The 10 Best WiFi Radios
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in June of 2015. If your AM/FM dial isn't cutting it anymore, you can tune into stations from around the world with one of these Wi-Fi radios. They can satisfy even the most eclectic tastes with the variety they offer, and the sound quality of some is exceptional. Unfortunately, you won't hear any local commercials, so you'll never find out if anyone managed to beat Crazy Al's insane sale prices. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 11, 2020:
Many of the WiFi radios on this list have subsequently become unavailable or discontinued since we last checked in - five to be exact. This gave us plenty of space to start adding newer models and even some slightly older ones that have held their own in a fast-changing market.
We bumped the list up from nine items to ten by adding the Ocean Digital Portable, an inexpensive and lightweight option that gives good battery life - perfect for taking with you into the garage or garden for a day's work or relaxation.
The Sangean WFR-28 was also included as a compact model for moving from room to room, with plenty of alarm and sleep timer functions if you want it on your bedside table instead.
The Como Audio Amico was included for its distinctive design and rich sound, a good younger brother to the Como Audio Musica if you don't need the CD-playing ability and want to spend about half the money (although it still isn't exactly cheap). Coming in at a slightly lower price point is the Lemega M3+, also encased in real wood veneer to complement most decors, and boasting many of the same features and superb quality sound.
The Ocean Digital WR230S is also a solidly built model housed in thick wood, except painted black. It has a large LCD and jog-dial that makes navigating through the menu a breeze and can store a whopping 99 favorite channels in the presets to save you faffing about with searches every time.
The moderately-priced SiriusXM Sound Station provides lots of features like news, weather, sport and music, so long as you're happy that they all come exclusively via Sirius internet radio - so it's worth checking that subscription out first, which is also an additional cost.
December 10, 2019:
I wanted to remove some of the more ‘dated’ models as well as upgrade a few of our picks. I swapped out the Wave SoundTouch IV for the Como Audio Musica. The latter was a great direct replacement as these are both high-end models. With the Como Audio, you are getting a newer and significantly more stylish and feature-rich model -- and it retains the CD player that the Bose had, so you’ll never miss a thing. On the other side of the spectrum, I added the CC WiFi. I also added the Ocean Digital WR100F, which is just the perfect combination of economy and function – it has a nice user-interface, and a stylish finish too.
I updated the Amazon Echo from the discontinued 2nd gen to the 3rd gen and did the same with the Amazon Echo Dot. Remember that while the Echo Dot is made to be connected to other speakers (for more sound), I’d still recommend it over the Echo because it’s so much cheaper and it serves as a great entry-level model – plus the 3rd generation Echo Dot is just so much louder than the 2nd generation.
Both the Echo and Echo Dot give you a more ‘hands-off’ approach compared to the other models and they can work with multiple radio-based apps. Finally, while the Sangean WR-22SE isn’t my first pick, I must note that it has aged incredibly well.
Radio Waves and Revolution
With a WiFi radio, all this can change when those locations provide access to their media over the internet.
In the digital age, the internet has opened a lot of doors when it comes to making previously inaccessible things suddenly accessible. People are instantly connected through email, social networks, instant messaging services, and online forums. If the internet connects people and services from all over the world in a fraction of the time it would ordinarily take through conventional means, then why shouldn't access to music and radio offer the same convenience?
Imagine living in a rural area with poor reception from local radio stations. How would you overcome this obstacle? Or perhaps you're interested in accessing a particular genre/radio station that you could only pick up in Moscow or Sydney, Australia. It's more likely that your conventional FM radio device wouldn't be able to pick up that radio station in either location. With a WiFi radio, all this can change when those locations provide access to their media over the internet.
Also known as an internet radio, a WiFi radio is a hardware device capable of receiving and playing streamed audio content from either an internet radio station or a home network. This audio content can take the form of podcasts, music, or news stations. Streaming media has the advantage of delivery to your device as it's being downloaded, meaning that you can start listening to the content before it has finished downloading completely. This saves you from having to wait to download an entire audio file from the internet before listening to it.
Regardless of the device used, audio streaming is delivered to its receiver using lossy compression and several audio formats that include MP3, Ogg Vorbis, Windows Media Audio, and RealAudio. An audio codec is also used to decode the streaming content so you can enjoy it through the radio's speakers.
Setting WiFi radio apart from conventional radio is its ability to broadcast content from virtually anywhere in the world using an internet connection. WiFi radios usually have built-in speakers, making them self-contained devices. With a stable internet connection, there is virtually no geographical limitation for station access, whereas you would be limited to a range of around 100 miles using a conventional AM-FM radio.
A WiFi radio downloads a selected audio stream from one of several services that are compatible with the device. Some of these services include Pandora, Last.fm, and Spotify.
Connecting To A Vast Sea Of Sound
Choosing the best WiFi radio depends on what you plan to do with the device. For example, many WiFi radios offer built-in docks for connecting your mobile phone so you can listen to music from the device without an internet connection. If you're into cutting-edge technology and user-friendly design, then a radio with a full-color touchscreen is always a good idea. But if you appreciate classic designs, you can still find a variety of internet radio devices with dials and knobs for adjusting volume controls or setting the clock. At the end of the day, style is a personal choice and a radio could be thought of as a piece of furniture.
If you're into cutting-edge technology and user-friendly design, then a radio with a full-color touchscreen is always a good idea.
An on-board clock and large digital readout are both important to your WiFi radio, especially if you plan to keep it on your nightstand and use it as an alarm clock. That said, finding a radio that makes good use of battery power is also key, since you don't want to go out of your way for wide access to thousands of radio stations only to be limited to a certain location because it doesn't run on batteries.
Many WiFi radios also come with convenient remote controls, so if you have the device set up in a bedroom, kitchen, or living room, a remote is definitely a big selling point for controlling presets and other functions from across the room.
Audio recording is another big plus that may appeal to you with such a wide range of access to content over the web. Some WiFi radios have recording functionality and are equipped with USB ports for recording/saving podcasts and music to removable media, which comes in quite handy if you do a lot of traveling.
Customization is integral when you find a group of stations or music genres that most appeal to you. Many WiFi radios have button presets to access preselected stations that are super easy to program when you set the device up.
A Brief History Of The Technology
The history of the internet radio device is very much connected to the history and development of the internet radio service itself. Conventional radio technology had already been established since the early 20th century, so the radio provided an excellent platform from which internet radio could springboard.
The history of the internet radio device is very much connected to the history and development of the internet radio service itself.
Internet radio was pioneered by Carl Malamud. In 1993, Malamud launched Internet Talk Radio which was the first computer-to-radio talk show, during which he interviewed a computer expert each week.
With the advent of streaming RealAudio over HTTP, streaming became more accessible to a number of radio shows, which included the popular TechEdge Radio in 1997 that was broadcast in 3 formats: live on the radio, live from a RealAudio server, and streamed from the web.
As DSL and Broadband internet replaced the slow and low bandwidth of dial-up connections in the late 1990s, internet radio became that much more popular at the turn of the new millennium, since streaming could now be accomplished much faster than ever before.