The partnership between British Wireless for the Blind Fund (BWBF) and Roberts has existed for many years to bring accessible radios to blind and visually impaired people. And one device that provides an extensive variety of listening media is the Concerto 2.
Measuring 420mm wide, by 150mm high, by 265mm deep, and weighing 3.24kg, the Concerto 2 is one of the most versatile radios on the market. It features FM and DAB wavebands with five presets for each, a CD player, cassette recorder, and USB and SD card capabilities. High visibility yellow tactile controls contrast against a charcoal background. And an adjustable audio tone can be heard while tuning the radio on FM to indicate the position of the wave-band.
Standing the radio on a flat surface, its speaker grills are positioned on the front at each end, with a large LCD display and cassette compartment situated in the middle. Above the left speaker are five preset buttons that allow you to store favourite radio stations, five on each wave-band. To the right of these is a row of chunky tactile buttons just above the display which operate the cassette-recorder. A small round button on the left of the display allows you to zoom in on information such as clock, signal strength, and station name. On the right of the LCD are two triangular-shaped buttons positioned above each other that provide tuning modes, and a further small round button to the left of the lower triangle is the confirm or enter button. The section of controls above the right speaker operate the CD player, allowing you to skip up and down , repeat, or play/pause and stop the device. It is also possible to insert a bookmark by pressing the stop button once.
Behind the presets on the top left of the Concerto 2 is a 3.5mm external microphone socket. Attach an external microphone (not supplied) to achieve the best results when using the cassette-recorder facility. If you want to use the unit's internal microphone, speak closely to the Concerto 2. To the right of this is a large round volume button with a tactile dot on the top and an indented portion on its side. A small indented button is to the right of the volume which adjusts the tone of the radio. Behind the volume knob is a selector switch. When it is positioned towards the left end of the radio, it is in tape or off mode. Slide it once to the right for the CD, to the right again for either SD card or USB memory stick, and fully to the right for radio.
In the middle of the Concerto 2, behind the controls for the cassette-recorder is a lid, which lifts up to reveal the CD player. A small grip is on the front right edge of the lid, which you can grasp to raise it. To the rear of the CD lid is a large folding carry handle, and a telescopic aerial tucks neatly behind this.
On top to the right end of the radio is a slider switch which flicks left for DAB, and right for FM. Behind this switch are two sockets, one for an SD card, and the other for a USB memory stick.
A 3.5mm headphone socket is situated on the left side of the radio, while A rotary knob on the right side of the unit adjusts the audio level of an audible signal emitted as you scan the FM wave-band.
The Concerto2 takes six D-type batteries, housed in an accessible compartment at the back of the radio. The power socket is close to this at the rear near the left end.
Once the radio is powered, pull up the telescopic aerial. Slide the selector switch on top of the radio at the left side to the right. Ensure that the wave-band switch on top at the right end is pushed to the left for DAB, and your unit will begin scanning for available digital stations. When you find a station you wish to set as one of your favourites, press any of the five designated presets and hold until you hear the radio emit an audible beep. This indicates that the station has been saved.
When you have finished tuning DAB, flick the selector switch to the right for FM, and use the up and down buttons to tune in your FM stations. When you save stations using the same five preset buttons, hold down the designated preset until you hear the same audible confirmation beep that your station has been stored. When you move along the FM wave-band, you can either short press the triangular tuning buttons, or long press them. When a long press is invoked, you will hear the audible pitch increase or decrease, depending on which way you scan for stations.
This radio has the ability to play MP3 and WMA audio files placed on CD, an SD card or USB memory stick. It will play files that have been grouped into folders within folders. The unit will also remember the last position played on CD, SD and USB media.
BWBF originally sent me the Concerto 2 radio to review. But I was so suitably impressed with its features that I decided to buy it, and it now occupies a corner in my kitchen. DAB and FM have strong pull-in, something that I have struggled to achieve with any clarity on my existing sets. Some of you might find the cassette-recorder useful for those old tapes now gathering dust, while there is an opportunity to listen to music and other audio on CD, SD card and USB memory. Although the Concerto 2 cannot be described as possessing hifi quality, sound is clear and perfectly pleasant. The unit has a wide base, making it robust and not easy to knock over. Documentation is available in audio, PDF and print formats.
The Concerto 2 is available from BWBF on permanent loan if you meet the criteria, or for purchase at a cost of £200.00 if you are entitled to VAT exemption. An additional £7.50 postage and packaging charge must be added.
So, if you are in the market for an all-rounder, the Concerto 2 has it boxed off! Contact BWBF on 01622 754757, or visit www.blind.org.uk.
A review by Jackie Brown.