On demand internet radio without a PC is what’s on offer from Acoustic Energy. All you need is a wireless connection. But is it worth the considerable outlay?

Let’s get one thing out of the way; despite looking distinctly low rent, this compact (but not bijou) unit is nigh on $500. Jaws closed though, because it’s very nearly worth it.

The box is a fully-fledged internet radio that’s fully compatible with MP3, WMA and Real content streamed via listings from Reciva. It’s fully independent; there’s no USB connection or software, while it’ll also stream audio from your Mac or PC over your wireless network – a process that is unbelievably simple. Browse by album or artist, adding to a playlist as you go.

Putting in a WEP or WPA key is troublesome since you have to cycle through the letters and numbers, but otherwise the rather basic controls (a dial and a few buttons) are uncomplicated, only becoming a problem when you’re browsing stations by territory.

There are 698 UK stations for example, many of which use an FM moniker like 102.6 Orchard FM as their name; this doesn’t help with identification. Browsing can be fruitful, but it’s more likely you’ll find it useful to look online for stations you’d like to listen to before finding them on the AE box. Look through stations by genre, continent and country though you will have to do a bit of sifting. The cost of choice. There are 10 presets though, so you can at least bring about some order.

On air, on demand

Due to the low bitrate of many of streams, don’t expect excellent sound quality. This isn’t helped by the provision of a mono speaker. But there’s something rather novel about listening to a breakfast show in New York at teatime. It’s also an issue that some stations require a time to buffer, but it’s unavoidable and not a fault with the box.

Another facet to love is the radio’s ability to cope with stations offering on demand content, such as the BBC’s national stations. Select one of these and you will be offered ‘live’ or ‘on demand’, enabling you to then select a date when you want to stream a programme from. Nifty.

What the AE Wi-Fi radio doesn’t replace is DAB. The fantastic sound quality and only slight buffer-free delay means that if you’re a stickler for UK digital radio, the AE box seems like a luxury too far. However, if computer-free listening to stations around the world, coupled by access to ‘listen again’ content, sounds like your kind of thing, then $499 is a price you may well be prepared to swallow.


Acoustic Energy Wi-Fi Internet Radio | $499 | | www.audioconnection.com.au
For: Access to global radio stations; PC-free connectivity; on-demand listening
Against: Sound quality varies; it’s a pricey bit of kit
Verdict: Sound is better with DAB, but for worldwide choice it’s a worthy, if expensive, purchase.

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