The windup radio was a big hit for maverick inventor Trevor Baylis, but Roberts, the father of the fuzzbox, has refined the self-powered eco-tranny. The SolarDAB is powered by pure sunshine, delivers digital radio waves and definitely doesn’t require cranking a handle.
The addition of a solar panel to Roberts’ latest DAB radio is a sublime move that turns the SolarDAB into an indispensable tool for the avid gardener, traveller or anyone that listens to the airwaves away from a power source. It comes with a mains adapter, but the sun is all you need to charge the internal battery. Just so long as the weather holds out.
Roberts has been making radios by royal appointment since WW2, but this latest is a far cry from the wooden wirelesses of old. There’s no FM tuner, just DAB and an input for an iPod or other line level device at the back. There is of course a conventional AC input, but you won’t need it if you have access to the sun.
Having said that, you do need a certain amount of light striking the photovoltaic panel directly to power-up the internal battery and full sunshine to drive the radio at the same time. A sunny windowsill will do the trick, or the great outdoors on a relatively sunny day. A very useful graphic on the LCD display lets you know how much sunlight is being collected.
The LCD panel itself is bright white and easy to read with the usual scrolling station and track info, but it’s also relatively small and it dims after a few seconds to save energy. DAB radios use a lot more power than their analogue counterparts, but this one can keep going for 27 hours on a full charge.
Follow the sun
The SolarDAB has been designed to survive outdoors and, as such, it’s light and compact with rounded edges that’ll slip into a rucksack. The aerial is covered in rubber and unscrews to slot away into an alcove at the back and there’s more grey rubber covering the side cheeks, which also form the feet.
Roberts has scored an important first with the SolarDAB, putting the brand right back in pole position after all this time and it seems like such a logical progression for DAB, the rest fill surely follow.