At around £280, the Vita Audio R2i certainly isn't cheap, but it feels like money well spent once you've got your hands on it. A heavy case, two good speakers, a bundled remote and an iPod dock set this unit one step above most all-in-one radios, making it an ideal halfway house between a true portable and a mini system with separate speakers.
In height and width, the R2i isn't much smaller than a video recorder. The black finish on our test unit was beautiful, smooth and glossy, and, as a bonus, seemingly impervious to fingerprints. If this doesn't suit your decor, there are two alternatives available: white and walnut veneer.
The speakers are set into the front, rather than the top, as they are with its smaller tabletop rival, the Tivoli Model DAB. The controls and iPod dock are mounted on the top of the unit. The controls, like the screen, glow blue when in use, and have a satisfying, responsive action. The volume control is a circular rocker, rather than a knob, which you turn and hold in either direction rather than continually twisting.
Beyond this, there's a three-level EQ and 3D wide stereo enhancement. We found that turning off 3D and leaving the EQ set to 'normal' delivered the best results. They're good to have, but they aren't killer features.
The controls are arranged in a circle around the volume dial, which is logical enough, and they're replicated on the bundled remote. But, while the controls on the remote work just fine for the radio, they're less well-conceived when it comes to controlling your iPod. The up and down buttons that you use to scroll through the DAB stations also skip backwards and forwards through tracks in an album or playlist on an iPod. Vita Audio has had to find another way to let you step up and down through menus -- you use the buttons for presets two and four. The button for preset two, which you use for stepping down through menus, sits on the top line, while the button for preset four, which is used for stepping up through menus, sits below. It's confusing, as you can imagine.
Set-up is a breeze. The first time you plug in the R2i, it runs through the DAB autoscan. We used the bundled telescopic aerial and it detected the full range of stations available in our test area, but it didn't hold the local multiplex as well as some competitors. The portable Roberts Revival RD-60, for example, proved much more tenacious, even with the aerial fully retracted and clipped away, while the R2i's was fully extended. We fixed the problem with some careful repositioning of the unit, but, if you have a roof-mounted aerial, you may want to make use of that instead, courtesy of the bundled adaptor.
The R2i has tuners for DAB and DAB+, so it's ready to receive stations using the latter technology when they launch in the UK. There are already DAB+ broadcasts in other European nations. Sadly, there's no L-Band support, which, while not crucial in the UK, is another option that may become more popular in future years.
The Vita Audio R2i sounds great and has the looks to match. Its built-in iPod dock transforms it from a high-class radio into a multi-function hi-fi, and, although the remote's buttons could have been better conceived, we were impressed by the smooth integration between the R2i and Apple's media players. It's a sizeable beast but, if it's to be your only source of music and radio in a small house or flat, it's a great choice in every respect.
Edited by Charles Kloet