Internet Radio Reviews: Changing Your Tune

Radio is one of the oldest electric mass communication media still in use today, but all over the world we are seeing the death of analogue radio. Open air broadcasts themselves are starting to shift to a digital format and people are now just as likely to livestream radio stations via their preferred internet connection rather than dial up a free-to-air signal.

No matter how much you turn that tuning knob however, grandpa’s radio won’t hook up to your WiFi, so you either have to hook your phone up in a MacGyver-like mess or you can get yourself an all-in-one internet radio device that will let you listen to a world of audio choices.

If you want to beam your music all over your home you should go check out my multiroom audio reviews, but here you’ll find the most popular specialized internet radio devices. I have put my top picks first and the rest are not ranked.

Best Overall: Grace Digital GDI-IRC6000 Wi-Fi Music Player

Grace Digital is a well-known name in the internet radio industry. At least, I see their products everywhere internet radios are sold, so I have to assume they are well known.

This radio touts 17,000 radio stations. Most likely, however, you’ll only care about five of them at most, but it’s nice to have the option of Tibetan throat farting music if the mood takes you.

For a small tabletop unit the GDI-IRC6000 has a decent amount of audio punch. With a single three-inch woofer and a one-inch tweeter it should do nicely as a podcast or light music machine, but if you need some bass and stereo you have the option of attaching speakers via the RCA-out plugs. Apart from the RCA outputs you can also hook up some headphones and attach USB storage to play a whole list of audio formats, including lossless ones.

It lacks Bluetooth, but I don’t see that as a negative in this product category, since the music you’d want to beam from your phone would come from one of the supported streaming services anyway. That’s not to say that there is nothing for your smartphone to do; you can control the Grace Digital from within the app and there is a dedicated remote as well.

While this radio is probably best used as a tabletop device, you can buy a battery pack for it that will provide twelve hours of playback.

There’s not much negative to say about this internet radio. It comes in at a fantastic price. It has sound quality good enough for most users who want to listen to radio with a bit of music in between and it’s pretty simple to use. I was immediately attracted to this as a product I would buy and use myself, and that’s why it get’s my vote as top pick.

Resistant to Change Pick: Grace Digital GDI-IRDT200 Tuner

Unlike the Grace GDI-IRC6000 that I chose as the best all-round internet radio, this slender unit from the company is not an all-in-one solution. Instead this is a head unit that offers all the same digital features of the IRC6000, but slots into your existing module-based HiFi system.

This radio tuner is perfect for people who are already happy with their existing sound equipment, but just want to add a little digital smarts to it.

So you get the same 17,000 radio stations like Pandora and NPR. There are many output options. Basic analogue RCA is present and accounted for, but there’s digital RCA too and optical output. You can choose to feed the internet via WiFi or the more permanent ethernet.

This is more than just a digital radio though. If you have network-attached storage it will stream that audio for you as well.

This is an elegant and affordable solution that lets you keep the HiFi you already love and simply add music from a new source.

Buyer’s are lyrical about the performance and sound of this tuner at this price, but complain about the dated interface. There’s no full-color LCD as there is with the previous choice, just an old-school backlit blue LCD.

Still, I think this is an elegant stopgap solution for the HiFi lover and if I had an existing system that I invested a lot of money in, this would definitely be a solution I would consider.

Best for the Money: Sangean WFR-28 Internet Radio

Oh, my stars – this is a cool-looking radio. Sangean took the whole “radio” part of internet radio very seriously and provided us with something that looks like ham radio equipment, or perhaps a piece of lab equipment like an oscilloscope, with a speaker where the screen would be. I love the way this radio looks – I can’t lie.

The price is pretty good, not dead cheap, but also quite a bit less than the mid-end of the market. For your money you get access to thousands of internet radio stations, USB MP3 playback, and support for battery-powered operation.

The Sangean was designed to be small and portable and can pick up RDS FM as well as internet radio streaming via WiFi.

Being a portable unit, this does make some serious compromises in terms of its interface, but you can use your smartphone to control the unit.

There’s a single built-in 12W speaker that apparently provides pretty decent sound out in the garden or in the garage. There are, however, multiple stereo jacks both for input and output, so you can enjoy the full experience using your favorite headphones.

Overall, Sangean has done a great job creating something affordable, usable, and of good quality. Even if you have a more homebound digital radio, this one is worth looking into.

Aluratek AIRMM03F Internet Radio Streaming

As far as Internet radios go, the Aluratek AIRMM03F (catchy!) is a very affordable example.

When I first saw pictures of the unit I immediately thought that this was some sort of cradle for an iPhone. The screen nestled between the two speakers looks almost exactly like one from a smartphone. I would not be surprised if it was an older generation screen mean for phones, since it is in fact a full touch screen. Actually, this seems to be an actual modified Android phone with some speakers stuck on. It can’t access Reciva or most internet radio channels and has just a few apps. There’s no access to Google play and no way to install your own apps. This may be cheap, but it’s not that much less than a proper internet radio from someone like Grace digital, so skip it hard.

Grace Digital GDI-IRCA700 Wireless Radio Adapter

This is a cool little device. Like the internet radio tuner I reviewed further up this page, this is not a complete solution, most obviously because it lacks built-in speakers.

On the back you will find nothing but two RCA jacks and a single USB port. Speakers or other devices capable of receiving and RCA input are connected here. The GDI-IRCA700 has a lovely front face dominated by its 3.5” screen and a stylish knob. It reminds me of a fancy car radio that would usually be installed into the main console of a car.

Like other Grace Digital products this not only acts as an internet radio that plays stations straight from the net, you can also stream music you have stored on your PC (or Mac) through this unit on your stereo system.

