If you’ve ever had the chance to play with a short-wave radio, you know how addictive it is to tap into far-away places and sounds. The Acoustic Energy WiFi Radio is a small, attractive standalone device that uses wireless networking to put more than 3000 international radio stations at your fingertips.
Using the rotary control knob, you can view the stations by country or genre on the LCD display, and press select when something tempts you. The radio supports any station that is connected to the private Reciva online radio database and downloads a new station list every time you fire up the radio. Although you could go and program in any of these stations on a PC, who would ever spend the time to do such a thing? The real joy here is in the exploration, the novelty of jumping around from one end of the globe to the other. Some stations do take longer to access than on a standard radio, but the delay is nominal. The WiFi radio will also play MP3, WMA, or Real Audio files that live on PCs within the same network, but most people have better speakers already attached to their PCs.
The WiFi Radio’s sound quality isn’t great, but also not bad considering it’s streaming compressed radio through a box about the size of a cracker tin. However, when I hooked the radio into Acoustic Energy’s excellent Aego-M speaker system (see “On the Radar”) using the headphone jack, the sound quality was more impressive and even at loud volumes didn’t break up.
The WiFi radio does have a few drawbacks, such as periodic dropouts due to Internet bottlenecks. The lack of a battery option is also unfortunate, so you can’t carry it around the house as you might a portable iPod speaker. Nonetheless, it’s great to see more and more interesting tech devices that are able to operate without a computer, and leverage complex technologies such as WiFi in a simple-to-use way. TPV