This is one sensational system — loaded with cleverness, led by its eponymous touchscreen. We’ve seen such proddable screens on digital radios before — Pure’s strange but award-winning footieball Sensia led the way. But Grundig’s Trio Touch is even easier to use, proving almost flawless in operation and, crucially, sounding buckets better.

What do you get in this neat do-it-all box? There’s an iPod/iPhone dock on top, digital DAB+ radio and FM within, plus a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection to internet radio, networked music streaming from your PC, and also LastFM online music (for which you need a US$3 a month subscription). There are dual alarms with snooze, a full-sized and friendly remote control, and a raft of EQ options (that we never felt any need to invoke).

Before you think to praise the abilities of Grundig’s German HQ at fitting in all this innovation while still sounding great, be aware that this design comes from Grundig Australia; the Trio Touch was specified and tuned here in Oz, working with a UK design team. We applaud their work.

The Trio Touch’s home screen is a colourful 3 x 3 grid of options — see our notes below left to read how successful each section proved. Set up was fabulous. The onscreen keyboard is just large enough to make Wi-Fi password entering a breeze (press accurately and confidently for best results). The speakers can be detached to allow a wider sound and more flexible placement; their hidden Grundig logos and slip-proof bases indicate they should be rotated 90º for such use.

Remarkably both the speakers and the main unit boast full-size hi-fi speaker binding posts — a tad redundant if you use the fiddly bare-wire cables provided, but it points to potential upgrade options (you might use better cable, or possibly higher-quality speakers, though you’d want a sensitive pair that wouldn’t overly tax the fairly meagre internal 10W amplifiers).

Late in the test we went further, mothballing the speakers entirely and using the RCA audio outputs from the central unit into a hi-fi amp — et voila; all these sources sounded perfectly enjoyable on our main system. The optical digital output would be even more useful but is limited to the DAB+ and FM sections. There’s also video out from your iPhone. The only thing we might yearn for is iPhone/iPad App control to make navigating large internet radio or media lists even easier than via the slightly fiddly touchscreen two-speed scroll.

The final delivery of all this through the speakers is excellent whether you leave them attached or separate them. Systems of this size can vary sonically from dismal to delightful, and Grundig has used all its table-radio expertise to make this a winner; great levels for a bedroom or study, with a rich, well balanced sound with real hi-fi elements getting you right into the music. The rear ports mean close wall-placement can bring a little extra bass, but really the system doesn’t need it, and the midrange tended to get a little shoutier; the speakers performed best in relatively free space.

Verdict

The RRP of $599 is not insubstantial for a unit this size, and puts it in the ring with some other key contenders. But we know of no competitor that offers this range of sources together with such simplicity of control via touchscreen, backed with a sound that had us playing track after track, just to enjoy ourselves. Outstanding.

Features

iPod: Fabulous sound from iPhone or iPod (check your model under Grundig’s compatibility list), controlled via touchscreen, remote control or the player itself. Tray inserts are supplied.

DAB+: The Trio Touch tuned easily to all the wonders of digital radio in our office location, though its rod antenna proved less receptive than some rivals when positioned in a known blackspot at Geare HQ. Given a good DAB+ signal it displays station ID and text information where broadcast, while useful rescan and ‘pruning’ operations are easily to hand on the menus.

Internet radio: Easy access to a world of music, including top-level folders for Australian stations and podcasts; ‘listen again’ content is also shown under individual stations. Again the ability to search using a touchscreen keyboard massively simplifies your journey to a desired station or podcast. All worked well and (station-dependent) sounded great, with only one occasional glitch — if interrupted, long podcasts tended to reset to the beginning, which is a bugger because you often can’t FF through them to your previous point.

FM: No problems and great options here. You can autoseek for all stations or just strong ones; RDS identifies stations by name; there’s easy favourite storage and a mono option for hissy stations. Great work.

Last.FM: We were surprised to get this working so easily; we never have before! But using PayPal to subscribe for US$3 a month (you can sign up on a non-renewing basis if you just want to try it out), the Grundig was soon streaming tracks based on our suggested artist, at enjoyable quality, and with artwork included. The more you use Last.FM, the better it gets, though it should not be confused with on-request subscription music services like Rhapsody or Sony’s new global service (p96). Here you specify your favourite artists, and Last.FM then returns ‘Artist stations’ or ‘Tag stations’ populated with tracks related to that artist. So Led Zeppelin, for example, returned cover versions and Robert Plant solo work, but no actual Zep. As you ‘love’ stuff, it’s added to ‘Favourites’ which can be replayed somewhat unpredictably. Think of it more as a personalised radio station than subscription music.

My Music: Point it at a music share on your network, and up pop your tunes ready for streaming,

with artwork and track info, all the way from MP3, WMA and AAC up to FLAC — we enjoyed glitch-free lossless Wi-Fi streaming from our remote MSI laptop. Mac users will need DNLA server software (the manual seems very confused and unhelpful here); it couldn’t access our Leopard machine, but worked beautifully from an iTunes back-up stored on a WD NAS drive.

Alarms: Dual alarms with variable snooze time!

Settings: The Trio Touch will remember up to four wireless networks, as well as having an Ethernet socket for those able to provide a hard-wired network connection. Here you can also perform system updates online, and adjust the length of the time-out and intensity of the display backlight levels; as with the whole unit, this is thoughtful stuff.

REAR PANEL

  1. The full-size binding posts are a tad strange but heaven forbid we should criticise this higher-quality option...
  2. An optical digital output provides the ability to output some but not all the Grundig’s sources into a higher quality sound system (there’s also an analogue audio out via RCA phono sockets)
  3. There’s composite video out for running iPod video to a TV/monitor
  4. The headphone socket could be better positioned for ease of use (like on the front)
  5. One auxiliary input via minijack
  6. The Ethernet socket can be used in preference to the inbuilt Wi-Fi