Review: Bush Heritage II Connect DAB+ radio
A fully-featured radio with Spotify Connect and its own app
Bush's Heritage II Connect was unveiled in June 2015 for A$499 (£250, US$360). It's available in two finishes: cream and walnut, and while it's a large, retro-looking radio, it has managed to treat the fine line between looking acceptably retro while not looking out-dated.
Among its extensive featureset is an FM, DAB+ and internet radio with Spotify Connect, personal network streaming, and Bluetooth. It also has an NFC chip, an AUX input, and boasts multiroom streaming. In lieu of a remote control, it comes with an app for Android and iOS phones.
Installation was relatively simple. It comes with a setup manual, but obviously I didn't read it, because I'm a man. But, the only two things you need to do are to connect wifi and tell it how you want to keep the clock updated. Sensibly, it leaves DAB scans and all that until you first try using that feature.
The first thing that you notice is the rich, sonorous bass from the large wooden cabinet. For speech, it's a very rounded sound; and for music it sounds warm and full. I used it on Australia's DAB+ signals and it certainly gets the best out of the audio. The set goes loud, too; and it has EQ in the settings if you want to fiddle further. The build quality is high, and it's clearly reflected in the audio quality.
The DAB+ receiver uses a retractable antenna at the back of the unit, and works well. The screen displays the full name of the radio station in big letters, and the livetext in smaller characters underneath, in full. There's no scrolling on this display at all, which is good news; so many implementations of DLS include frustratingly slow scrolling.
The Bluetooth works well. Put an NFC-equipped phone on top of the unit, and the phone handles all the linking - one button-push is all you need. As you'd guess, the audio quality's good for that, too.
I don't have a premium Spotify account, so didn't test that bit. Spotify Connect works much like Google Cast, in that - unlike Bluetooth - your phone just tells the speaker what to play, rather than your phone actually playing it and sending the audio over wifi. This means you can wander outside wifi or Bluetooth range and it won't stop working, and also means the quality should be better since there's no re-encoding. I chucked a Chromecast Audio in the AUX input instead; and that works well. I'd have preferred to have Google Cast built-in, though.
The internet radio bit is nice, with a simple interface letting you search or select stations from a big list. I listened to French station FIP for a while, and it was almost impossible to know that this was coming via the wifi connection. The device uses Frontier Silicon's station listing service.
The radio also has its own app, called UNDOK. Actually, it isn't its own app: the app is Fronter Silicon's, too (the chipset inside is Frontier Silicon's Venice 6.5 module), so if you have a number of UNDOK-compatible devices from other manufacturers, it'll play with all of them. I tested the Android version, which is surprisingly modern-feeling and well-designed. Virtually every part of the device is controllable through the app; switching between sources is easy, and you can control the volume, or even turn it off, from the swish of a finger.
Impressively, full-colour station logos appear on the app's screen when listening to internet radio, and I've seen track artwork appear when using it via a home server or Spotify. However, when listening on DAB, you get the livetext, but just a DAB logo, and not the full-colour slideshow available on most Australian (and German) DAB+ radio stations; nor a RadioDNS-supplied logo either. This is a real missed opportunity; the information's being broadcast, it'll easily be transportable over your home wifi, and your mobile phone is a great colour screen, so why isn't slideshow visible in the app? I can only hope this is coming from Frontier in a forthcoming software release: why wouldn't they?
If I was also going to be slightly picky, this device doesn't have unified presets. Flicking between, say, a local DAB+ station and a station over the internet requires rather more button-presses than you'd expect. Just one preset list would be brilliant.
All-in-all, though, this is an impressive audio device: all the radio you need, plus a lot of other things besides: and a great, powerful sound. If you're considering a radio for the kitchen, office or front-room, this should be high on your list.
- In the UK? You can buy the Goodmans-badged version on amazon.co.uk. The Bush-branded version is available in Australia from JB-Hifi and other retailers.
It is pleasing to hear that Bush radio sets still come highly recommended.
My older brother was the proud owner of the iconic Bush TR82 tuner of which in the early 60s had medium & long wavebands, but no FM. The single speaker power was a ''belter'' for both speech and music including the TR82 ''bandspread'' option for easy tuning.
Back to today, I do like the look of the new Bush Heritage II model.
Smart radios are the future, I think!
Bush in the UK is now an Argos badged brand along with Alba. Goodmans which used to be part of the same group wasn't sold to Argos.
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