Never has a radio range been more accomplished. Our current 2021 Award-winning Roberts Stream 94i, and the 93i before it, has received multiple What Hi-Fi? Award trophies over the last decade, and this new version has no intention of stepping down from the podium.
The Roberts Stream 94L is the latest iteration of this much-lauded radio and its updates are simply a new logo, a faster processor, and built-in Amazon Music and Deezer support.
Everything we loved about the previous Roberts Stream 94i remains the same: the same design, extensive radio and streaming features, ease of use, and enjoyable sound quality. After all, why mess with a winning combination? Even the price has remained the same, which is worth celebrating in our current economic climate. At £200, the Roberts Stream 94L effectively replaces the 94i with little fanfare.
Build & Design
For those not familiar with the Stream 94L’s previous generations, it’s worth exploring just how good a radio this is.
It’s a smart-looking unit, with excellent build quality throughout. The 94i had already been given a slick facelift, so there was very little to change with the new 94L. Visually, the only difference is the addition of Roberts’ new cursive logo on the front.
Roberts Stream 94L tech specs
Tuners FM radio
Digital radio DAB/DAB+
Internet radio? Yes
Streaming support Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Deezer
Remote included? Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 16.6 x 25 x 13cm
The flexible handle is elegant and makes it easy to carry the radio around. The Stream 94L is mains powered, but you can buy an optional battery pack to make it fully portable.
You can control most aspects of the radio using the front row of buttons and the two dials for volume and tuning, the latter of which is also used for scrolling and selecting options.
A small remote control is supplied, but we find ourselves preferring the excellent Undok app (free for iOS and Android) to select radio or streaming options, access the settings, adjust the custom EQ, and save multiple presets. It’s much easier and slicker to use, especially when searching for radio stations. You can instantly access your top five favourite radio stations using the unit’s preset buttons, but many more than that can be stored and played via the app.
On the back panel, you’ll find a handful of connections: an aux input and a line output, a USB port for playing MP3 files only, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Inside the new Stream 94L lies a more powerful processor, which Roberts says results in speedier start-up times and faster functions. While we don’t have the older 94i on hand for comparison, the 94L is certainly responsive and easy to use from the moment we plug it in. Selecting different inputs and radio stations is instinctive, and starting up from standby mode takes mere seconds.
This Roberts radio has so many ways of playing music. You can listen to local and international radio stations thanks to internet radio, DAB/DAB+ and FM tuner (the antenna is included). Bluetooth was the big inclusion in the last model, and along with Spotify Connect, the new 94L now has built-in support for Amazon Music and Deezer streaming services.
Setting up the 94L radio takes a few twiddles of the dial, especially when connecting it to your home network for the first time. After that, it never failed to connect automatically on start-up. A handy wi-fi icon in the full colour LCD display shows you how strong the signal is, so you can fine-tune where you place the radio to get the best, unbroken signal. We only experienced two signal drop outs in the weeks we had it, but it re-connected automatically.
We find it interesting that the radio can display the bit rate, codec and sampling rate of each station, although song title, artist and station logo are the most useful information to see at a glance.
The Stream 94L of course still operates as a bedside radio clock. You can set alarms to play specific radio stations and also set a timer.
Whether you’re listening to 6 Radio, BBC 4’s Kitchen Cabinet or Seattle’s excellent KEXP 90.3 FM station, using DAB+, Bluetooth or Spotify – this radio is such an enjoyable performer. We have it playing throughout the day and never tire of it.
Acoustically, the ‘subwoofer’ at the back of the unit and the two smaller drivers on the front have remained unchanged in the new 94L model. This is great news for sound quality, although we hope that Roberts can push the performance even further when it comes to the next update.
Iggy Pop’s The Passenger sounds punchy and detailed, with all its ’70s punk energy intact. Dynamically, this little radio manages to pack in so much subtlety and has a natural ebb and flow to songs that even some dedicated hi-fi kit twice its price struggles to communicate. It’s an agile sound with a fine sense of timing.
Midrange remains a high point, with voices coming through clearly, focussed and packed with expressive detail whether you’re listening to radio DJs, lots of sludgy grunge rock or podcasts. Voices have plenty of texture, and everyone’s personality shines through the radio.
Play something heavier like Deftones’ My Own Summer (Shove It), and while it can get a little messy when the volume is pushed high, the 94L still delivers a decent amount of weight to those thundering guitars and drums. Voices are still crystal clear above the mix of instruments, and the melody is driven forward in an admirably sure-footed manner.
You’ll never get masses of deep bass from such a compact unit, but the basslines on Digital Underground’s Walk Real Kool are tuneful and pulled taut. The Stream 94L’s smooth, unfussy nature masks just how talented a performer it is, especially in its ability to sound so fluid and capable with anything you play through it.
We’d also recommend tweaking EQ settings if you want to rein in the bass and give more of a spotlight to voices – especially if you listen to talk radio and podcasts more often – but we found the default Flat setting has the best balance across music and speech.
This is such a fun radio to listen to. The updates might seem slight, but we applaud Roberts for packing in more streaming options and not increasing the price tag a jot.
Its performance remains as enjoyable as ever, and we never find ourselves running out of things to listen to thanks to the world’s radio stations available at our fingertips. The new Stream 94L remains a smart, well-featured and great-sounding radio at this price. Highly recommended.
Have a bigger budget? Consider the Tivoli Model One Digital Generation 2
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