The 10 Best WiFi Radios
10. Grace Digital GDI-IRC7500
9. Sangean WFR-28
8. Auna Connect
7. Zettaly Avy
6. Amazon Echo
5. Sangean WR-22SE
4. Ocean Digital
3. Bose Wave SoundTouch IV
2. Amazon Echo Dot
1. Sonicgrace Bluetooth
Radio Waves and Revolution
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.
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.
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.