Originally conceived to serve the rural masses of undeveloped countries, Worldspace offers about 33 channels to anyone in the UK with the right equipment. Unfortunately, most of the channels are scrambled and require a subscription (£76 a year) but there are some free-to-air programmes too.
Although delivered by a geostationary satellite, Worldspace uses entirely different frequencies and digital modulation and encryption techniques from 'normal' digital TV and radio, so it requires a different receiver and different antenna.
The BPL Celeste Mk2 is one of the latest receivers for Worldspace and, unlike most of those that have gone before, it is based on a traditional 'ghetto-blaster' with a powerful stereo output, switchable bass boost and mains and battery operation (although the eight D cells don't last long at any volume).
The Celeste is quite stylish in a 'Flash Gordon' sort of way. The two bass reflex speakers take up much of the room, with an LCD panel in the middle and smattering of buttons. The bass boost button is huge and on the right-hand speaker. The LCD shows the channel name, frequency and signal strength, as well as the reception, bass, and preset modes, and whether the received signal is in stereo and encrypted.
The antenna is a flat-plate affair about 150mm across, which is separate from the receiver and relatively simple to set up and align on the Afristar satellite from a table-top, thanks to its wide beamwidth. Bizarrely, there is no built-in FM aerial, like any cheap portable radio, but there are connections for external FM and AM antennas. Channels in all three bands can be tuned in automatically or manually and the favourites stored in 10 presets for each band.
Worldspace radio is touted as 'CD-quality' and the Celeste is one of the few receivers that really exploit this. Although it's probably not the same quality as a good CD player, it fares well, producing good, clean audio, especially with the extra punch of the bass boost. You can turn the volume right up to make use of the hefty 70W per channel without undue distortion. Ideal for a trip around Europe. Geoff Bains