’s faux leather vinyl panels and carry handle look the business.
You grew up in the 1970s or 1980s
Remember your grandparents’ old radio? The Roberts Rambler BT Stereo might just bring back a few memories, from its chrome speaker grille to its tactile knobs.
Don’t buy it if…
You want internet radio and podcasts
Sure you can hook-up the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo to your smartphone and stream from Spotify or BBC Sounds. However, given the likely quality of your smartphone’s speakers we’re not convinced its sound quality is going to make it worth the hassle.
You want a portable speaker for a BBQ
In theory you could fit the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo with four AA batteries and take it outside, but don’t expect to get pumping bass lines. However, it’s great for Test Match Special or some tunes while you sit in a deckchair.