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Roberts Gemini RD55 stereo DAB radio 

If you've had enough of the 'retro' look that seems to be mandatory from many DAB radio manufacturers, and want an excellent, full feature DAB radio into the bargain then the Roberts Gemini 55 radio should definitely be on your short list.
Roberts Gemini DAB/FM radio

The Gemini 55 from Roberts is an all-in-one DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) radio, available in either glossy black or white depending on your preference. Size is 27cm by 13cm, with a depth of 7cm and weighs in at around 1Kg. The unit comes complete with a mains adaptor. If you prefer to run from battery then you'll need 6x'C' cells, which will add a reasonable amount to the weight. Battery life from a fresh set of standard alkaline batteries should be around 20 hours.

Reception using the six segment telescopic aerial is very good. In my area I had no problem receiving a wide range of channels very clearly with no drop-out. For those times when you're outside the DAB coverage area you can tune into FM, and again the quality of reception is very good. If you are using FM then the radio will correctly identify stations through the RDS system that is more commonly used in cars.

Sound is provided by two speakers, one on either side of the unit. Sound quality was exceptional given the size of the speakers used, providing very good bass and rich deep tones.

Pausing live radio

Pioneered first on video recorders, the idea of being able to 'pause' a live broadcast has now made the jump to DAB radio. While not the first product to support this feature, the Gemini definitely makes this very easy. To pause, simply press the tuning knob inwards. The broadcast will pause. When you're ready to start listenning again, simple press again and the programme will continue to be played, delayed by however long you were away.

The length of time you can delay depends on the bit-rate of the station you're listening to. The manual says you can expect between 5 and 20 minutes. The following table gives the figures I actually achieved for various stations :

Station Content Bit-rate Maximum pause
Capital Music 160Kbps 6 minutes
BBC Radio 4 Talk 128Kbps 7.5 minutes
Heat Music 64Kbps (mono) 15 minutes

Once you've built up a paused backlog you can then fast forward or rewind within that window. Skipping adverts or sports news for example is simple!

On the whole the feature is great for those times when the phone rings, or the kids need to be pushed out the door for school right in the middle of an interesting interview.

Recording you favourite programmes

When I was growing up the the 'must-have' gadget was a radio-cassette recorder. You could record the top-40 onto a tape then listen to it for the whole of the following week! Things have moved on and it's almost impossible to find a quality portable system with cassette player now.

The new solution to this requirement is digital recording onto a memory card. These cards are not much more expensive in real-terms than cassette tapes were in days gone by. The Gemini 55 includes an SD card slot. The manual claims that product has been tested with cards up to 1Gbyte, but should support a maximum capacity of 2Gbytes. A 1G card is only going to set you back around £7, a 2G card around £11.

By today's standards this isn't a huge amount of space - but then audio doesn't take a lot of room. A 1G SD card should give you around 16-32 hours of recording time, depending on the quality of the station you want to record.

The SD card has another added benefit - you can transfer music onto a card and play that through the quality speakers on the system. You can play back MP2 and MP3 file formats.

With an SD card installed recording and playback is simple.

Connectivity

Roberts Gemini 55 DAB Radio - external connections

Reversing the trend of many portable machines recently, the Gemini 55 comes with a wealth of options for interfacing with other products.

On top of the unit, next to the SD card slot is a USB connector allowing you to transfer files directly from your computer onto the SD card in the radio. Transfer is slower than using an external memory card reader, but convenient and avoids the need to buy a separate card reader. You can also use this interface to transfer programmes you've recorded onto your computer. You might then transfer those to an iPod or other MP3 player to listen on the move.

On the left-hand side of the unit you'll find headphone socket along with line-out and aux-in. A standard auxilliary input through a stereo jack plug makes this machine MP3 player agnostic - it'll work with any device that provides line-out, allowing you to connect your MP3 player, phone or any other device. Playing my old Sony NW-HD1 worked perfectly. I found this the ideal solution to listening to my music collection while cooking. Line-out is probably less useful on this product but does allow you to connect to a more powerful external amplifier for example.

Summary

I'm really impressed with this product. It's addressed most of my issues with DAB radios :

  • It looks good (personal preference but I've alsways wondered why the first couple of generations of DAB radio had to look like they came from the ark!)
  • It has stereo speakers - why go for DAB and mono?
  • Can pause live radio for at least as long as the average phone call without need for a memory card
  • Can record onto external standard memory cards
  • Computer connectivity allowing you to archive those important programmes!
  • Standard line-in providing compatibility with just about any MP3 player
  • Excellent sound quality

The last plus point is price - the RRP for this unit is £99.99. It's difficult to find a portable stereo DAB radio at that price and then you wouldn't get the high-end features of pausing live radio or recording to SD card.

