The new Roberts Play 11 is a portable DAB/DAB+/FM digital radio that’s available in black or white. Although it’s part of the Play range of radios the design is quite different from other current models like the Play 10 and Play 20. The modern design features a fabric front and slightly textured plastic case, a little like some smart speakers and Roberts’ latest DAB clock radio.
Power is provided via a USB-C socket on the right of the radio or from 4 x AA batteries. Unlike the Play 20 the batteries won’t be charged in the radio.
Features and setup
In the box is the Roberts Play 11, a USB-A to USB-C cable and a quick start card. A full online manual is accessed by scanning a QR code or going directly to the web address. This is something of a departure for Roberts radios which we normally see come with comprehensive instruction manuals. Having said that the instructions are still good and can be printed if required. It’s good to see there’s no polystyrene in the box.
After extending the antenna and plugging in to a suitable USB power supply the radio is switched on. Like most DAB radios the Play 11 scans for DAB digital radio stations straightaway. The time is set automatically.
Reception of DAB/DAB+ radio stations is good. We received all the stations that we should according to the online coverage checker. A signal strength meter is shown by toggling through the display options. This can be used to adjust the position of the radio to find the strongest signal for the desired station. In the FM mode we were able to tune into the stations we would expect to find, but like many radios the FM scan skipped past them initially. Once tuned in manually we were able to see the station name with RDS.
In the box is a USB-A to USB-C charging cable but no power adapter. It’s increasingly common to see electronic devices come without power adapters. Given how many USB power adapters have been distributed with smartphones, tablets and other devices this makes sense for environmental and cost reasons. However, if you don’t already have a USB power adapter you will need to buy one.
Roberts sell a USB power plug which they describe on their website as being “specifically designed to limit radio interference” for £14.99.
Many purchasers of the Play 11 will be unaffected by the lack of an included manual and power supply as they plug in and start tuning into stations. If the radio is being bought by or for someone who doesn’t have already have a USB power plug or access to the Internet for the full manual it may be worth looking at another Roberts model or finding some assistance with getting the radio set up.
The radio comes with a 2 year warranty.
Sound from the Roberts Play 11 is reasonable for a radio of this size and price. The radio can be turned up loud enough to fill a small kitchen or bedroom, but in an office or busy kitchen the radio may not go loud enough to overcome background noise. Music on Greatest Hits Radio, Heart North East and BBC Radio 2 sounds a little subdued. Speech radio sounds fine though and completely sufficient for grand prix and cricket commentaries.
There are no EQ settings or adjustment for bass or treble. Roberts doesn’t list the size of the single speaker or the audio output in the specifications.
Headphones or earphones plug in to the 3.5mm socket on the right side of the radio. It is difficult to discern any stereo audio from the headphone output. This is in common with the Play 10 we tested. The sound is reasonable and likely to be enough for casual music listening and news, sport and other speech radio. If sitting down with headphones to listen to a music programme the experience may be underwhelming.
Volume and station selection knobs are found on the top of the radio. There’s also three buttons for presets, toggling the information and changing the mode between DAB and FM.
Separate tuning and volume knobs one of the best ways to quickly change the volume and browse through DAB digital radio stations. With so many digital stations now available it’s a much more convenient way of changing station than pressing up and down buttons dozens of times.
Pressing the mode button switches quickly between digital and FM mode. In DAB mode the information button toggles between scrolling text, signal strength, programme type, multiplex/ensemble, frequency, signal error, bitrate DAB or DAB+, power source, time and date.
Setting and recalling presets, or favourites as the radio calls them, is not as convenient as with dedicated preset buttons. Ten preset slots are available in each mode. Presets are saved by holding the button with the heart icon, choosing a position for the preset and pushing the tuning knob down. Choosing a favourite is done by pressing the favourites button, scrolling to the station and pushing the tuning knob.
The display shows two lines of text with 16 characters on each line. The display text is white with a blue backlight. In standby mode when plugged into the mains the time is shown above the date. Three brightness levels are available to choose from when the radio is switched on.
Display text is clear and easier to read than on some radios. The squares where each character appears on the display do make it look a little dated. It might have been nice to see an OLED display, but the blue backlight goes well with the white and grey exterior.
Overall the Roberts Play 11 is a good DAB/DAB+/FM portable radio that’s easy to use. The separate tuning and volume controls are great but the lack of dedicated preset buttons could be inconvenient for some.
Having a fabric front could be an issue on kitchen worktops. The light grey cover on the front of the white radio looks great but there could be a concern about stains from food preparation.
The radio is reasonably priced at £49.99 but do remember to add the cost of a decent USB power adapter if you don’t have one already. We used the Roberts power adapter that’s available for £14.99 for this review. If you were to buy both at £65 the cost isn’t far off the Sony XDR-S41D which has a better display and dedicated preset buttons.
The Roberts Play 11 is a pleasure to use, sounds good and the modern design will sit nicely in many kitchens and bedrooms.