Once upon a time every child and teenager had a transistor radio. I often hear stories from friends and family of that generation telling of the days of pirate radio and building equipment to receive distant broadcast from foreign shores. But it’s not the ‘60s any more. In truth radios were still relatively ‘cool’ when I grew up in the ‘90s and early ‘000s, though by then they’d been miniaturised into a single microchip and a pocket-sized form factor and more often than not had tiny earbuds rather than a tinny inbuilt speaker. Either that or radios were novelty items, designed to resemble the looks of a classic jukebox or something from the 1950s, albeit made entirely from the cheapest possible plastic and without a sound that is anything comparable. These days smartphones have taken over virtually every kind of portable music player, but the standalone radio still has its place.
For one thing, a radio will always have a signal as long as there are transmitters broadcasting. The same can’t be said for the availability of wifi or mobile data. The radio was used to announce the Second World War in 1939 and provide essential safety information to the general population, and would still undoubtedly be used today to keep the population informed and safe amid a national or international disaster. And there’s something to be said for disconnecting from the internet once in a while. Our reliance on the internet for so much in our lives from commerce to transport, from news to entertainment and for the operation of critical services in health, logistics, finance and every other sector is, frankly, quite worrying.
I was recently sent a couple of radios to review. They come from Majority, a UK-based company founded in Cambridge in 2012. Majority offers a portfolio of music players, a hi-fi DAB tuner with internet radio (the recently reviewed Fitzwilliam), sound bars and even a DVD player. Here we’re looking at the Belford and the Eddington, two portable rechargeable radios from the company’s lineup.
Majority have gone paperless with their products, and the packaging is designed to be eco-friendly. As part of this, the user manuals are available online both as PDF downloads and as a beautifully-formatted HTML webpage. These are some of the most helpful manuals from any company, as they list controls, connections and menu options in the order that they appear on the device, and make it easy for someone without sight such as myself to quickly figure out what everything does. They’re clear and concise and actually worth reading, and I applaud majority for their efforts here. Hopefully other companies will follow suit. As part of their ongoing environmental commitment, Majority also plant a tree in one of their managed forests for every order received.
The Belford takes up a more traditional transistor radio look and feel. It reminded me of the Grundig radio that used to sit on my grandma’s kitchen counter, playing radio 4 or classic FM over breakfast. In fact on the surface the two radios bear many similarities, though dig in a little and the decades between them start to show.
The Belford is an FM / AM radio with a DSP-based digital tuner. It’s not without analogue charm though with a rotary tuning dial and physical tuning scale. Weighing just 379 grams It contains a non-replaceable 2299mA 3.7V lithium-ion battery with a micro USB port for charging. Given how little power is required to run a radio, battery life is extensive reaching almost a full 24 hours on a single charge in my testing. This is the perfect radio for the garden, beach or even the work site.
On the back is a seven-section telescopic antenna and a carry handle. The front is mostly covered by a mesh grill with the tuning scale above, controlled by the dial on the top with an accompanying mode switch. On the right is a headphone jack, volume control and (at the back) a micro USB charging socket.
Grandma’s old Grundig was strictly mains operated and had short, medium and long wave AM bands. The Belford is medium wave only, but at least in the UK there isn’t much on AM radio these days, sadly. I was able to pick up BBC Radio Guernsey however, which is approximately 103 miles away from me. It covers the UK range of 522-1620KHZ on AM and 88-108MHZ on FM, and US models cover the full 520-1710KHZ AM frequency band in 10kHz intervals.
The Belford has a monaural 2.5 inch (66 mm) speaker. Though no spec is given it probably outputs a watt of power at most, though that’s plenty to help it get surprisingly loud. Sadly the headphone output is also in mono, though it is at least wired to come out of both headphones.
It’s sensitive too and picks up weaker stations with ease. Being a digital tuner the dial doesn’t tune in a linear fashion. Rather there is some choppiness as it locks onto the next frequency, and fine-tuning a station requires minute adjustment of the dial. But it’s a small price to pay for a radio that has no trouble receiving just about anything I’d expect to receive in my area, and even a station or two that the hi-fi tuner can’t quite reach.
