Richter, Australia’s loudspeaker company of renown, has taken a few sideways steps into amplification in recent years, but the recent arrival at Richter of Brian Rodgers, formerly of Bush Australia, brings solid expertise in electronics, for radios and wireless multiroom ‘smart audio’ in particular.
So along with a recent logo update, Richter Audio (formerly Richter Acoustics) has released a pair of Richter Digital Essential Radios.
There is the Core (pictured right), a small flat-fronted DAB+/FM model in a snazzy shiny platinum grey, and the Wake (model RR40) reviewed here and pictured above, a compact box which is clearly designed to go bedside as a DAB+/FM radio alarm clock, with a choice of black or walnut end-cheeks.
Sharp-eyed readers may note these have quite the resemblance to Bush Australia models, the designs having arrived with Mr Rodgers, but they include variations — the Core, for example, has had both an external face-lift and a technical upgrade to Frontier Silicon’s Verona 2 module, which (Richter tells us) results in better reception and improved battery life.
The Wake awakes
We’ve spent a few weeks with the Wake bedside, and it pretty much gets everything right, from the compact footprint ideal for bedside use to its twin alarms, big snooze button, and a handy high-current USB charging socket on the back. The buttonry on top is clear and ergonomically impeccable (we only once needed the manual), with the ‘mode’ button switching between its four selections of DAB+, FM, its minijack auxiliary input and Bluetooth streaming. There’s also a minijack headphone socket to the rear.
There’s a remarkable level of customisation available through the menu structure. The 82mm white-on-blue/grey display, for example, pulls off a clever ability to be fully legible in daylight but also non-intrusive at night, when (in standby) it quietly dims for a continuous display of time and date. We found its default settings for this ideal, but if you reckon it’s too bright, head to the menus where you can tweak the final 'dim' level of brightness, also the ‘on’ level, even the 'timeout' period for when you reach over and tap its big turn-or-press knob for temporary illumination during the night. The two alarms can be usefully set to once, every day, or just weekdays or weekends, and they can wake you up with a buzzer or with whatever station you last had selected on one of the two radio bands. The buzzer fades up gradually, presumably to soften the horror of the morning alarm, but we found this often inveigled its way into our final dreams (a few seconds of real-world buzzer could prompt a whole dream of submarine diving or similar), so we requested and received the gentle tones of ABC News instead, to woo us back to full conciousness. (Though in truth, our Labrador's extraordinarily accurate breakfast body-clock usually beat Richter to it.)
DAB+ quickly tuned in to our local 60 stations, receiving them all clearly using only the rear aerial string. The big knob adjusts volume by default, but press ‘tune’ and it then shuttles through the station names on that front display, making selection a breeze. Once playing, the display adds useful ticker-tape text below the time and station name — “Fitzy & Wippa on Nova 96.9” it told us on Nova, or more usefully on ABC News the weather forecast followed by “Class action set to begin against maker of vaginal mesh implants”. Heavens, and we were barely awake.
There are 10 presets for each radio band, easily and again logically set by hitting the preset button and using the big knob to choose a slot, then press to store.
FM station scanning was the one time we had to resort to the manual — you press the ‘tune’ button then turn the rotary dial to search the whole frequency band, pressing the dial to confirm where you want to stop. Or for an automatic search (the bit we couldn’t work out), you press and hold the dial for a short period until the scan starts, then release. The radio will keep on searching and stop on an available station.
The sonics are necessarily limited by the unit’s size and the single front speaker, so don’t be expecting Richter-style bass response! It starts responding from about 50Hz and hits its stride above 150Hz, but within those remaining mids and treble frequencies it manages to be friendly and never edgy, and we found it entirely adequate for enjoying the morning news or a podcast, and even able to hold a tune within the limits of its frequency range, and to do so even as you advance the volume knob.
Here we would point you again to the settings, which offer EQ including a Loudness option that here we thought a benefit, along with bass and treble adjustments. With the bass dialled up a little we listened to music via Bluetooth (with NFC pairing available), Joni Mitchell’s vocal sounding sweet enough on the re-recording of Both Sides Now as the strings ebbed and flowed underneath, while Diana Krall and Mick Boob’s delightful take on Alone Again, Naturally was similarly enjoyable and, with its emphasis on the vocal portrayal, even emotive — smooth despite lacking anything down in the lower octaves. Bluetooth playback benefits from buttons on the Wake doubling up as play/pause and next/last tracks, these additional functions usefully indicated by blue markings.
Anything wrong? We could do without the audible clicks from the buttons, which seem especially loud when setting alarms at night next to a sleeping partner. Otherwise Richter has delivered a logically impeccable and usefully compact bedside companion in the Wake… all of which bodes extremely well for what we gather will be an ongoing thrust into electronics and smart audio in particular. But fear not traditional Richter speaker lovers — the very next release is right at the other end of the frequency scale — a new version of the Richter Thor subwoofer!
The new Richter Wake has an RRP of $159, and is currently selling through Harvey Normans (the city-based stores, given that DAB+ is still an urban phenomenon in Australia), catalogued at $148.
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