Confused by wi-fi radios
September 1, 2011 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Please help me choose a wi-fi radio. (Or: "Do you own a Logitech Squeezebox and do you like it?")

I've never owned a wi-fi radio. My ideal machine, which of course may not exist, would have these features:

1. Effectively limitless ability to stream any radio station anywhere that has a stream available, rather than some curated/selected list of stations;
2. Good loud volume for listening to speech radio while doing other stuff around the house;
3. Rechargeable battery-operated, for easy carrying from room to room;
4. The usual alarm functions you'd expect from a clock radio or travel radio;
5. If at all possible, a regular FM/AM receiver as well as the wifi services. Though I realise this is probably asking too much.

My efforts to understand the tech specs of the available machines, especially the Squeezebox which seems to get the best reviews, are causing me bafflement! I'm not interested in streaming music from my music collection, and I'm confused by how hard it seems to find a straightforward comprehensive list of the stations I'll be able to hear with any given model.

Does the Logitech Squeezebox come closest to meeting my criteria? Do you own one and like it or hate it? Would you recommend something different?

Thanks for all and any advice.
posted by oliverburkeman to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you own a Logitech Squeezebox and do you like it?

I do and I like it very much. I have a Radio and a Boom (which it looks like they don't make anymore--bummer). I use it as my alarm clock (set to my local public radio). The alarm function is *awesome*--the volume fades in; it can handle different alarms for every day, even special alarms for a given week. If the network fails and it can't stream the radio when the alarm is supposed to come on, it plays a tone, which also fades in. They handle presets nicely, too. The volume controls on the machines themselves (or their remotes) are more supple than the volume controls on the computer interface, but the volume range is good. Can't speak to battery operation, as I've never used it.

You can stream any radio station that offers the option. (We listen to KEXP, KQED, WBEZ, WAMU). You can play radio feeds from the all sorts of services like sirius, BBC, CBC and lots of other things. Some have a higher fiddling threshhold than others to get to work, but many are already programmed into the basic menu. Even if you don't want to stream your own cds, you can use pandora, spotify, lastfm, shoutcast and probably hundreds of others, too, instead of radio. There's apps for podcasts, too.

It doesn't have a tuner, but the range of available plug ins (added to what's already programmed in) is pretty comprehensive.

It comes with pretty minimal instructions--which was very scary to me. The forums are also daunting for me (I have no tech savvy) but I've been able to figure stuff out using them (often enlisting the aid of my more-tech-savvy-compainion).
posted by crush-onastick at 11:28 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

As an alternative setup, I'd suggest an iPod Touch along with any good set of speakers with an iPod dock. You don't get every radio station there is, but there apps for most (and you can stream Pandora or Spotify.)

To me, this is the most cost-effective solution, as the Touch is a really useful device to have in general, and you're not just spending money on a limited device like a squeezebox.
posted by Jon44 at 11:54 AM on September 1, 2011

I have a Squeezebox Touch and a Boom. I love them both. Note that the Boom (which is a radio of sorts, as opposed to the Touch, which streams music to a stereo setup) is NOT battery operated, and does not have a FM/AM receiver. Otherwise, it fits your criteria.

"it seems to find a straightforward comprehensive list of the stations I'll be able to hear..."

That's because there is no such "comprehensive list". If it's on the Internet, you can tune in using the URL. So unless there's a comprehensive list of every radio station on the Internet...
posted by mikeand1 at 12:06 PM on September 1, 2011

"You don't get every radio station there is..."

As long as it's on the Internet (e.g. has a URL), you can tune into it.
posted by mikeand1 at 12:07 PM on September 1, 2011

I know four other people with Squeezeboxes of various types and they all have at least two - they bought one, then they wanted more.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:11 PM on September 1, 2011

Response by poster: If it's on the Internet, you can tune in using the URL.

Ah, good. This struck me as how it should obviously work, but I couldn't find it stated so straightforwardly for the Squeezebox (or indeed other radios).
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:19 PM on September 1, 2011

Response by poster: On the basis of these very helpful answers I suspect I'll go ahead and order a Squeezebox Radio, but further responses for the next day or so will still be very gratefully received and read!

Jon44, I totally take your point, though. In my case, a very portable radio is a sufficiently essential part of my daily life that having it all in one physical unit, I'm pretty certain, will outweigh the benefits of the setup you describe, but that's just me.

Thanks all.
posted by oliverburkeman at 1:19 PM on September 1, 2011

I have four squeezeboxen, one really old unit without speakers, two radios, and a boom. I run the server software on a mac mini (previously on a linux server.) I love it and will never part with it ("it" being the system as a whole.)
posted by davejay at 3:39 PM on September 1, 2011

I got distracted looking at these just the other day and made a note to research similar models by Pure and particularly Robert's before buying.

posted by dirm at 4:48 PM on September 1, 2011

I've used a few different wi-fi radios, starting with Roku's Soundbridge, then more recently Grace Digital's Solo and most recently Squeezebox Radio.

Soundbridge was and continues to be my favorite; alas discontinued and sure to fail on me sooner than I want.

Grace - eh. Can't stream my iTunes library, otherwise fine - with some outboard speakers, good for the nightstand.

I seem to be less enamored of the Squeezebox than other owners. I'm no tech dummy, and I can get it to work the way I want it to, but it's such a chore to set up, to figure out what the radio's capabilities are when it's 'connected' to vs. when it's connected to Squeezebox Server on my iTunes computer (can't have both simultaneously, and some functions only work with one or the other).

And when I take it to a friend's house, it's like I'm taking it out of the box again. The battery is expensive (meaning 'not included'), big and heavy and runs down too quickly. The monaural sound, though, does fill the room nicely.
posted by DandyRandy at 5:32 PM on September 1, 2011

I ran the slimserver software without a squeezebox for years before buying one. Now I have two. They're terrific.
posted by roue at 7:01 PM on September 1, 2011

Look into Aluratek. I have one and I like it. I also use an iPod Touch and my Android phone to get internet radio. A good app on both is Tunein Radio.
posted by mbarryf at 5:37 AM on September 2, 2011

I love my squeezebox 3 THIS MUCH.

One thing I'll throw in there is that one thing Slim got right is audio quality -- these things sound great. My whole collection is FLAC and you can tell that they've done their homework on the DAC and the rest of the audio signal chain.

(And the little details: the headphone jack on the squeezebox can be reconfigured as a remote control sender, so now when I hit "Play" in slimserver or on the iPhone squeezebox controller app, my receiver turns on and switches to the right input.)

Also if you are technical you can not only ssh to the Radio but when you login you're greeted with instructions on how to revert whatever you screwed up.
posted by mendel at 6:28 PM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: Update: I bought the Squeezebox Radio and so far it's working out fantastically. It's true that the instructions that come with it are horrifyingly inadequate — they really need to add a few more paragraphs explaining what you'll be able to do once you get onto the website. But the website is pretty straightforward. I've had trouble getting streams to play by entering their URLs, but have not yet encountered a station I can't find with a bit of searching through the apps available through the site, so this hasn't yet resulted in me not being able to stream a station I wanted to hear.

Two notes: first, the product doesn't come with the rechargeable battery pack as standard, you need to order it separately. Second, this thing is quite a large heavy item — as it happens, I really like its sense of heft and solidity, but it's only really portable in an "around the house" sense, and certainly not a travel item.

Thanks very much indeed again for all the guidance above.
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2011

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