The TRK100DAB is a radio to put in your kitchen or bathroom and have tinkling away while you make your sandwiches or wash your toes. Its no-nonsense approach to tuning and easy-to-operate presets make it ideal for switching on and forgetting about.
The TRK100DAB looks alarmingly like an obscure piece of medical equipment. Its white plastic case means it's light, but also makes it feel cheap and insubstantial, and doesn't help with the sound quality. The top panel is tilted forward at a 45 degree angle -- presumably for easy access to its buttons -- but it serves to give the radio an unwelcoming, clinical air. The LCD display screen is small (50 by 10mm), and is in the centre of the diagonally tilted top panel, where you'll find all of the function and mode buttons. The aerial is extendable, and is easily accessible at the top of the button panel. At 750mm it's also long enough to do its job.
The stereo speakers are tiny and are located on the front of the unattractive plastic case. Regularly spaced holes in the plastic allow the sound to escape -- it's probably grateful to be out of there. There's a headphone socket located on the left-hand side underneath the over-sized On/Off switch. The switch on our test unit didn't fully slide up, adding to the overall impression of cheapness.
The radio takes both mains via a 12V adaptor and batteries (six size C cells), making it potentially portable. The 12V Mains In is located on the back next to the battery hatch. Above this is an indentation to use as a handle and there are two small vents on either side for cooling.
When you first switch on the TRK100DAB, it automatically scans and tunes to the UK Band III DAB channels -- over 50 of them in London. It only takes 12 seconds to scan, and a bar chart lets you monitor its progress. Once the scanning has finished, the stations are put in alphanumeric order and the radio selects the first station on the list (probably 1Xtra). Station info automatically starts scrolling across the LCD underneath the static station name. This info includes artist and song name, plus various promotions.
You can scroll through the stations by pressing the Up and Down buttons and using the Select button when you find a station that looks promising. The previously selected station continues playing until you find a new one. You are helped in your choice by information on the LCD screen, which displays the station genre (such as rock or pop) and name.
The TRK100DAB can also receive FM broadcasts. Simply press the DAB/FM button to change between them. Find the stations by pressing the scan button or by using the Up/Down buttons. Scan will lock onto the strongest signal for a station, whereas using the Up/Down buttons changes the frequency by increments of 0.05 MHz. You may find this imprecise, and you'll probably have to trawl through blizzards of static to find the clearest signal.
The TRK100DAB does not support RDS (Radio Data System) and only displays the frequency in FM mode, so once you've come through the blizzard you won't be able to check the display to find out where you are (unless you happen to know the frequency range a station broadcasts in and can take a guess).
The blue LCD display is 16 characters wide and two deep. It's fairly easy to read at the right angle, but as the top of the radio is tilted at 45 degrees, the view is restricted and it soon becomes illegible. You have to view it from above, so ideally the radio needs to be on a low table or shelf.
The top line of the LCD displays the station name and genre. The bottom line can be cycled through seven display modes. The default mode is scrolling station info; the other options are programme type, ensemble name, time and date, channel and frequency, bit-rate and mode, and signal error. The scrolling default shifts one character to the left quite slowly, but it's easy to read.
The Menu button allows you to change the station order, which is potentially useful for storing another ten stations after you run out of presets. This button also allows you to tune the DAB radio manually (which might be useful if you live in an area of poor digital reception).
The TRK100DAB does not have a recording facility or alarm clock.
If you are an audiophile, this radio is not for you. The speakers are tinny and fall down in both the bass and mid-range frequencies. You can boost the bass by using the Bass button, which moves the sound from unbearably tinny to just tinny.
You can adjust the volume by using the Volume Up and Down buttons. The TRK100DAB certainly goes up loud -- our testing started the neighbours off in a who's-got-the-loudest-stereo war -- but turning it up only highlighted the weakness of the sound quality and so is not recommended. The radio also starts to distort fairly quickly as you push the volume up.
Although the sound reproduction left much to be desired, the signal quality for DAB was good. The TRK100DAB provided clear, interference-free digital radio, only descending into storm conditions in FM mode.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide