Dualit is famous for its chrome toasters, so it may seem like an unexpected move for the company to produce a DAB radio. But in a world where piano manufacturers also make motorcycles (Yamaha) and earth-moving equipment manufacturers make clothes (Caterpillar), perhaps the proposition is not so outlandish.
The Dualit DAB Kitchen Radio is widely available for a startling £199, and comes in black, cream and chrome (pictured).
Dualit is hardly a posterboy for subtlety and, true to form, this DAB is a glittering muscle car of a radio. If you're familiar with Dualit toasters, you'll have an idea of what to expect. As Dualit toasters are to normal toasters, the Dualit DAB is to normal DABs. It's brash, ostentatious, obscenely heavy, durable and seriously macho.
Should a nuclear apocalypse occur, the only things left on earth will be cockroaches and Dualit products. This radio is sincerely hardy -- it's the toughest we've ever used and as such might be ideal for builders or the terminally careless.
The large LCD on the top of the Dualit DAB gives a bright and obvious visual indication of which station you're listening to. Surrounding this, there's an array of navigation buttons, which make a satisfying clicking noise when pressed. The large chrome handle on the top of the unit pivots to allow access to the controls. It's a solid handle and well matched to the beefy chassis.
The rear of the unit sports a good array of inputs and outputs. For what is ostensibly a kitchen radio, the inclusion of an optical-out stage is unusual, though welcome. Other connectors on the rear include power, headphones, speaker-out and auxiliary-in. The internal battery is rechargable so you won't need to mess around with C-cells.
DAB aficionados will be familiar with the tuning system on the Dualit. As with all DABs, an automatic tuner activates itself when the radio is first switched on.
Once we'd extended the telescopic aerial on the top of the radio, the Dualit automatically sought out all available DAB broadcasts and listed them. Tuning speed on the Dualit is swift and first-time users will have little problem getting the Dualit to a point where they can enjoy DAB.
The Dualit has no electronic programme guide or recording feature, so this may rule it out for some hardcore DAB fans. Nevertheless, there's plenty of basic features to coerce the average radio listener.
If you have other stereo equipment -- such as an iPod -- you can amplify the sound by using the auxiliary 3.5mm connector on the rear of the Dualit DAB. You'll need a 3.5mm to 3.5mm lead (not included) to run between the MP3 player and the rear of the DAB.
The Dualit is compatible with all UK DAB broadcasts. Band III transmissions can be received on the tuner at up to 256Kbps. If you're underwhelmed by DAB, or are having reception problems, FM frequencies available to the Dualit range from 87.5 to 108MHz. Again, this includes all commercial FM broadcasts in the UK.
The Dualit DAB Kitchen Radio sounds bright and expressive. The bass-reflex port on the underside of the radio gives everything a slightly warmer tone than a closed unit would. Listening to Radio 4, the Dualit delivered human voices with a reasonable fullness and warmth. The announcers sounded as authoritative as ever. The Dualit DAB may be mono, but there's a convincing presence to the sound.
Typically for DAB, the Dualit occasionally suffers from reception problems in some places. Those who live in big cities are unlikely to have problems tuning into a strong signal, but as you move outside areas of good reception, you may find that you have to be more careful over aerial placement.
As reception quality decreases, old analogue broadcasts suffer interference that gradually gets more severe, but digital broadcasts simply stop altogether. This gives DAB an all-or-nothing reaction to bad reception. Check with friends to see what DAB reception is like in your area.
The most compelling reason to choose the Dualit is its unique style. If you already have slate kitchen worktops, a hand-crafted mahogany washboard and Phillipe Stark overheads then the Dualit DAB is a natural choice. Conversely, if you're a burly salt-of-the-earth type, then you might find this radio's toughness suits your rough-and-ready lifestyle, although the price tag may well give you pause for thought -- PURE Digital's Oasis is the hobo's alternative.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide