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The radio market isn’t renowned for barnstorming innovation, but a rare bolt of inspiration has arrive courtesy of Intempo. Its Rebel is the first device to use ‘Popcatcher’ software, which lets you convert radio broadcasts into MP3 files.

But that’s not all. The Rebel also divides your listening into individual tracks, and completely strips them of DJ chatter and adverts. You’re left with nothing but a wedge of free, legal music, which you can constantly update. Clever, huh?

Slow learner

Before you whip out your Amex Gold, there are a few caveats. For starters, we’re talking FM radio rather than DAB, so the quality of the music entirely depends on your reception. Also, your tunes can only be recorded in MP3 format at a claimed 192kbps – though, again, as you’re recording from FM, this figure isn’t really relevant.

The Rebel also takes some time to ‘learn’ a station. In fact, you have to leave the radio on one station for 12 hours before any recording will start, and it’s the same story should you want to ‘catch’ music from another channel. If you don’t listen to a station for three days or more, you’re back to square one. It’s all a bit frustrating.

Once you’ve tuned in, the Rebel can catch up to 40 tracks to its internal memory. To get them onto your MP3 player you can use the USB input or SD/MMC card slot. It’s a bit more round the houses to get them onto an iPod though: you have to load 99 four-minute, 192kbps blank tracks onto your iPod from a supplied CD, which the Intempo will replace with recorded content when your iPod’s connected.

No-talk radio

In the flesh, the Rebel is small, lightweight and almost a touch underwhelming. But it’s what’s inside that counts, as we all know, so we set the Rebel to work its magic… and it works. Saved tracks are indeed free of chatter and ads, but as a result tend to be less than three minutes long. Fading in, and out, you get a decent rendition of the latest music for sure, and it’s all free.

Sound quality isn’t the last word, that’s for sure. There’s not a lot of bass, scale or dynamism, but it does at least veer away from the usual harshness and treble-heavy delivery favoured by cheaper radios. If you just want a radio, something like the Pure Digital Siesta – which includes DAB, of course – will serve you better. But then it’s all about the nifty recording USP here.

If the idea appeals and you can live with average quality MP3s, there simply isn’t anything else on the market like the Intempo Rebel. It loses a star for its usability issues, but otherwise this is a genius way of keeping on top of the pops.


Stuff says... 

Intempo Rebel review

Some usability issues aside, the Rebel is a great new way to get free music and is, for now, completely unique

Where to buy Intempo Rebel: