The mid-sized R2i is a handsome unit indeed. It has a low, compact shape, with an iPod dock and control knob and buttons on the top, leaving its front face clean and uncluttered.
Set in the brushed metal front, you'll find two speaker grilles, an LCD, a power button, a 3.5mm audio jack and aux-in for non-Apple MP3 players — you'll find gold-plated phono sockets on the back for connecting an external recording unit, or TV or computer.
Our review unit was housed in a classic walnut veneer chassis, but it's also available in high-gloss Dream White or Midnight Black.
On the back is where you screw in the aerial, which means it might be difficult to use the R2i as a radio player if you have it placed on a bookcase.
It also comes with a little plastic remote, which, in sharp contrast to the speaker itself, feels cheap and flimsy, made of light plastic with blister buttons.
The R2i really is a bit of a jill of all trades. It has the aforementioned iPhone/iPod dock, of course, which fits all generations of iPod from 2004 — we tested it with the 2005 iPod Video, the 2010 iPod Touch and the 2011 iPhone 4G, and all worked perfectly.
In addition is its ability to function as a speaker for all MP3 players via the front aux-in, which we tested with the Creative Zen X-Fi Style.
It also functions as a DAB, DAB+ and FM radio; it can be plugged in to your telly or computer for a sound boost; can be plugged into an external recording system or amplifier; and it can even operate as an alarm clock radio.
The Vita Audio R2i is very user-friendly; we found set-up a snap in the first instance, with just a power cable and aerial to be attached before it was ready to go — and, in fact, had already homed in on a DAB+ station, so we were greeted by the startlingly loud dulcet duet of Simon & Garfunkel when we pushed the power button.
The buttons are clearly marked and laid out on the top of the device, allowing us to switch easily between modes. FM radio was fiddly, since we had to scan the channels manually, but it sounded clear enough.
True to our first impressions, though, the remote proved tricky to work with; although, like the speaker, its buttons were marked clearly (although the scroll buttons for "up" and "down" were placed oddly), it proved temperamental when, for example, using it to scroll through iPod tracks; we'd press the up and down buttons and take a gamble as to whether it would actually respond. We ultimately found it easier just to reach over and interface with the iPod directly.
Curiously, the remote was more responsive with radio functions, although still sluggish to respond. We could only conclude that it works best with the actual speaker, and stumbles over attached MP3 players.
Sound-wise, the R2i offers a robust experience, handling most of what we threw at it with aplomb. Delibes' "Lakme Duet" was achingly crystal clear, Nick Cave's "Curse of Millhaven" appropriately roary without burr, and Katzenjammer's "Bar in Amsterdam" rich and detailed.
There was some distinct fuzzing on the lower tones of Goldfrapp's "Strict Machine" at higher volumes, which is fairly normal for a speaker unit of this size, but it's nevertheless capable of filling a fair-sized living space, making it great for home use as a music dock or supplementary audio boost for your entertainment system.
There are several audio modes; "3D" and "Loudness" are set to "On" by default; turning them off makes the sound significantly thinner and quieter, so we'd tend to suppose we'd never actually turn them off, but your mileage may vary.
You can also set the EQ to "Low", "Normal" and "High", depending on the type of music you are playing.
There's very little to dislike about the Vita Audio R2i. It sounds great, and looks the part, and its impressive array of functions make it an excellent all-in-one audio entertainment unit for the home.