The Relish DAB+ digital radio aims to give elderly people and those living with dementia the independence to enjoy music and audio books on a unit they can operate themselves. It's not as quick to set up as some digital radios we've tested, but it's time well spent when the end result is this easy to use. Some nice touches, such as clear station selection and a simple yet effective USB music playlist, make this a unique (if expensive) offering for those wanting to connect with music on their own terms without all the bells and whistles.
The Relish DAB+ radio has been created to suit the needs of the elderly and those living with dementia by providing a music player that can be operated with minimal confusion and minimal supervision. All it takes is a bit of time to get things set up.
Our tech expert Scott O'Keefe put the radio through its paces as he would any other DAB+ radio in our digital radios test. Reception, ease of use (including initial set-up), listening quality and standby energy were all assessed in the same manner as any other digital radio. But with its unique design and functionality, this isn't your average radio unit, so we dug a little deeper to see whether it delivers.
What do you get in the box?
Keeping it simple: a big volume dial, on button, off button, and four music selections are the only controls you see.
The Relish looks like a throwback to the '70s with a simple tabletop design showing a large on and off button, a larger volume dial, and four buttons on the top of the unit to make selections for a favourite radio station or to access a USB with a playlist of music. While it's meant to be used as a powered home radio, you can also use four D cell batteries (not included) for additional portability.
There's no Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity or auxiliary input, but you do get a headphone port for listening in private. While there's FM radio for times when you can't get DAB+ reception, you don't get AM radio. There are no alarms or programable timers to deal with – in fact, you don't even get a clock. However, it becomes clear after some use that the purpose of the Relish DAB+ is to allow it to do a few things simply and not add any confusing or unnecessary functionality.
Relish DAB+ specifications
- DAB+/FM radio tuner
- 3 assignable presets (plus USB music playback)
- Telescopic antenna
- 3 line LCD display
- 3.5mm headphone socket
- Stereo speakers (2" drivers)
- Power: Australian 5.9V DC power adapter or optional batteries (4 type D – not included)
- Dimensions: 24.5 x 11 x 18 (W x D x H, cm)
- Weight: 1.8Kg
How does it sound?
You can create your own familiar station titles with five scribble strip sheets included.
While not anywhere near our best performing digital radios as far as audio quality is concerned, the Relish DAB+ does deliver a good clear sound out of its two small speakers, with crisp vocals and reasonable bass response according to our three-person listening panel.
The pieces of audio selected in our test included an acoustic vocal track, a bass-heavy dance track, and a news interview. The Relish performed best for the news interview, and OK for the acoustic and dance tracks. Most users will find the audio quality more than acceptable for use in the kitchen, dining room or bedroom.
Keeping things simple
The back of the radio houses the four D Cell batteries, a USB port for music playlists, and the menu controls to ensure the front controls are as simple as possible.
The Relish DAB+ radio couldn't be easier to use – it just needs someone to spend some time getting it set up beforehand. All of the menu controls, battery housing and USB stick port (the USB stick needs to be shorter than 5.5cm) are hidden behind a panel which keeps the look of the radio uncluttered.
You can use the USB port to include a music playlist or audio books, and the music playlist is set up for an endless loop (with files limited to MP3 format only). Having a linear playback with auto resume from the last track makes it useful for picking up right where you left off and also for stopping and starting MP3 audio books.
Design elements such as a volume knob that can't be turned all the way down (avoiding any confusion as to whether the radio is on or not) reveal a true awareness of the intended user. A separate concave on button and convex off button also provide a clearer indication of the radio control compared to a nondescript on/off button.
With a cost of close to $300, you could definitely get a cheaper DAB+ radio with more features and maybe even better sound quality. But you'll be hard-pressed to find a better solution for someone who wants a simple to use radio that delivers great reception, good audio quality and a sense of independence.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.