Stop me if I’m being presumptuous but I suspect that most of the readers of this august journal can remember a time when the only way to listen to music without paying for it was on the radio. And, if you were listening in the UK, that was a very confined experience where the few broadcasters on FM were only interested in a mainstream audience. There were some stations that broke through the top 40 playlist barriers, like Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg on AM, and those prepared to stay up late enough could enjoy a genuinely eclectic mix on the John Peel show on BBC Radio One. But if you missed it that was it, there was no ‘listen again’, no music on demand, and definitely no Spotify, YouTube, or Tidal. All of which meant that the radio held rather higher status in the hierarchy of audio sources than it does today – an age when FM tuner sales were in free-fall, even before the threat to turn off analogue broadcasting came up again.
Radio still has its place for me. I frequently listen to specific shows in the hope of hearing something new and interesting (I have a Tidal account but that’s of little use unless you know what to look for or are a hip hop enthusiast). Rotel is hoping I’m not alone in thinking that, and there’s an audience for an all-singing, all-dancing multi-source ‘wireless’; a single device that can receive the majority of broadcasts and internet streams on the major platforms and more. The Rotel T14 is an FM and DAB receiver and a network streamer with access to internet radio and various streaming services, I don’t think there are many source components that provide the range of options than the T14 does. The back panel says it all, with a coaxial socket for an FM aerial, threaded coax for DAB, and twin Wi-Fi antenna for network streaming. It’s a little odd that there’s no RJ45 for a direct Ethernet connection to a network, but wires are clearly out of fashion these days. Of course, you still need wires to go to the supplied DAB and FM aerials, however the latter is redundant unless you’re living in the right place. I wasn’t initially able to get a clear signal from the T-shaped indoor antenna supplied and resorted to the DAB feed instead.
The DAB antenna has a magnetic base and when placed on a suitably ferrous bit of casework gets a stronger signal than otherwise, again this will be location specific and best results will be achieved with an external antenna, but who has one of those these days? I was able to pick up a good if not comprehensive range of DAB stations using the ‘national scan’ option, it found all the BBC stations but not Classic Rock (now on the Absolute roster). It’s fairly easy to stick your preferred stations into the preset buttons on the fascia or remote for ease of access and the nature of the input suggests you can have more than 10.
When you start to look at the internet radio options, it makes the array of DAB broadcasters seem very limited, I guess that it didn’t cost a lot more to include the terrestrial radio options on the T14 and there will always be times when the broadband is on the blink, but otherwise the net is hard to beat. For a start you can search for stations by name, albeit not always with success; for example, it found BBC Radio 3, but not Fluid, which in its ambient genre listing. You can search by location and city, which is fine if you know which city your station is coming from, but most net radios have station lists for countries. There are also podcasts listed by genre; this has Marc Maron’s WTF but not Adam Buxton’s popular show, popular in my household at least.