Mark explores the World of Radio
IntroductionDespite its vulnerability in the market place the radio endures as a physical object. One can tune in to radio stations, from all over the world, from any number of devices including smartphones, tablets and computers but none can quite offer the personal service in quite the same way. Most are resolutely single purpose in their intent but we’re increasingly seeing other party tricks added, with the likes of USB charging for mobile devices, DLNA streaming and even a web browser, in some cases. So what does Geneva’s WorldRadio bring to the DAB party? Well, the product's name might give you a clue: one of its selling points is its ability to stream internet stations from around the globe, although this is done not directly by the radio but via Bluetooth from compatible devices. Of course, this also means it can stream the music contents of your smartphone or tablet storage or even from the cloud from the likes of iTunes of Google Play Music. Priced at £270, the Geneva WorldRadio has some work to do to justify its rather premium pricing – time to tune in and find out if it can pull it off…
Design & Connectivity
We’ll never judge a book by its cover, after all we’ve seen many ultra-slim LED TVs fall by the wayside by sacrificing looks for picture quality, but the Geneva WorldRadio comes beautifully packaged in a box with protective foam inserts that certainly gives its luxury credentials fair credence. Once unwrapped and exposed, the engineering nous seems typically Swiss – precise and unfussy with a feeling of total solidity; it’s superbly crafted and more heavyweight than one might expect for a unit of these small proportions. The sample sent for review is in an anodised silver finish but further choices of red and black are also available, although we certainly would have chosen the silver based on the product press photos and it’s just as nice ‘in person’. To the top-right, on the top panel of the unit is a retractable ariel and there’s also a fold-down, aluminium carry handle for easy portability. Completing the noteworthy design features are dials on either side used for various operations.
There’s certainly a touch of minimalism about the WorldRadio’s styling which carries over to the sparse set of physical connections at the rear. There’s an input for the 5.5V power adapter plug and a Line-in connection for phones, tablets, MP3 players etc and that’s it. Of course one of the major conveniences of the WorldRadio lies in its Bluetooth capabilities so the lack of wired inputs shouldn’t inhibit it too greatly and actually might attract some. Naturally we’ll want to know that we’ll not have to sacrifice music quality for handiness but this is the age in which we live. We’re also in a time where touchscreen is all the rage and Geneva’s flagship radio comes replete with a digital colour display that features six touch keys – three to each side.
OperationBefore getting started with the Geneva WorldRadio you’ll want to fit the supplied Lithium Polymer battery into a compartment on the underside of the unit and leave charging for around 8 hours to build up energy in the cells. The rubberised cover serves a dual purpose by also providing some acoustic dampening when the radio is placed on a hard surface and turned up loud. Depending on what we were using it for, we found the battery would last for around 6 hours when listening to radio - or from a device hooked up to the line-in connection - but when we used it to accept Bluetooth streamed content, it’s probably something like half of that. We certainly like the idea of the rechargeable battery and it’s a neater solution than those DABs that use ‘conventional’ batteries to fulfil the same role.
Since a lot of our radio time is spent listening to Radio 6 Music, our first task was to set about performing a full scan on the DAB tuner. It’s a very simple task to perform – simply hit the DAB touch button on the front display and select the Scan function using the dial on the right to scroll and also as a button to confirm the selection. If the radio has previously been tuned in another location and requires retuning, all the previously stored stations will be there so it’s a case of going through them all until you reach the Scan option. The display will highlight the currently selected station or option by changing the font colour to red, which is useful as it does feel a touch unresponsive and we found ourselves over-shooting on a few occasions. Another icon, in the form of a column graph – representing an Equaliser, hides the Bass and Treble adjustment that are manipulated up and down by the right and left dials, respectively.
This is probably a good place to mention that we found the DAB tuner in the Geneva WorldRadio to be very fussy when compared to that in our resident DAB and there were very few locations around the home where it would tune in all the services available in our area. In mitigation, the house is a challenge for DAB so this won’t be a hurdle most will encounter but worth mentioning for those that find themselves similarly positioned.
The FM tuner is also a touch on the weak side but certainly better than the DAB equivalent and tuning FM services works in a similar fashion to that of the DAB stations. One needs to touch the FM button and then either manually scroll, using the right hand dial or, for less fine control, you can simply tap the right dial and let it automatically tune in to stations with a strong connection. It’s slightly disappointing that the Geneva WorldRadio doesn’t come with any pre-set buttons to store favourite services but since it’s so nippy in its duties, the omission is not a deal-breaker merely a small irritation.
Pairing up a Bluetooth device for the first time is also fairly simplistic, although that will vary dependent on the device you’re trying to pair. In our case, we managed to easily connect an iPad and Nexus 7 in just a few seconds, just by selecting the Bluetooth touch key and then by going in to the Bluetooth setup of the tablet and accepting the WorldRadio as device. For those devices needing a PIN to establish a connection, it’s just a case of entering ‘0000’ to authorise and it’s also worth noting that the connecting device must support the Bluetooth A2DP profile – almost all modern ones do.
