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Five Best Internet Radios to Buy

By Edited Aug 12, 2015 0 0

 

Streaming media is taking over our lives. If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to replace that FM table radio with a streaming internet radio. You can still get all of your local stations but without static or distortion and also receive tens of thousands of other stations on the internet. First available on the PC and later on iPods and smart phones, the technology has now advanced to dedicated tabletop receivers. Here are five of the best internet radios that sell online for under $150 with pros and cons for each.


Top desired features in a live internet radio:
  • Solid network performance - Resetting the radio every week or two to get it to connect should not be required.
  •  Good sound quality - Table radio fidelity is all in the quality of the speakers. Some of the radios also come with built-in subwoofers.
  •  Easy to use interface for setup and day to day station navigation.
  •  Separate volume knob independent of the navigation knob - All these five models functionally have this; some older models did not.
  • User friendly favorites list - It is desirable to easily add and delete favorites.
  • Ability to play Pandora Radio - Note that the service is free only up to 40 hours a month, then costs you $2 for any month that you go over 40 hours.
  • Ability to play other pay services such as Sirius, Rhapsody and Slacker.
  • Color display - Ideally it should be one that shows song cover art, not just menus and currently playing titles.
  • Stereo speakers instead of a mono speaker.
  • External audio input jack for a portable MP3 player.
  • Reliable alarm clock that is easy to use and has 5-7 alarm settings.
  • Wired ethernet - Using the wired ethernet will solve inexpensive wireless router issues.
  • Good customer support and repair policies.
  • Firmware that can be updated by the owner - if it updates automatically, that’s even better.



#1 Logitech Squeezebox Radio - $135-199 online
Logitech(49874)

Pros:
  • Color display that shows cover art
  • Sound quality medium to good
  • Uses Logitech MySqueezeBox online network for accessing paid services - works better than Reciva network on other models
  • Can stream and play your songs from media share PCs on your home network
  • Supports Pandora, Slacker, Rhapsody and Sirius subscription services
  • Separate volume knob with ergonomic shape and placement
  • Seven day alarm clock function
  • Aux in 3.5mm mini-jack for external MP3 player
  • Good network robustness
  • Wi-fi and wired ethernet

Cons:
  • Remote not included but available as an add-on accessory
  • One mono speaker
  • Setup is overly technical for typical user
  • Battery pack for portable use is an add-on accessory (remote and battery sold together for $50)



#2 Grace Digital GDI-IR2500 - $112-170 online
Grace

Pros:
  • Supports Pandora, Sirius, NPR On-Demand and iheartradio subscriptions
  • Streams music from your PC
  • Practical four line display
  • Separate volume knob from navigation knob
  • Five alarm settings
  • Uses Reciva online network to access internet radio stations
  • Good network robustness

Cons:
  • Average sound quality
  • Remote has spotty performance for some users
  • US radio stations only searchable by call letters, not by city or state names
  • Tedious scrolling method for entering station call letters
  • Wi-fi only - no wired ethernet



#3 Vtech IS9181 - $125-220 online
Vtech

Pros:
  • Stereo speakers
  • Wide flat design with top controls to keep front uncluttered
  • Five day weather forecast display mode from AccuWeather
  • Uses Vtech website to search for radio stations
  • Streams from computer media library
  • External 3.5 mm audio input jack
  • Color LCD display with multi-line information
  • Remote included
  • Good sound quality
  • Built-in subwoofer
  • Six internal AA batteries to allow portable operation
  • Solid network robustness
  • Good owner’s manual and setup wizard

Cons:
  • No Pandora or pay subscription support
  • No headphone jack
  • Wi-fi only - no wired ethernet
  • Display does not support cover art
  • Flush rotary knob on top that is used for navigation is awkward to operate
  • Volume up down buttons instead of a knob



#4 Livio Rando - $123 - 150 online
Livio

Pros:
  • Entire interface is optimized for Pandora 
  • Also receives free internet radio stations
  • Remote included
  • Wi-fi and wired ethernet
  • Uses Reciva internet radio database
  • Aux-in 3.5mm jack for external MP3 player
  • Five alarm settings

Cons:
  • Sound quality average
  • No support for streaming tunes off your local PCs
  • No support for paid music subscription services other than Pandora
  • Initial setup is difficult - it’s easiest to do online from the Reciva website
  • Network robustness is just average
#5 Aluratek AIRMM02F - $99 online
Aluratek

Pros:
  • Wi-fi and wired ethernet
  • Also has FM broadcast reception
  • Streams from computer media library
  • Stereo speakers
  • USB port on top of radio for playing mp3 music from a jump drive
  • Comes with a remote
  • Good network robustness

Cons:
  • No presets (favorites) or back button for playing previous songs
  • Volume low on internet radio stations
  • Customer service is poor
  • Alarm clock display uses gimmicky font that is hard to read
  • Alarm clock only has dual alarm settings and no snooze button
  • Doesn’t display time while listening to a station
  • Interface is not intuitive
  • No USB playlist function


In conclusion, all of the current contenders make better table radios than clock radios. They are ordered in this article from best to worst in features and performance. Which features are considered important will depend on your use. If the radio is in the kitchen, you may want small size and not care about the display as much. On the dining room table or in the home office, a color display with cover art and stereo speakers may be more desirable. In the end, most of us end up listening just to the same 1-2 stations each day so the external input jack or usb port may not be that important in your decision.  

I have owned the Logitech Squeezebox Boom, the big brother to the Logitech Squeezebox Radio, for several years and use it everyday on the dining room table, mostly listening to Pandora and Absolute Radio (UK). I also have owned a Roku Soundbar and had Sirius and Slacker subscriptions so my experience is extensive on this subject. Many of the network issues that I read about in user comments are caused by inexpensive wireless routers that cost under $60, not the internet radio design. The above comparisons were distilled down from hundreds of customer comments on internet radio reviews and from the manufacturer’s information.
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