The i-box Epoca is a DAB/DAB+/FM digital radio with Bluetooth. The radio features stereo speakers and a large rechargeable battery capacity for up to 15 hours of playback. Our radio is light blue but colours including cream are available too.
The design features silver accents, a metal carry handle and a telescopic antenna on the rear. Connections are also made on the back to keep cables neat and avoid taking up too much space. On first impressions the radio feels quite weighty, possibly due to the batteries and speakers.
i-box Epoca features
In the box is the i-box Epoca, an instruction booklet and a USB A to USB Micro-B cable. There’s no USB power adapter included, as is the case with many digital radios now. An existing USB power supply can be used or one purchased separately. We plugged in the radio to a USB power adapter and charged the radio for 4-5 hours as recommended in the instructions.
Once the battery was charged we extended the antenna and switched on the Epoca. As expected the time was set automatically. The radio scanned for stations and we were able to scan for FM stations.
Reception of DAB digital radio stations is good with the radio picking up all the expected stations on the digital radio coverage checker. When we scanned for stations during our testing the radio found some digital stations that we haven’t received before with a portable radio. We double-checked with the other radios we currently have, some of which are on sale for more than the Epoca, but still couldn’t pick them up.
The FM scan also worked well. A common issue we have with DAB/FM radios in our location is that radios will scan past most stations, but when they are tuned in manually they sound fine the station name and RDS radio text does come up. We didn’t have this problem with the Epoca which stopped on all the FM stations we would expect to receive while scanning.
Bluetooth v5.0 is included and we were able to connect a smartphone and laptop with no problems. There’s also an aux-in socket for connecting something like an old iPod which doesn’t have Bluetooth.
Instructions are included in the form of a booklet. The instructions are clear and easy to follow with icons showing which button to press and the information that will be shown on the display. This comes in handy for setting a sleep timer or changing the brightness of the display backlight. While some radios only include the briefest instructions with a full manual online it’s good to see a manual like this included.
A one year warranty which “covers against manufacturer faults and defects” is included with the radio. This can be extended to two years when registering on the i-box website.
Speakers and headphone output
Two front-facing speakers sit behind the silver grille on the front of the radio with a passive bass radiator. The specifications list the audio output power as 2 x 2W.
This is more than enough for the study and kitchen that we tested the radio in. At the lowest two volume settings we were able to easily hear music, news and radio comedies. Stations like BBC Radio 2, Greatest Hits Radio, and Heart 90s all sound good. We also listened to documentaries on BBC Radio 4 on FM and background and ambient sounds were all audible. With the speakers next to each other it was difficult to discern much stereo separation, but the overall impression is that the sound is better from the Epoca than other radios at this price level.
It would be good to have finer controls over the volume at lower levels. We suspect that we would have used a level between 1 and 2 if it were available. We also found that the radio would switch on at level 4 even if it was at a lower level when switched off. Once used to these quirks they weren’t as much of an issue, but it would be good to see these addressed in future models.
Headphones plug in to the 3.5mm socket on the rear of the radio. Using our normal Sennheiser monitoring headphones we were pleasantly surprised by the sound from this output. Listening to Steely Dan over Bluetooth we found that there was a good stereo image with crisp symbols and clear bass. Switching to Nelly Furtado we found that vocals were clear too. In common with some other radios we’ve looked at we could detect a very feint noise when nothing was playing but this wasn’t apparent during playback or radio listening.
So many digital radios leave us wishing that the headphone output was better but there were no such problems with the Epoca.
The buttons, display and volume control are on the top of the i-box Epoca. Left and right buttons nearest the display skip back and forth between stations on DAB digital radio or scan up and down the FM band. A power button is on the top line nearest the volume knob with the mode button next along. The mode button cycles through DAB, FM, Bluetooth and Aux modes.
Dedicated buttons for setting a sleep timer and initiating a scan of DAB digital radio stations are provided. These are also accessible through the menu but the individual buttons are certainly more convenient. In the Bluetooth mode the forward, back and enter buttons control the media playback on the connected device.
The two line LCD display is found on the top of the radio with 16 characters shown on each line. In the radio modes the station name or frequency, mode and battery level is shown on the top line. The battery level changes to a power symbol when plugged into the mains. Scrolling text is shown on the second line. Text is a good size and with white letters on a dark background. However, we found the scrolling text showing the programme information easier to read on the i-box Barrel.
There aren’t any dedicated preset buttons, but 30 are available to save and recall in the DAB and FM radio modes. The process for saving presets is fairly simple.
The i-box Epoca is rechargeable with 2x 2000mAh built-in batteries. According to the specifications up to 15 hours of listening at 60% volume is possible. At the volume level of 2 out of 16 we were able to achieve 35 hours and 20 minutes of DAB digital radio listening. Given that this volume level is ample in the home office we tested the radio in this is very impressive for a rechargeable digital radio.
Verdict on the i-box Epoca
Overall the i-box Epoca offers impressive sound, good reception of DAB stations and considerable battery life from a single charge. The vintage-inspired design looks good while retaining sensible controls on the top of the radio. We can’t think of another DAB digital radio with Bluetooth at this price that would have this much presence when listening to artists like 50 Cent or Amerie on Capital Xtra Reloaded.
The radio offers good value for money at £59.99. An alternative with retro design and FM/DAB and Bluetooth, but lacking a built-in rechargeable battery, might be the Roberts Rambler BT Stereo which comes in at £149.99. We previously tested the non-stereo version of that radio and found the overall usability to be better, but with a much higher price.
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