The Wifi Radio Revolution

From Sam Rose, reblogged from Smart Mobs. The quote is from the original LA Times article:

The AE Wi-Fi Internet radio is a stand-alone receiver, preprogrammed with more than 2,500 online stations. Designed to operate more like a radio than a computer, it’s made by Acoustic Energy in Britain and is scheduled to hit the U.S. marketplace in mid-May.

It won’t be alone. Roku’s long-delayed SoundBridge radio — also a stand-alone unit that can pick up Internet radio via Wi-Fi — is also scheduled to start shipping next month. It comes programmed with only about 80 stations (more can be added) and lacks the user-friendliness of the AE machine. But the sound quality is better.

Both models bring Internet radio closer to the practicality of traditional radio. They might require the presence of Wi-Fi signals and electric outlets (because neither runs on batteries), but they fit nicely onto nightstands, bookshelves and kitchen counters.

Neither is cheap. The AE has a list price of about $300. The SoundBridge is about $400.

The tech-retro appearance of the AE, with push buttons under a small info screen, looks like something out of the old sci-fi “Thunderbirds” show. I get a kick out of the look, but the simplicity of those controls is at the heart of the AE’s charm. Using an all-purpose “select” button and the tuning knob, I can easily navigate station lists organized by location and genre.

There are 710 stations to choose from in the U.S., 380 in Britain, 33 in China, 21 in Mexico, nine in India, two in Trinidad and so on. By genre, there are 109 stations classified as alternative, plus four bluegrass, 11 Bollywood, 120 classical, 102 gospel, 81 jazz, 36 hip-hop and many more.

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