Acoustic Energy has come up with a novel way to listen to radio. Forget FM and even DAB, internet radio is the wave of the future. Over 10,000 radio stations from around the world are broadcast over the internet: that’s most big FM stations and pretty much all DAB stations. The Acoustic Energy WiFi Radio is an ingenious way to listen to internet radio, and it’s almost as easy to use as an ordinary radio.
There is a little to set up, and you will need a wireless broadband connection, but if you don’t have your network protected with a password the radio will work instantly. If there is a password you’ll need to configure it, which is a little fiddly because there are only ten buttons and a dial on the radio. But once that’s done you’re ready to listen.
Of course, navigating 10,000 radio stations is not an easy task, though the WiFi Radio does a reasonable job considering its meagre allowance of buttons. Most of the navigation is done via the dial and the select button. Turn the dial to select stations, and then choose either Location or Genre. If you choose Location you are given a selection of continents, then you can choose by country. Once you get to country level it becomes a list, which is fine in most cases. If you are looking for a station in New Zealand, for example, there are six to choose from. If you look at the UK, however, there are 375 – which is a little more difficult to handle. Fortunately, you can assign stations to the preset buttons; otherwise it would be too ungainly to be useful.
The sound quality is generally good, though it is dependent on the bit rate of the streaming audio available. The radio can play MP3, Real and Windows Media feeds, and that part needs no configuration. With a good feed – and most of them are – the audio quality is very good indeed. It’s a mono speaker, but most feeds are mono anyway.
It doesn’t stop at 10,000 stations, though. Acoustic Energy claims the radio can play MP3 content from any computer. While this is undoubtedly true, it doesn’t do this job very elegantly when that computer is a Mac. Because the radio has a Linux operating system hidden within, you’ll need to turn on Windows Sharing to have a chance of getting any tunes on your Mac to play. Even then, you’ll have to move your music into your shared folder. This is something you really don’t want to do if you’re using iTunes because it means messing with either two separate music libraries, or at least using aliases of your iTunes library. This is a bit of an oversight on the part of Acoustic Energy, because if it had used the UPnP AV standard that most media players and iTunes use, this would have been as easy to use as the radio.
Despite the shortcomings of the media player function this is an amazing piece of equipment. If you have a wireless broadband connection it makes listening to any internet radio station simple. Sure, you could listen on your Mac, but you’re not going to have your Mac sat in the kitchen. I can overlook its media-playing weakness, and the rather puny alarm clock abilities. But the price is a bigger hurdle. At £199, the WiFi Radio is more expensive than a DAB radio, but the number of available stations is hard to beat.