The Eddington is decidedly more modern, though still has something of a retro pocket-radio charm about its appearance. Inside however is a DAB+, DAB and FM tuner, and Bluetooth, so you can use it as a pocket-sized Bluetooth speaker for a smartphone, tablet or laptop lacking in the sound department. You can’t expect much bass from a radio of its size, but it manages impressive performance regardless and can put out plenty of volume without distortion.
Like the Belford, the Eddington has a seven-section telescopic antenna and comes complete with a micro USB charging cable. I’d like to see the switch to USB C for charging which is finally becoming widely adopted as a universal standard and is physically superior to micro USB in just about every way.
The Eddington has 20 presets and a dimmable colour screen, plus a headphone jack and 1900mA lithium battery, offering up to 12 hours of playback on a single charge. Playback time reduces to around 10.5 hours when listening via Bluetooth or DAB, but it’s still more than you’d typically get with a pocket radio running from a pair of AAs.
The Eddington is well made. It’s plastic, but it feels rugged and I’m sure it would withstand a knock or two. Its flimsiest part is the small flip-out stand on the back, which being a tiny radio it requires to stand unaided on a surface. The Belford is well made though its larger, hollower casing gives the Eddington a greater perception of build quality.
It’s pretty slick in operation too. Powering it up for the first time initiates a full DAB scan, after which the first available station will begin to play. The stations are listed alphabetically, and there’s an option to purge stations from the list that can’t be received due to weak or no signal. You have 10 presets each for DAB and FM, two of which are accessible directly via the preset buttons on the top. Presets 3 to 10 can be selected from a menu.
Pressing the mode button cycles between DAB, FM and Bluetooth. Bluetooth pairs immediately and works flawlessly as expected. FM reception is decent, though not as good as the Belford. It does at least have a band scan function and can jump directly to frequencies where it finds a signal, or it can be tuned manually.
The Eddington also has alarm, sleep timer and hold functions. The latter is especially useful for use on the go, as it locks every button bar the physical power switch meaning they can’t be accidentally pressed and functions activated. There’s a dynamic range compression (DRC) feature to normalise the volume of sounds, available in two levels or able to be disabled entirely. Lastly there is a facility to update the software, though this requires a software program for the PC which you must contact Majority’s customer service to obtain.
And though the radio itself is obviously monaural (fitting 2 speakers in a case that size would be extremely difficult), the headphone output is in full stereo. DAB reception is excellent picking up as many stations as the hi-fi tuner can, and it manages to maintain a strong signal on the move. The FM radio isn’t quite as good with some background hiss and weaker performance over all, but most of the stations you find on FM have DAB broadcasts now anyway.
One use for the Eddington I hadn’t considered is the ability to use it as a bridge between a Bluetooth device and a pair of normal wired headphones. Bluetooth isn’t the best quality streaming solution out there, and there are no specs to give us any indication of exactly which version of the Bluetooth protocol the Eddington supports nor which codecs it can handle. But if you’re working around the house or outdoors, your phone lacks a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and you don’t own a pair of wireless headphones, the Eddington might just provide the ideal solution. Connect your headphones to the Eddington and pair your Bluetooth device, and you have a bridge between the old and the new. And, as it happens, it sounds very good indeed, with the added bonus that the Eddington’s headphone output is surprisingly powerful and dynamic given its small size, dare I say it as good as a portable headphone amplifier.
These are two great portable radios. I know the days of hiding under the duvet listening to pirate radio are long gone. I know that slipping a smartphone into the classroom, rather than a radio and earbuds is the new normal. But for many of us radio has played a huge part in our lives and continues to do so. Whether for entertainment, news for even just for some company when alone, the radio, I hope, will always be there. The Majority Belford is a highly affordable no-frills radio with the advantage of an AM tuner, something which many radios now lack. The Eddington is the ideal travel companion – an excellent DAB+ radio with added FM, a pocket Bluetooth speaker and a Bluetooth bridge for your old-fashioned headphones. Highly recommended.
You can purchase the Eddington from Majority direct by Clicking Here, or from Amazon by Clicking Here. You can purchase the Belford from Majority by Clicking Here or from Amazon by Clicking Here. We earn a small commission through Amazon sales via these links, which helps keep the site alive.