While this lacks the stackable form factor of the tuner I review further up, it has far superior controls thanks to that screen. It would have been nice, however, to include touch functionality, but the button controls are apparently just fine and that would have added to the costs quite a bit, for no compelling reason.

The GDI-IRCA700 is a straightforward, attractive, functional internet radio adapter for a strongly competitive price. If you don’t care about the stackable form factor and like the idea of a compact, user-friendly adapter such as this one, I have no hesitation in recommending it.

Ocean Digital WiFi WR232 Review

Sometimes simplicity is the best way to go. Ocean Digital certainly applied the KISS principle when they designed this unit. It’s a simple box from the front. Half the face is taken up by the solitary speaker and the other by button controls and a simple text LCD display.

It’s attractive, I’ll grant you, but at this price the competition is offering a full-color LCD, which makes the WR232 feel a bit dated and lacking in value.

Make no mistake, according to people who have lived with this radio it performs very well, and you may very well prefer the styling and more minimalist interface. But as a general comparison I’d like to think that most people would prefer the more graphical interface option. If you don’t care, keep this open as an option.

SiriusXM TTR1 Tabletop Internet Radio

Like the WR232, this radio takes a more traditional approach in the way it looks and interfaces. There’s no full-color screen here with pretty graphics. Instead there is some attractive, but only functional amber LCD lettering. I think the TTR1 is a very sexy-looking piece of kit, and once you have all the presets programmed the interface should not be too much of an issue. One thing this radio has over the WR232 is that it looks much more like it belongs with high-end traditional audio gear. I get a very traditional Sony or Technics vibe from it. In its own way, it looks premium.

Sirius seems to think so as well and says that it is designed to fit in with almost any decor. It’s got some clever features too. A notable one is that the display automatically adjusts its brightness in response to the lighting in the room. So you don’t have to worry about being blinded by its screen in the dark. The time on the clock is also set automatically via the internet, immediately making it superior to every alarm clock in history.

The inclusion of alarm functionality clearly shows that Sirius intends for this to be used as a sort of alarm clock radio replacement. It does however also come with a remote, so you don’t need to keep it within arm’s reach even if it makes a home in your bedroom.

Sirius says that the speakers are full range and there is an adjustable EQ. In terms of inputs and outputs, there is of course somewhere to plug in your headphones, but there are also auxiliary inputs and outputs to integrate it with other audio equipment.

In practice this radio seems to perform pretty well, when it works at all.

Despite being easy to use and having good sound, multiple users complain about network connectivity issues and having to constantly enter the network access details. Usually this sort of bugginess can be sorted out via a software update, but at the time of writing such a fix had not yet been released. Stay away from this unless you know exactly why you wanted it and what issues you may face.

Ocean Digital Internet Radio WR80

This is the smaller sibling of the WR232 I review on this page as well. While I thought that the bigger brother in this range offered too little for too much money, this substantially cheaper model may help me reach a different conclusion.

I really like the design of the WR80. It is still minimalist and basic like the WR232, but in this case the basic design and simplistic controls complement such a unsophisticated display.

The WR80 evokes those single-speaker wireless units that have been popular throughout the life of commercial radios. While most people may think of stereo boomboxes when they recall the age of radio, the first viable portable transistor radios looked very much like this. Of course, the WR80 does have a much more modern and polished look, but the basic design is the same as that of the classic products.

This radio can connect via WiFi or through an ethernet cable. You can also pick up normal FM radio for when the internet is out.

There is room for 99 presets out of the thousands of possible stations, and for quick access there are four dedicated preset buttons for the stations you listen to the most. You can also stream audio to the WR80 from any UPnP compatible or iOS device. In terms of outputs and inputs, both come in the form of a 3.5mm stereo jack. Finally, there is a remote control.

That’s really it. The WR80 is about as basic as you can make an internet radio. At this price it has a nice set of features and if you have a space that could do with a bit of life there are worse options than this. I think it’s cute, functional, and worth the money.

Sangean WFR-20 WiFi Radio & Media Player

What is this chunky beast? This does not look like something you buy to display in public. This screams “Hide me in a closet.” It reminds me of the big amplifiers they use for live music played over public address systems. It looks like an uninterruptible power unit from the 90s.

Still I am told that this is, in fact, an internet radio, and if you want the included IR remote to work you probably don’t want to put it in a closet of any kind.

The next thing that strikes me is that this is a pretty expensive unit – one of the most expensive that I looked at. The basic screen, single knob control, and, frankly, ugly shell don’t make that price easy to stomach. I have to ask myself “Why am I paying so much?”

The first thing that comes in as a redeeming feature is the fact that those two grills on the sides of the display hide two large, full-range speakers. So this has more punch and fuller stereo sound when compared to many of the tabletop units we’ve seen here.

You can connect to the internet either through a wired ethernet connection or wirelessly, as you may expect. You can also play music from the local network, streamed off a computer.

Based on what I’ve seen of product owner responses, this seems to be an older design that doesn’t have some of the latest features and does not support all modern streaming services.

Honestly, I have a hard time justifying the extra money for such a comparatively basic device. Rather buy a more modern device for half the money and use the difference to buy an awesome set of speakers – a much better solution.

Internet Killed The Video Star

For a couple of years there I thought that radio would die out completely, but the iPod and the rise of the podcast stopped that trend dead in its tracks. After that, audio streaming became affordable and practical. You didn’t need a broadcasting license to run an internet radio station, so there was suddenly a wealth of content out there. Now that we have data-saturated home, smart TVs, and automated systems for almost everything, it’s great to see the humble radio find a place in all of this modern technology.