We're generally sold on bedside DAB radios. The quality issues associated with low DAB bit rates aren't significant when you're listening to radio through the hazy veil of sleep -- so our review criteria are more forgiving. The £80 Gemini 19 has much to live up to though -- our long love affair with PURE's bedside delight, the Chronos, continues to this day. So, does the Gemini 19 have what it takes to displace the Chronos as our slumber interrupter of choice?
Despite the prominent Classic FM button on the top of the device, the Gemini 19 steers clear of totalitarianism and graciously allows you to tune in to competing radio stations. This is the first time we've seen specific station branding on a Roberts radio (although we have seen an XFM DAB radio from another manufacturer) and it makes you wonder how many other branded buttons these things will take before they become advertising hoardings. For the moment, at least, it's reasonably subtle.
The Gemini 19 is almost exactly the same size and shape as a car stereo. It seems slightly bigger than the Chronos, but it is a more orthodox shape -- the Chronos is triangular. The main control on the front of the radio is for tuning. This is obviously useful, but we would have preferred a more prominent on/off or snooze button since this is absolutely the most vital part of a bedside radio. You could argue that having a difficult-to-locate snooze button will actually make the radio more effective at getting you out of bed. In which case, Roberts' design is exceptionally clever. You decide.
Unusually for a bedside radio, the Gemini 19 has a proper antenna binding at the rear. This lets you connect everything from a TV antenna to a radio telescope. There's also an aux-in and line-out connection so that you can hook up another unit (such as an iPod) to it, or run the DAB radio through your stereo. There's no provision for battery operation, so this is staying firmly rooted in your house.
Other controls on the radio include Auto Tune and Info buttons, and a range of station presets. There's the power on/off button on the far right of the unit (remember that one -- you'll need to locate it at high speed in the morning), a Select button and then five numbered buttons. These are DAB radio presets.
Once the radio is powered up, you attach the aerial, plug it in and turn it on. Within a few seconds it autotunes to a selection of DAB stations. If you hold down the preset buttons for a few seconds, they lock to that particular station -- as expected.
The Gemini 19's blue screen is clear and bright. It's easy to read even from some distance away. Drowsy eyes should be able to focus on the digits from the wrong side of a king-size.
Features are understandably stripped down on the Gemini 19. There's no need for elaborate functionality in a snooze-shatterer. The 'Info' button is the most complex of all the controls, and even then it's ludicrously obvious how it works.
There's no method to record audio built into the Gemini 19 -- but then, who needs it in bed? If you're looking for a more complete feature set, you should consider a bigger radio, such as the Roberts Gemini 11 or the excellent PURE Evoke-3. Of course, this would mean losing bedside table real estate to the clunky mass of a kitchen radio or similar.
The Gemini 19 sounds perfectly adequate for a bedside radio. In fact, the limited range of the speakers and general lack of low-end doesn't bother us one bit. We've said it before, but this is the kind of radio application that low-bit rate DAB excels at. There's no need for high-bit rate audio when half your mind is still incoherent with exhaustion.
Because of the full-size aerial binding on the rear of the Gemini 19, radio signals are held well. You could, if you liked, attach it to a domestic aerial socket for the ultimate reception quality.
Using the bundled aerial, we didn't have significant problems tuning in stations or keeping the radio tuned to them. You may need to retune the radio when changing location, but apart from this, the Gemini 19 stays tenaciously locked to a transmission.
Big fans of Classic FM will be thrilled by the station's endorsement of this radio, but others may find it frivolous. The Gemini 19 bedside DAB is a useful fellow who will appeal to anyone who needs a radio to wake them up with a daily dose of Brahms. The GQ crowd might like to take a look at the Chronos as an alternative, but the Gemini certainly punches at the same weight.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide