Roberts was founded in 1932 by Harry Roberts and Leslie Bidmead – they financed
a deposit on a small factory by selling Bidmead’s motorbike!
The company was initially based in central London but moved to East Molesey in 1941. In 1962, the company had a purpose-built factory constructed in West Molesey, and still retains a presence in the area but is now based in Mexborough, South Yorkshire.
The company has been granted three Royal warrants in its own right, and one via its acquisition of Dynatron Radio Ltd.
By the late 1930s the company had settled on an upright box shape set covered in coloured leathercloth with fabric loudspeaker grille – a style that they would keep to and evolve slowly.
The company struggled in the 1980s until one of its radios was featured in a 1989 Martini TV commercial. Interest was revived. Two limited edition product runs sold out quickly and led to the popular reissue of the original design as the Revival model.
Roberts produced their first DAB digital radio in 1999. In the 2000s Roberts successfully sold BBC World Service branded wide radio sets.
The definitive re-imagined model of the classic 1950’s style Roberts radio is seen in the Revival RD60 which is complete with DAB technology, is iPod/MP3 enabled and a stereo speaker.
Now owned by the Irish consumer electronics group, Glen Dimplex.
My Roberts Radio experience: As curious as it may sound, almost every music company’s office I have visited in many year involved in that business, in addition to the retro gold and platinum discs that tend to decorate reception areas and Boardrooms, it is usual to see near to the sound system of any Artist & Repertoire (A&R) person worth their salt – a Roberts radio – an essential piece of hardware.
Why? The reason for this is perhaps a little less relevant today – as so often music is now listen to on a streamed or download fed BlueTooth enabled stereo sound player – but it was very important when making a critical creative judgement on the sound of a recorded track. By passing the sound feed through a Roberts radio the A&R person could hear what the listener to a radio station at home or in the car would hear – often as a mono signal. Often too bright productions were made a little simpler as a result.
An eternal regret was that my Grandmother’s Roberts Radio, dating from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s was wrapped up in a house clearance – it would have been a prized possession.
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Photo from Roberts Radio