Roberts’s Stream 93i radio won more What Hi-Fi? Award than we care to count – so how do you improve on something that’s clearly the best in its category? The answer is carefully and conservatively.
Roberts has only made a few small changes for its replacement, the Stream 94i, including the addition of Bluetooth – the only significant thing we felt was missing from its predecessor.
With that feature and a snappier new design, the Roberts radio sets the bar even higher.
As well as its Bluetooth connection, the Stream 94i has a whole host of ways in which it plays audio.
It has access to FM, DAB and internet stations, so you should never be lacking for sounds – whether from your local radio or connected to the world wide web via the Stream 94i’s built-in wifi or ethernet port.
Other physical connections include USB and 3.5mm inputs, while the Stream 94i can also access digital music over a local area network (LAN) in MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, ALAC and WAV formats.
You can also use Spotify Connect (provided you have a premium subscription) to get the radio to grab your tracks directly from the site’s 30 million strong database.
You can also manage the radio’s playback through the UNDOK app for iOS and Android, which is useful if the Stream 94i’s easy-to-use remote is out of reach.
If you wish to hook some speakers up to the radio, there’s a line out connection next to the headphone port.
Roberts has given a fresh look to the radio, with a line of rectangular buttons replacing the segmented ones that were on the Stream 93i. They’re good to use and make the radio look a bit more elegant in our eyes.
While the material quality hasn’t changed much, the switch from the glossy, deep black exterior means that the Stream 94i looks more modern and smarter.
The handle has also been replaced – gone is the stiff metal arch in favour of a flexible material one, which makes the radio easier to carry about.
If you are looking to take it out and about, you’ll have to pay a small premium to buy the battery pack necessary to make this radio portable. If you already have a battery pack for the Stream 93i, it will work for the Stream 94i too.
While these new modifications are welcome, we’re pleased to hear that Roberts has maintained the sound quality of the 93i. That’s possibly because the ‘subwoofer’ at the back of the unit and the two smaller drivers on the front have remained unchanged.
We start by playing Dua Lipa’s New Rules through Spotify Connect, and the attention to detail this radio pays to the midrange is laudable.
The Stream 94i manages to convey the lyrics’ almost deliberately monontonous character without ever making it sound dull or disinterested. As she hits the high notes, there is never any sense of stress or harshness.
While a focus on vocals is a vital aspect of any audio experience, it’s especially important for a primarily speech-based platform like radio.
As such, the warmth and balance from the Stream 94i is pleasing – we could listen to chat-heavy stations like BBC Radio 4 for hours on end without wanting to switch.
Change to something more complex, such as Kanye West’s Black Skinhead through the Bluetooth connection and this radio strikes you with a suitably aggressive rendition.
The relentless, punchy drums and intimidating panting that kicks the track into action reach forward and grab you, before the Stream 94i comfortably delivers West’s attitude-laden vocals.
Happily, these characteristics remain no matter what input you’re using. Ending our test with a DAB broadcast of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 In C Major – a stiff test of any hi-fi’s dynamism – this radio doesn’t let us down.
From the smooth clarinets to the energetic, rapid movements of the strings, this radio has a confident handling of dynamics, and a suitably iron fist when it comes to keeping each instrument distinct from each other.
As a replacement for the top-notch 93i, the Stream 94i ticks all the right boxes. The lack of Bluetooth connection has been rectified without compromising on its enjoyably proficient sound quality.
The Stream 94i is the complete package, and that makes it the best radio (for its price) out there at the moment.
See all our Roberts reviews