Music Hall RDR-1 By
Ever since Henry Kloss
revealed his Tivoli Audio Model One radio to a hitherto unknowing public, tabletop
radios have seen a surge in sales like fine wine to well-heeled city slickers.
Klosss little-box-that-could was a splendid feat of engineering know-how,
a tiny cabinet that produced a massive, warm sound.
Forget that plastic,
overrated, overpriced radios you know. Tivoli provided great sound for not too
many bucks. After the Tivoli everyone got in on the act, from Boston Acoustics
to Cambridge SoundWorks. Add Roy Halls Music Hall to that equation and you
have high-end sonics brought to the table top domain.
Music Hall is renown in serious audio circles for its ability to offer excellent
value-for-dollar lines like Epos speakers and Creek amps along with their own
brand of high quality turntables and CD players. Music Hall products regularly
receive praise and recommended status in audiophile rags like Stereophile and
The Absolute Sound. But even if you cant spend a months salary on
a turntable cartridge, Music Halls $199 RDR-1 Synthesized Tuner
delivers seriously good sound on a budget.
First of all, you may wonder, Why do I need to get rid of my old college
boombox? The old credo, garbage in, garbage out, applies. If
you like the treble deficient, bass plodding, and the frankly, inhuman sound of
a boombox designed more for sporting events and street parties than home listening,
by all means, scrape that crud off your ghetto blaster and let her rip. But if
you are a listener for whom the music matters, as well as the need to hear local
news, talk shows, jazz, symphonies, and even a morning wakeup call delivered as
the artist intended, the Music Hall will meet your more, er, refined needs.
Meant for a bedside, kitchen, or den setting, the RDR-1 features a very large
LCD display, full remote control AM/FM tuning (via a remote no larger than a credit
card), clock/alarm, variable bass and treble controls, inputs for iPod or CD player,
and myriad station presets, all housed in a handsome 5.5 lb wooden cabinet (which
aids the radios full, rich sound)!
Other features include manual tuning for you Luddites, a 3-inch full range speaker
with enlarged magnet, a record output jack should you choose to record a program
to an external device, and a stereo headphone jack for private late night listening.
I loved the Music Halls remote. It was so tiny and easy to operate, I found
scanning for stations was almost as fun as listening. And with the units
stepped treble and bass contour controls, ranging from -7 to +7, it was very easy
to establish the proper EQ, as it were, for individual styles of music.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Music Hall RDR-1, besides its exceptional
reception, is its breathtaking bass response. Dont be fooled by its lone
3-inch speaker. And never mind that some of the greatest recordings of all time
were originally recorded in mono (from the first five Beatles albums to Phil Spector
to some early Blue Notes), the Music Halls speaker delivers an exceptionally
broad frequency range with a tactile, warm, human quality that is extremely engaging.
On some tunes featuring walking bass, I had to turn the bass down! The RDR-1 also
excelled at delivering clear, silvery treble response, elucidating acoustic piano,
guitar, snare drum, and cymbals. Listening to New Jerseys WBGO FM (which
I can never pick up with any other radio in the house), I reveled in all manner
of acoustic jazz via the wholly satisfying RDR-1. Bass could be a bit gluey sounding
at times (causing me to simply adjust the level from a maniacal +7 to +5), but
even then acoustic bass solos were crisp, pungent, and again, surprisingly full
bodied and extended.
Hearing Sammy Davis, Jr. singing a fantastic A Woman Is a Sometime Thing
(from Porgy and Bess) fronting a big band had me reaching to turn up the volume,
always a good sign (though I wish it would go louder). Overall, this was a superb
presentation of a full-bodied recording that left nothing to the imagination.
The RDR-1 picked up a broad range of stations and revealed the sonic differences
between them. AM talk radio sounded appropriately noisy, hip-hop and country stations
were compressed and dynamically challenged, classic rock was tweaked at the frequency
extremes, classical stations presented a balanced tone through the sonic spectrum.
Audio nerds love to talk about the soundstage, which is the actual
height and depth of the image a stereo produces. The bigger the soundstage, the
more closely the music will sound like a flesh and blood band of musicians in
your living room. Sitting on my kitchen sink blasting out towards my computer
work station, the RDR-1 presented a totally believable soundstage, one that was
much bigger, top to bottom, than the radio itself. How do they do it? Old-fashioned
radio principles like an enlarged magnet and a wooden cabinet aid in bass response
and overall projection, while computer synthesis and high quality parts add the
finishing touches, no doubt. The Music Hall RDR-1 is an outstanding performer
and for barely 200 smackers, an audio bargain.