Bush Australia, www.grundig.net.au
Built-in battery; solar panel
Mediocre sound; terrible aerial
If you’re looking to embrace the brave new world of digital radio, Grundig’s solar-powered gener8sol could leave you stranded.
The gener8sol sounds like a brilliant concept – a combination FM and DAB+ radio with a built-in solar panel. Now you can listen to all the digital radio channels – the simulcasts and the new digital-only stations – plus fall back to FM if required.
The two-line LCD displays station details when you’re in DAB+ mode, so you have don’t have to go searching up and down the dial. The solar panel is the icing on the cake, making it perfect for taking on the road or just lounging in the backyard.
Fire up the gener8sol and it comes to life straight away, with an icon showing whether it’s happy with the available light. It works outside on an overcast day or inside under artificial light, powering the radio while charging the 10-hour internal battery.
Should you be stuck in the dark, the gener8sol also comes with an AC adaptor. You’ll also find a headphone output and auxiliary input at the rear.
The final step in setting up the gener8sol is extracting the removable aerial from its slot in the back of the unit and screwing it into the aerial socket on the top. Unfortunately this is where the gener8sol falls flat. Just like the early days of digital television, digital radio coverage is patchy in a lot of areas – especially if you’re down in a valley. Reception can be even worse once you get indoors.
Naturally the solution is to extend your aerial and angle it for the best possible reception. Unfortunately that’s impossible with the gener8sol. The aerial is a mere 12cm long and sticks straight up, with no freedom to adjust the angle. Even on our balcony the gener8sol couldn’t receive a steady DAB+ digital signal, only catching snippets of broadcasts when we touched the aerial.
Digital radio is not like analogue radio where you can listen to a weak signal and try to ignore the static – it offers perfect sound or no sound at all.
We tested a Pure One Classic ($169) digital radio in the same location, which fared little better with its aerial sticking up 12cm. Once we extended the Pure’s aerial to its full 75cm length and angled it slightly we had a solid three bar signal. If only the gener8sol featured an extendable, adjustable aerial it may have also performed admirably – but we’ll never know because of the pathetic aerial supplied.
Switching the gener8sol back to FM managed to get a scratchy signal, while the Pure One Classic pulled in a crystal-clear FM signal even with its aerial retracted.
When you can get a signal the gener8sol’s built-in 2-watt mono speaker offers a loud but brash sound that’s tolerable for music but a little hollow for talkback – and there’s no option to adjust the treble or bass. It also lacks the pause and rewind features found on many digital radios.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice
The gener8sol’s solar panel is alluring, yet, considering the radio is compact and designed for portability, you’ll almost certainly run into situations where the aerial lets you down. For the asking price there are better digital radios around with better aerials and more features. The gener8sol is probably best suited to backyard use – perhaps on the deck or at the barbie – but first get an iron-clad guarantee you can take it back to the shop if the signal is poor.
This review originally appeared in the June issue of Australian Macworld magazine.