FunctionsThe Geneva WorldRadio keeps things fairly simple on the features front but what it sets out to do, it achieves well. For anyone keeping the Geneva by the bed side, it’s equipped with a clock and alarm. To set the alarm, it’s just a matter of pressing the Bell icon on the touch screen and then using the dial on the right to choose the hour and minutes with a press of the dial to confirm each. Users can then either opt for the Radio or a Beep to wake them from their slumbers. The WorldRadio with DAB will automatically get a time stamp from digital stations but it’s also possible to manually configure the time in a similar manner to setting the alarm, following a press of the Clock face icon.
Whilst the WorldRadio doesn’t quite live or die on its ability to stream internet radio stations from suitable devices, the quality of the Bluetooth audio is obviously key, given the product name. We tested with the aforementioned iOS and Android tablets as well as with a (not particularly spectacular) Android smartphone. The results with the tablets were absolutely first class with no discernible diminishment in quality apparent, with the higher bitrate stations, when compared to the performance of the built-in tuner. In fact, since we had the location issues with the tuner we were pretty much wholly reliant on using an Internet Radio app - TuneIn – as it happens, for most of our radio listening and the only real downside was our batteries draining on both the tablet(s) and WorldRadio. Using our mediocre smartphone, results were less impressive so if you are planning on a lot of Bluetooth streaming, make sure your hardware is up to the job. Rubbish in: Rubbish out and all that.
The merits of DAB+ over the ‘plain old’ DAB format we use here in the UK have been long debated, across the internet. Some point to the fact DAB+ uses a signal encoded in aacPlus to the, almost pre-historic, MP2 standard used in the UK as an indicator of the superiority of DAB+ audio performance but the reality is that, most of the broadcasters in the countries where DAB+ is the standard use very low bitrates, to take advantage of AAC’s undoubted better efficiency. If DAB+ was being widely used with the, typical, 128kbps bitrate used for DAB transmissions it would be another story but, for now, the differences between the two are largely academic; besides which, with so many DAB radios already sold in the UK (way over 10 million), a transition could well be very unpopular but at least the Geneva WorldRadio has the bases covered by offering DAB+ support and it’s also a plus if you were planning to take it on your holidays to a country that does use it.
ListeningOnce tuned in or hooked up via Bluetooth or the line-in connection at the rear, listening to the WorldRadio was a real pleasure. It lends a warm and mellifluous feel to music with rounded, warm tones which works with acoustic tracks and female voices particularly well. We’ve found that single driver systems often play it either too bright and brash or low and boomy but the Geneva strikes the right notes with composure. It can go surprisingly loud, too, and is easily capable of filling the average room with its pleasing sound. Geneva employs its own digital audio processing with proprietary algorithms in the WorldRadio and they somehow manage to give the illusion of a memorably wide soundstage.
There’s no doubt DAB has a lot going for it in terms of convenience but we would recommend that if you’re planning on listening to one of the ‘major’ stations, then seek out the FM version where possible; the Geneva WorldRadio is good enough to show up the compression in DAB/DAB+ broadcasts and it will reward you for efforts by adding layers to the music you might have missed with the digital equivalent. We absolutely hammered this Swiss beauty during its time with us and we can certainly see where the money has been spent – in engineering, getting the acoustics right and we’ve absolutely no problem with that!
- Lovely audio quality
- Beautiful finish and design
- Bluetooth streaming works very well
- Simple to use
- No pre-set service storing
- DAB tuner isn't the strongest
- A little pricey, perhaps?
Geneva WorldRadio Review
Like a good watch, the Geneva WorldRadio is crafted with Swiss precision and elegance and we can only imagine the innards of the unit are packed tightly and efficiently with the necessary components as it possesses a reassuring and quite surprising weightiness. The anodised silver finish of the review unit is very classy, in the flesh, but other choices of red and black exist, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy. Operating the WorldRadio is the proverbial snap, with all the functions and inputs selectable via the attractive display panel that has six touch-sensitive buttons positioned around its perimeter. To make adjustments, the dials to either side act as both scroll wheels and selction buttons, maintaining the streamlined, minimalist feel. The scrolling could feel a tad sluggish, at times, and we’d have liked there to have been some pre-set buttons for storing favourite services but since it’s so snappy at tuning in stations, these were never more than minor irks.
Our testing rooms can be a struggle for the DAB network and we struggled to tune in many services from various locations around the home. This is not something that should cause panic for the vast majority but if you suspect that your DAB reception might be marginal, we’d urge you to seek a trial in the home. Once we did find a suitable domestic location, the Geneva WorldRadio really did surprise us in the warmth and depth it was able to convey. Of course, those with suitably equipped smartphones, tablets or computers can stream to the WorldRadio by Bluetooth and, provided the bitrate of the particular internet station was up to it, we sensed no real reduction in quality when compared to the equivalent DAB service. Naturally, you’re not limited to internet radio streaming with that capability so it opens up music directly from the device or from the cloud with services such as iTunes or Google Play. We would, however, express our preference for FM services over their digital equivalents so, if you can bring yourself to spoil the clean lines by extending the retractable ariel, that’s the route we’d go down where possible. The Geneva WorldRadio is acoustically up to the tasks of highlighting the inherent compression of DAB, which is a backhanded compliment, if ever we typed one.
The Geneva WorldRadio combines a rugged yet chic design with a mixture of modern day conveniences and superior audio quality in a package that merits serious consideration. OK, compared to some, it may seem expensive and it does have its limitations and weaknesses but, above all, it’s a damn good listen and a firm AVForums Recommendation.
Design and usability9
Ease of Use9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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