This digital radio takes one step forward and two steps back while it tries to be innovative, forgetting about crucial radio elements like sound.
Under the $230 price tag, Grundig offers innovative features like the ability to record digital and FM radio onto an SD card, either on-the-go or for a preset, programmable time and an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) like on digital television. Under that same price tag, Grundig place an inferior dot matrix LCD screen and speakers that are fairly good quality for the average digital radio but subpar for anything over $200.
A surprise came when opening the box and pulling out the radio to find a sizeable subwoofer intake hole at the back of the unit. Turning the volume high on the radio reveals some pretty solid bass to round out music audio (or to make Richard Mercer sound a little more sensual) but the trade off is poor quality mid-range and high-range sound from the main 7W speaker. The back-end of the sound has potential, but the small front speaker lets the unit down.
The big selling point here is the recording and EPG function that puts this radio a step ahead of the rest – including the whole radio industry. Radio standards are yet to hit the point where individual EPGs for stations have become feasible since there aren’t really any EPG-enabled radios on the market (until now). ABC has guides for its multiple stations as well as Triple J, so if you buy into this function, it’s an investment in the future rather than an instantly useful tool.
If you do find an EPG-enabled radio station, you can download the guides onto the radio where you can browse chronological lists of shows, get descriptions on stations and programs and choose what shows you want to program to be recorded when you’re away.
The recording function is a welcomed addition, adding a whole new level to the potential of music piracy. Technically, a lot of recording people used to do on VCRs back in the VHS tape days was illegal (and I guess PVRs fall into that trap, too), but let the copyright holders worry about that one. Whole radio shows can be recorded onto an SD card (unfortunately no USB connectivity) using the simple controls of the button and volume knob control system to navigate a downloaded program guide or to just record what you’re listening to on the spot.
The face of the unit is split in half – one side dedicated to the speaker and the other for the buttons, screen, SD card slot and volume knob. Six small buttons are dedicated to controlling things like the alarm, presets and alarm, while six bigger buttons are dedicated to recording, tuning and volume functions. The volume knob doubles as the navigator through menus like an iPod which makes the function of this unit incredibly simple.
Additional inputs include an Auxiliary input for MP3 players, 3.5mm headphone jack and a left/right red/black audio input for connecting external audio systems. If you have a better sound system to hook this radio up to, I’d recommend it. A handy, non-invasive remote makes a handy little addition to sweeten the deal.