Not too many life-changing products out there, but the Revo Blik Radio Station could just be one of them, writes Andrew Everard.
In one deeply cool matt black box, with a striking speaker grille and control keypad on the top, you get internet radio, FM radio, DAB radio, wireless music streamer and even a bit more. And best of all it's British! Oh alright then, Scottish - but since when did that do anything but good for a product's hi-fi credentials? Linn, anyone? Or Tannoy?
I first found out about the £150 Blik Radio Station just before Christmas, and was hoping to get a sample to play with over the extended holiday period. Didn't quite work out like that, and an anonymous brown package arrived in the office a week or so back.
Inside, a product that just for once looked every bit as good as the press pictures – not always a given – and seeming like a rather macho clock radio. Which in a way is just what it is: there's not too much you can pick up in the local supermarket electrical section able to wake you up at 6am with what's happening at 1am in Boston. Mass., of course, not Lincs..
More after the break
Life with the Blik – which also comes in white – has been pretty much without complications. It found our home wi-fi network with no problems, and after keying in the encryption key, which involved a spot of menu-shuffling, we were up and running.
The presence of a site allowing the programming of favourite stations – provided by Frontier Silicon, the manufacturer of the enabling technology – makes set-up a lot simpler.
It means we now have preset folders for US stations, Japanese broadasters for my wife, and a whole stack of podcasts including Garrison Keillor's News from Lake Wobegon and the stupidly addictive Car Talk phone-in, all about strange noises on Chevy axles and misbehaving Pontiacs.
The speaker built into the top of the unit is OK, but we rapidly plugged the stereo audio outs into our AV receiver, and thus discovered the amazing AVRO classical music stations streaming at 256kbps out of Hilversum in the Netherlands.
The sound is excellent, and I'm not sure whether we're more hooked on AVRO Film, which plays entire movie music scores, or AVRO Baroque Around The Clock, which does just what it says on the tin. Lusciously enjoyable, and streamed for free at better than DAB quality – kind of puts the BBC's 64kbps stream of Radio 3 in perspective, doesn't it?
Speaking of DAB, the Radio Station works well as a digital/analogue radio tuner with its telescopic aerial extended, proves as sensitive as any other radio when it comes to station-finding, and is also compatible with DAB+.
Problems? Few and far between - the little credit card remote control needs pointing firmly at the unit, and suspicions that it looks very like the one for our Illuminaire TV backlight system were borne out when changing internet radio stations also changed the colour of the backlights(!). Fortunately the TV backlights aren't on too much when listening to the radio.
But apart from that, and the occasional drop-out on those high-bitrate Dutch stations when some hefty video downloading of Japanese TV shows is going on elsewhere in the house, all is fine – and that problem is really down to our wi-fi router and ISP, which both need an upgrade soon, not the Revo.
We've had more than a few wi-fi radio devices at home, but this one looks like it might stay. The bedside clock radio could be feeling the cool draught of obsolescence, I feel...