Roberts Blutune DAB/FM Radio and Wireless Speaker Review

Compact, stylish and solid

by hodg100
Hi-Fi Review

Roberts Blutune DAB/FM Radio and Wireless Speaker Review
SRP: £200.00

What is the Roberts Blutune?

This is only the second Roberts product review ever conducted by AVForums and considering they are the UK market leader in portable radio products, it’s long overdue.

Roberts has a vast range of portable music solutions, most notably with their range of DAB Radios but also, like everyone else, they are moving in to the wireless speaker market. The product under review here actually spans both product categories and includes DAB+ and FM tuners as well as Bluetooth streaming capabilities.
The Blutune, as it is known, heads up the range with other entries including the Blutune 40, 50 and 60 as well as the retro-inspired Blutune Revival. At a recommended retail price of £200, it certainly has plenty of competition on its hands so let’s see what it can do to justify the price-tag...

Roberts Blutune Design & Connections

The unit is very nicely constructed and feels quite weighty for something that takes up so little room. The dimensions are 340 x 155 x 173mm (WxHxD) with a good portion of the unit’s near 3Kg weight being accounted for by a real wood casing which is given an attractive charcoal grey stain.
Roberts Blutune
Roberts Blutune

Despite the Blutune being boxy by nature, it’s still a good looking piece, helped by the rounded out corners and titanium coloured control panel at the bottom. In the middle of said panel is a VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display) which is incredibly easy to read and goes bright enough to suit any environment.

There’s not much by ways of physical connections for external equipment but when you have Bluetooth, in this day and age, that’s enough for most. There is also the ubiquitous 3.5mm auxiliary jack and a couple of USB inputs – one for charging devices and the other (A type) for administering software upgrades.
Easy to use and nice to look at

Roberts Blutune Setup and Operation

Whilst all controls and operations are possible from some buttons placed on the control panel, most will no doubt use the supplied remote to steer operations and it’s not a particularly stunning effort. The major issue is its size, or rather lack of it, and the fact that it’s almost completely black means it is incredibly easy to misplace. In fairness, it’s not overly directional and it is responsive but Roberts might want to consider a mobile app – everyone else is doing it!

That Roberts is a radio specialist is immediately evident on setup where the Blutune will embark on an initial scan of the available DAB stations. If all goes well from there, you’re up and running, else you might need to relocate the unit to somewhere with better reception. If, for any reason, you need to retune, it’s just a matter of hitting the Menu key on the remote, navigating to the DAB submenu and selecting – wait for it – scan.
Roberts Blutune
Roberts Blutune

Unsurprisingly the process for tuning the FM channels is almost identical but there is an added option where one can alter the scan sensitivity, meaning you can receive broadcasts from non-optimal distances, i.e. from further away than you would normally receive a station. There are 10 memories each, for both FM and Dab, to store preset stations which is done by holding down the Select button when on the desired station and allocating it a number using the directional keys.
A great radio!

Roberts Blutune Features

The major headlining feature of the Roberts Blutune is the semi-eponymous ability to stream audio using Bluetooth. To that end, the device supports the A2DP profile and both SBC and aptX coding. It also supports AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control) which, as the name suggests, allows you to adjust the volume of the speaker using the Bluetooth device. And it all works very well, with great stability, although it was a little harsh with lower quality streams and didn’t ‘reconstruct’ audio quite as well as some other systems we’ve heard. Provided your Bluetooth device supports it, the Blutune can also be used to skip tracks, backwards or forwards too, using keys on the remote or the buttons on the main unit but we’d imagine most will be happier to use the streaming device to control everything.
Roberts Blutune
The Blutune also has an alarm feature, with one-time event, weekdays, weekends or daily options on offer and can be set to come on to the last listened to station or a nominated stored preset. Snoozers get a 5 minute period of grace by using the On/Standby button but it can be extended in increments between 15 and 90 minutes, if you’re feeling daring. Whilst the time display is usually reliant on information carried in the DAB signal, it is also possible to manually set the time from the System menu or select to get the information from the FM signal, if DAB reception is an issue.

Roberts Blutune Audio Performance

We have to give due credit to the DAB tuner Roberts has equipped the Blutune with. Living in a valley, we often have to find that sweet spot, in home, but the Roberts was able to get most of the available services in most rooms. We guess the irony is, Radio 6 aside, we’d take the FM equivalents over DAB, any day, and the Blutune certainly sounds better with a good quality analogue signal, so long may those broadcasts continue.
Roberts Blutune
Bass is decent thanks to a dedicated 4-inch driver
Concealed inside the Blutune are two 1.2-inch main drivers and a down-firing 4-inch sub unit which produce a sound that will fill most kitchens, offices or bedrooms, which is where we feel it will be most often deployed. There isn’t a great sense of stereo separation, which isn’t too surprising considering the compact dimensions but this isn’t HiFi, it’s lifestyle audio and some compromises usually have to be accepted in these kind of products.

For what it sets out to do, the Roberts Blutune is certainly a success although in its default Normal Equaliser Mode, we found it can sound quite harsh an trebly. Relief is at hand from both the Rock and Loudness presets, which give a more dynamic, punchy air to proceedings although, in the case of the latter, that is at the expense of some detail at the lower end and it does distort at high volumes.
The Blutune can sound harsh and trebly

Verdict

Pros

  • Loud enough to fill most rooms
  • Bluetooth connectivity is solid and stable
  • DAB tuner is excellent
  • Attractive and easy to use

Cons

  • Can sound harsh
  • Unforgiving of heavily compressed audio
  • Remote is far too tiny
  • Price may be a bit toppy compared t standalone wireless speakers

Roberts Blutune DAB/FM Radio and Wireless Speaker Review

The Roberts Radio Blutune is a elegant yet unassuming unit styled in charcoal grey with attractive rounded-out corners and a compact chassis. The supplied remote control is even more bijou – in fact it’s too small – but it gets the job done. Although we do think Roberts should consider a mobile app for these new Bluetooth enabled models.

Aside from the above mentioned wireless connection option, the Blutune only sports a 3.5mm jack for external sources but there is a USB port for charging your tablet or phone whilst you’re listening. There’s also an attractive and easy to read display on the front of the unit and, in terms of usability, it’s a winner.

The company’s radio heritage is evident in the attention to detail that side of the package has received and it sports one of the best DAB tuners we’ve seen in a sample, to date. Scanning for and storing channels couldn’t be easier and a handy Alarm function allows you to wake up listening to whichever station you like.

In terms of its audio output, the Blutune goes a little louder than we expected, given its compactness, but it does sound a little harsh and grating in its default sound mode preset. That can be improved with some of the Equaliser modes, however, although you’ll never be able to get a sense of true stereo – again it’s a size thing.

The Roberts Blutune successfully spans the wireless speaker/radio product categories with a lively and engaging sound and 21st Century connectivity. Given the general low audio quality of DAB radio we have to wonder whether one might be better served by a standalone wireless speaker used to stream internet radio from your Bluetooth device but it’s certainly a solid little product worthy of a demo.

Scores

Design and usability

.
.
8

Connections

.
.
.
.
6

Tuner Sensitivity

.
9

Features

.
.
.
.
6

Ease of Use

.
.
.
7

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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