There is an easier way of achieving a clean and uncluttered DAB radio than reverting to clever touch panels: just remove all the knobs and buttons completely.
That's what Roberts has done on its Sound MP-23, a DAB radio-cum-CD player that's controlled only from an almost weightless remote control. Bigger than a credit card, but only just, the remote's clash of colours and typefaces makes it look as if it was thrown together last thing on a Friday afternoon, but in practice it's impressively easy to use.
As for the actual unit, its trendy gloss, piano black fascia catches fingerprints all too well. Its 8W stereo speakers are placed well apart on the Sound MP-23's substantial front, either side of a similarly huge white-on-blue, two-lined LCD screen.
It's a simple design, but the Sound MP-23's sheer depth means that it would be best kept out of the kitchen and instead placed on a shelf or rack.
A flap on the front panel, underneath the blue backlit volume control (which doubles as the on/off switch), hides a SD card slot and a USB port. Both can be used to play MP3 or WMA music files from a PC. And although we're not aware that many people would consider storing USB files on a memory stick or SD card, it's a nice option to have.
But are we paying too much for it? Given that many cheap DVD players now have USB connectivity for watching movies from USB flash drives, it's not something we expect to find only on premium priced products. But at around £250 the Sound MP-23 is just that.
The radio itself tunes in quickly to all DAB stations on the local multiplex and is easy to toggle through, thanks to that oversized LCD screen.
Press the button labelled 'SD USB' and the unit toggles between the files stored on the SD card or a USB memory stick. Even if a load of other data files are stored on these media, the Sound MP-23 locates MP3 and WMA flies, displays a list, and then you just use the CD controls - rewind, forward, play and stop - to play them back.
Those controls also operate its clever pause live radio feature, but the most impressive thing about the Sound MP-23 is the detail in its playback of music and voice from any media. In our test - a podcast stored on a USB stick - sound is so precise that background details are audible.
Ditto for an MP3 stored on an SD card. Obviously the rip rate of MP3 and WMA files burned onto a blank CD-R makes a huge difference when it comes to sound quality from the CD player, but bought CDs sound excellent with plenty of treble, bags of detail and a sensible amount of bass - although this can prove a touch too high on some voice-dominated material.
Jazz it up
Presets for jazz, rock, classic, pop, news and flat can be used to tweak the performance. A 3D sound effect is also available and does help separate the stereo, at least, but unfortunately is operated only using a tiny lever on the unit's rear and doesn't feature on the remote.
Neater and more compact than most despite its innovative features, the MP-23 is a reasonably priced DAB system and would suit a small room.