The Vita Audio R2i includes DAB and FM radio, a couple of line inputs (phono sockets at the rear, minijack at the front) and a universal iPod dock, plus a notional 20-watt amplifier and two loudspeakers, each in its own enclosure with a downward-firing reflex port.
On the top of the unit is Vita's familiar 'RotoDial' control, which isn't absolutely the most intuitive user interface we've ever seen, but works well enough. On the upmarket R4 this is removable to use as a remote: here, the remote is a separate credit card-size item.
Three different finishes are available for the R2i. Walnut is the basic option, while white or black lacquer will set you back an extra £20. Frankly, given the quality of the lacquer, that's a bargain – we were very impressed with our black sample and it seems very resistant to scuffing and scratching, too. Finish is to a very high standard generally, while the insides are neatly and efficiently assembled, but the display's a little prosaic and not great for legibility off-axis.
Various signal-processing options are on offer, including loudness, '3D sound' and simple tone controls, and be aware that 3D sound and loudness both default to 'On' when power is removed and restored, though not when the unit is switched on and off via front panel or remote. As usual with DSP, off is best.
If we're going to make any complaints, it will only be that FM reception isn't brilliant. Unless you are lucky and have excellent signal strength, the supplied telescopic antenna will barely suffice and really, who connects a table radio to a rooftop twig? However, DAB works much better and both it and iPod sources are quite capable of showing that this is a remarkably capable little unit.
The R2i has plenty of oomph, but also considerably more subtletly than one usually expects from the breed and it also offers a commendably neutral frequency balance. All too often, integrated units like this sound muffled, or harsh, or both. This one suffers from neither affliction. Instead, it is clear and open with very good bass and natural treble.
It has enough kick to do decent justice to a drum kit and a sufficiently flat response in the midband not to interfere with the tonal qualities of familiar voices. Turn up the wick and there is enough volume available to produce satisfying sound levels in a typical mid-size room, nor is there any hint of rattling or buzzing from within the unit.
But that's all specifics. The best part is the general feeling the R2i gives, that it is really playing music. All too many of its kind sound as if they are struggling with anything more demanding than a radio phone-in show.
This one managed the likes of Ian Dury, Mahler, Handel, various solo piano tracks, choirs – the lot, and all with huge aplomb and admirable insight. There's even a reasonable semblance of stereo, though obviously images are both narrow and rather vague.
It might look a bit expensive at first, but we would rather listen to this than to many 'systems' available at a similar price. Admirable in every way.
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