on 10 July 2011
There are hardly any magazine reviews of the Stream 63i which made buying it something of a leap of faith, especially as it is not cheap (but you can shop around). I have tried to make this review as comprehensive and as honest as possible in case you are also wondering whether to buy or not.
I have lived with this little machine for a while and waited before writing this review to avoid getting carried away by first impressions.Having now got used to this box of tricks and having tried it's various functions I can honestly say that I LOVE THIS ROBERTS, for the size of it, the sound and functionality has impressed me no end.
It is a smart looking box perhaps a little bigger than a shoe box and whether it's meant to be or not it is very portable. I wanted something to sound good either in the conservatory or at the odd BBQ, maybe even to wake up to in the bedroom and the Roberts seemed to fit the bill.
I like my music and hi-fi's and for me it has to sound good - for the size of this machine the sound quality is excellent, being full and warm. You will have to set the equaliser yourself to find the sweet spot - this is the only player I have where the treble is set higher than the bass - but it works and produces a rich sound and manages to find very acceptable detail from all sources. It won't sound as good as an expensive hi-fi but it really doesn't disappoint and will fill a room (or patio) beautifully. If you want to you can connect it to your Hi Fi or surround system - no, that doesn't defeat the object because the Roberts has so many sources to choose from - read on...
I found the controls and menus intuitive enough and had no problem with the touch controls on the unit - you can adjust the sensitivity anyway. The buttons on the remote are easy to find even in the dark as you really don't have to use very many of them to control things.
The USB and SD card inputs are a bonus and I think aimed more at being able to record radio to them as opposed to playing media through them - it will play of course but doesn't show the album/track information, just folders. The CD player doesn't either which is strange in this day and age but I can't say I minded too much. The sound reproduction from these digital sources was again excellent. Recording to the devices was easy - but is there anything to record? Oh yes, lots.
I don't actually possess an ipod, don't think they actually sound that good and I have a sony instead, but as this is a made for ipod product I have no doubt that it will work as well with your ipod as with all other sources and with just as good a sound. There is an auxilliary input for us non-ipod owning people, and again this works just fine, just turn the volume up on your player.
DAB reception from the built in aerial is very good and it picked up 50-odd stations. You can remove the fitted aerial and use a coaxial one if you wish - but to be honest I didn't buy this for DAB which I think has very limited choice.
Connection to my wireless network was very simple,(and well explained in the manual which is comprehensive and clear)you will need your network key and if you are not sure where to find this just google the question. It connected and accessed windows media player (I have windows 7)without problems - and it does show album/track information from this. I have not experienced and drop outs or problems with this function. Wi-Fi reception is very good and I have no trouble connecting anywhere in the house or outside - there are more reception bars than my laptop.
If you haven't tried Internet Radio then you really should do. Some stations broadcast in a low bitrate but many are higher quality than DAB, some very much so - and you will find DAB stations here anyway. The fact is that the Roberts makes all of them sound very, very good and you will never be stuck for something to listen to again - there are some really good stations out there, advert free and good music too.
Because there are so many you register the Roberts on the "Frontier Silicon" website (the system information menu will give you an access code, again the manual tells you where to find this) and here you can save all of your favourite stations under different genre's which then show on the radio itself. Find one, write it down, add it via the website and it will be on your radio, you can store hundreds of them. You can also search on the Roberts itself, by location, genre etc.and you can store some via presets, but I find no need to do so.
You WILL find a station playing what you like, when you want it, and in many cases without any adverts. Record it to your flash memory/SD card and you can take it with you wherever you want. You can also get "listen again" programs from the BBC.
Then there is Last FM, don't under-rate it. You are given a month's subscription to this for free and if you like it you can subscribe for £3 per month (pay via Paypal every month or as a one-off for as few/many as you want). I like this service, it takes a little bit of learning but if you get it right you will end up with a personalised advert free radio station that knows what music you like and will play it for you 24/7. It will throw in some tracks it feels you may like, if you do, tell it via the remote, if you don't just press the "ban" button and it won't appear again. Brilliant, gives hours and hours of fun and if you want to move to the next track just press FF as you would on a CD. You can't record from Last FM but I can listen to music I like but have never bought and I have also been introduced to new artists I would never have known existed.
As a clock radio you have 2 alarms - week and weekends- and can choose what to wake up to.The display is dimmable and is NOT too bright at night as some have suggested.
In all I am really pleased with this purchase and don't regret spending the money, I have a really versatile bit of kit that will keep me amused for hours (days actually) on end with a variety of music I can actually choose myself or have chosen for me.
I guess there are some quirks - such as USB and CD not showing details, but I am not at all disappointed by these and I thoroughly recommend this as a worthwhile buy.
LONG TERM REVIEW:
I just have to update this to share my long term views on this really excellent product. I have had it now for over two years, it is still going strong and has performed faultlessly. I can honestly say it is my favourite toy and I wouldn't be without it now. Having had a summer this year I can't stress enough what a pleasure it has been to sit outside on an evening being able to listen to such a huge variety of music with such excellent sound quality.
And that's why I am doing this later review - the sound quality. There is a review on here that talks of horrible sound distortion, please, please don't let it put you off. The speakers on this Roberts just need running in and I stick to my earlier advice - set the treble high and the bass low to start with (I know, I'd never dream of doing it normally) and the sound is good to start with but wow, does it get better over time. Set in the right place (a corner is best for reflected sound from the bass ports)the sound is amazing, great clarity from all sources and I now have the bass and treble set where I would normally put them with no distortion. The sound is really full and warm - it manages to have something of that old "radio" quality that I can't quite describe but is different to other hi fi I own and it gets by far the most use. It can stand alone sound wise and I love listening to it.
I am hooked, totally. Internet radio is by far superior and never boring, rarely interrupted by either adverts or presenters and just sounds great. I still subscribe to Last FM which is an excellent music service and I use it most days, it is a such a shame about the recent tragedy linked to it.
If this Roberts broke tomorrow I would buy another another one tomorrow and then worry about the money later.
It ain't cheap - but get one, if you love it half as much as I do you really won't regret it.
This one goes up to 11. Thoroughly, thoroughly recommended.