STEREO GUIDE review
+ Warm, rich sound that really turns on with rock and pop.
+ Really rich drums, as rarely heard from such a compact speaker
+ Power supply included and powerbank function
+ High-quality, well-marked buttons
- Equalizer settings a bit confusing
- could play a bit more lively and spatial
Sound: Tonal balance / Transparency7.3
Sound: Bass / Dynamics6.8
Ease-of-use / Connectivity8.6
Price / Performance8
The retro design wave has fully taken hold of the audio sector not only since the new Roberts Radio Beacon 335, already tested by STEREO GUIDE. In hi-fi electronics, we have noticed a particularly large number of borrowings from the 1970s in recent years. Klipsch most recently successfully transferred 1940s retro chic into design-conscious living rooms with the Heritage Promedia, which we last had in review.
Roberts Radio is now launching two gems called the Beacon 325 and Beacon 335 that virtually exemplify 1950s design. Maybe it even overemphasizes it a bit. Because these colors, which would do credit to any Cadillac, were more common in cars or kitchen appliances in the 1950s: pastel beige, berry red, high-gloss black and delicate pastel turquoise are all enhanced with gold applications including Roberts lettering.
Both are non-battery powered Bluetooth speakers that are identical in size and case finish. However, the more expensive Beaon 335 model, which we have in review here, is worth the extra price due to many useful features like stereo pairing, extended battery life and EQ for sound-conscious listeners.
1950s design for the style conscious
A stylishly woven fabric covering runs all around, behind which the speaker drivers work. Most owners will rather use these retro jewels indoors. The analog 3.5 mm jack input, which is the second playback option besides Bluetooth, expands the range of applications considerably. However, the logic of the source selection opposes the alternating operation with TV and smartphone, which always prefers the analog input when the jack cable is plugged in. There is no button for switching.
The manufacturer promises 15 hours of battery runtime for the Beacon 335, so there is nothing to stop it from being used on the terrace and balcony. However, you should be careful with sand, water and scratch-causing stones during camping and beach parties. The excellently processed aluminum top plate is worth to be kept shiny. It carries four buttons that do all the controlling.
Hidden equalizer and other useful extras
Without app Roberts does all the control including stereo pairing and equalizer? Yes, because behind the somewhat grandiloquently announced EQ there are only five preset EQ curves. In practice, you will mainly use the normal mode for indoor use, an outdoor mode and a bass boost mode. Switching is done with a somewhat complicated key combination and feedback via an LED and the number of times it flashes. It’s easy to get confused in the process, especially if you don’t have the manual handy: “Which mode is that again?”
Stereo pairing mode requires pressing a hidden button on the bottom. This is only possible after the first (left) speaker is already connected. AUX and the USB port for charging – which can also serve as a powerbank for smartphones – are on the back, though.
Considering the size and the fact that the really picture-perfect speaker is always operated upright, the mono design of the amplifier/speaker unit is a sensible choice. A 4.5 centimeter chassis works on the front behind the fabric cover, two passive radiators for bass on the side. What is supposed to be “multidirectional” about it probably remains the secret of those who have maintained the Roberts website.
This is how the retro gem sounds
Of course, if you’ve done countless hi-fi and high-end system tests over many years, you can hear whether the device is “top” or “flop” on the first few beats, especially with smaller Bluetooth and WLAN boxes. But with the Roberts Radio Beacon 335, my jaw dropped after a few seconds after the Bluetooth connection was established without any problems: “Wow, that really sounds really great.”
And because I still had my rock playlist from the night before on my iPhone, I listened with Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello or R.E.M. Distorted electric guitars in particular almost gave me goosebumps. Somehow Robert’s Radio managed to inject a touch of tube radio into the sound. This just goes great with guitars, giving them more expression and feeling. Even drums come through the small Bluetooth speaker really sonorous. This happens especially when you place the Beacon 335 with its back to the wall or even in a corner of the room. In our listening test voices also sounded expressive, though not always without coloration. Listening to music was simply a joy when the program fit so well.
Roberst Radio Beacon vs JBL Flip 6: A question of taste
What you have to state despite all the fun of this warm, rich tuning: You should get involved in this colorful nostalgia trip. Those who simply make A/B comparisons disenchant the magic of the British wireless box. Even the much cheaper and slimmer JBL Flip 6 sounds zippier, louder and more spectacular. Its 2-way system throws better illuminated and much more finely resolved harmonics into the balance, the drums sound more spectacular.
The latter is due to a somewhat thickened upper bass, but it makes much more of a difference, especially with pop or hip-hop. Nevertheless, natural percussion sounds more contoured, differentiated and authentic with more foundation at the very bottom if you play it with the Roberts Radio. Dynamically, too, the JBL makes the Nostalgia Speaker look a bit old, a bit hung over and with braked foam. You also notice the limiter pumping a bit more clearly on the British speaker. That measure reduces complex, loud passages a bit at higher playback levels so as not to overtax the driver. But even if it may seem paradoxical: With rock, vintage pop and jazz (no one will probably seriously listen to classical music via a small Bluetooth can), the Roberts Radio Beacon simply spreads more flair and feeling than the dynamic, but also somewhat cooler, more sober JBL.
Alternatives to Roberts Radio Beacon 335
With Roberts Radio, another manufacturer ventures into the field of Bluetooth speakers with retro design. In terms of look and feel, the Beacon 335 is on par with Marshall and Klipsch. In sound comparison, the Klipsch Heritage Groove is a tough opponent. The Marshall Kilburn 2 we tested plays in a higher league in terms of sound, price and material. Whether you find the retro style cool or kitschy, everyone must decide for themselves.
- Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: 200 euros
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 9.3 x 19 x 9.4 cm
- Weight: 734 g
- Features: analog AUX input, 15 hours battery life, 5 EQ modes, stereo pairing, USB power bank function.
- More at: www.robertsradio.com