I've only found two vendors stocking the Gemini 55, it's a very new product : Comet for £99.99 and Amazon at £89.99. For £89.99 this product is even better value for money :

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roberts-Radio-Digital-Recorder-Colour/dp/B000V5LPSU

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Rating:

Comment by Bruce, Dec 19, 2009 19:07

These radios are fantastic! The case looks OK, the sound quality is fantastic considering the size, it records music/other radio programmes, which, being a rather busy person, i love! The reception is fantastic - I live in a very small village surrounded by very high hills, but get reception almost as good as if i were listening to this on a CD player. All in all, well done Roberts!!
Rating:

Comment by neil macconnachie, Aug 2, 2008 20:10

i bought a radio today, i was really disapointed with it so i took it back to the shop and bought this one instead... i love the sound quality, i love mp3 connectivity, it has good reception where my other one failed. 9/10
would have been 10/10 if the batteries lasted longer. Excellent value, i would recomend this radio to a friend.
Rating:

Comment by petew, Jul 29, 2008 20:12

Hello Jakub, glad you found the review useful. To answer your questions :

The radio *always* records in MP3 format - so no problem transferring to another device. This does in fact work fine. You can play back MP2 files (by copying to the memory card). You can also copy music collections to a memory card to play back on the radio. Given the low price of cards (I found one supplier selling packs of 7x1G SD cards for £19) you can almost use them like cassette tapes.

You can't plug a USB storage device into the device - the radio is designed as a USB peripheral - not a controller.

Hope that helps.
Rating:

Comment by Jakub Kaplan, Jul 29, 2008 18:10

Thank you very much for this informative review; you've probably swung me over to this product.

However, is it possible to record also to MP3 or is MP2 the only format available? MP3 would be really great as it would allow me to transfer the recordings to an MP3 player via PC without any encoding needed.

Also, haven't you tried sticking an USB Mass Storage Device directly into it to see whether the radio can store recordings onto it? That way at least there would remain the possibility that some MP2-enabled personal player will occur in the future and one could transfer the recordings to it without the need to start up a computer.
Rating:

Comment by petew, Dec 13, 2007 16:57

The case is plastic - I'm not sure I'd call it tacky, although I've not seen the white version only the black. I have seen far worse. I think this is a matter of taste - I prefer this look to the last generation where everything had to have a wood case and look 'retro'.

I've had no problems with the battery compartment - the cover seems securely fastened. Looking closely at it I can't see how it would 'always falls open' unless it's been broken.

I found the quality of the speakers to be good and regularly use them to play back my MP3 player through the line-in socket. Have you checked the 'tone' switch on the left-hand side of the unit? Maybe you've left it in 'news/talk radio' mode rather than switching it to music.

I've tested a number of DAB radios here and the DAB signal isn't particularly good. Despite that reception on the RD55 has been as good as most others and better than some.

Recording onto memory has been fine - although I've mainly recorded voice/talk rather than music. Copying some MP3 music tracks from my computer to the memory card sounded fine considering the size of the product.

No problems with the controls - seem quite logical to me

Rating:

Comment by James Garrand, Dec 13, 2007 16:23

This is the worst radio I have ever used.

-It has a cheap tacky finish and the battery compartment always falls open
-The reception is ok but the speakers sound like a fart in a biscuit tin
-The controls decide when they want to work and not when you press the button
-The recordings sound like they have been taken with a cheap mic next to a pan frying bacon

STAY WELL AWAY FROM THIS RADIO AND ANY OTHER PRODUCT OF 'ROGUE ROBERTS'
Rating:

Comment by petew, Nov 12, 2007 15:02

Hi Tim,
the RD55 doesn't have a timer - it would be a good addition. Another very useful additional feature would be a 'record next 30/60/90 minutes then stop'. Right now if you start recording because you want to get the end of a programme as you're on your way out the door it won't stop recording until your memory card is full.

Pete
Rating:

Comment by timw, Nov 12, 2007 14:38

Does the RD55 have a timer so that you can record a programme when not present?
Rating:

Comment by petew, Sep 25, 2007 1:44

Hello Paul,
unfortunately the Gemini RD55 doesn't record from FM/AM either - or from the auxiliary input come to that. All they're doing I believe is streaming the already digital content onto the memory card. It doesn't include the analogue to digital conversion necessary for anything else.

I should have mentioned that in the review!
Rating:

Comment by PAUL LAWRENCE PELLS, Sep 25, 2007 1:31

Thanks for the Gemini R55 review. Does it also record the FM band? The Pure Evoke does not I have been told.

The sooner we get a DAB/AM/FM Radio that will record on to SD cards the better!

PLP

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