F IRST LOOK Bob Grove firstname.lastname@example.org Sangean WFR-20 Wifi Radio Pick your own Programming A s I type this review, I’m listening to the ❖ Features crisp brass of Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio The WFR-20 supports MP3, WMA, WAV, Italien emanating from the two 3” stereo AAC, AIFF, FLAC Real Audio, and AU formats. speakers in a small desktop radio. But this radio A choice of display languages is user-selectable. is something quite different from what I’m used A clock/sleep/timer/alarm is yet another functo; its wireless interconnect feature has linked it tional selection, adjustable for 12 or 24 hour to the Internet through my host computer from a format. distance of up to 300 feet, allowing me to visit And, if you’d like to use the WFR-20 to hundreds of classical music broadcasts at any access your personal digital media library via one time, and countless other stations and stream your wired or wireless networked computer, you sources throughout the world. can select Windows™ Media Player™ using You don’t even have to have a computer; the radio’s UPnP Server, or optionally call up it can be used as a stand-alone receiver working your Microsoft™ Shared File Folder function into a broadband Internet connection and a wired using any of the formats listed in the paragraph or wireless router. above. Your computer’s hard-drive-recorded The radio is from Sangean and it’s the programs can be fast-forwarded or fast-reversed WFR-20, their new WiFi Internet radio. Its by a simple click of the remote control. sleek, black cabinet with one dial belies its Sound quality on the Sangean is quite good multi-functional capability. A touch of that dial for a table radio. A single dial controls volume, allows many menu choices, and a tiny infrared bass and treble, as well as station and mode remote control makes the tasks even easier. selection. This little radio with big sound offers a The three-line, backlit LCD display is menu with options of some 60 genres of music easy to read, and provides all the programming including favorites like jazz, flamenco, folk information as it is manipulated either by the music, classical, rock, new age, rap, country, dial or the remote control. After the station is bluegrass, Christian, blues, hip hop, Latin, old- selected, the display automatically announces ies, and many more. Talk radio, sports broad- the station along with the contents as provided casts, news, interviews and other non-musical by that specific program. programs are also available at the touch of the Since starting this review, I’ve switched dial. channels. Right now the scrolling display is You can search for these stations with the telling me that I’ve selected AccuRadio Classic radio or you may use your favorite web browser Crossover, and I’m listening to Alfred Brendel’s and upload them to be filed in the “My Stations” Sonata No. 3, Opus 53 D. 850, 2. con moto, and folder. Many of these stations offer a choice of that Real is enabled at 64 kbps in MP3. “Live” (current broadcast) or “On Demand” The multilingual display vocabulary may (previously-broadcast) sources, the latter of be selected from any of 11 different languages. which can be fast-forwarded or fast-reversed. The display offers a wide viewing angle of It is estimated that there are currently more large characters, and brightens when the dial is than 20,000 active Internet radio stations and pressed or turned to make an adjustment, dropaudio stream sources available. These are reg- ping back to a softer glow when simply scrollistered for your reference on the Reciva portal ing its information. The backlight dial may be website: www.reciva.com. By registering with adjusted for brightness levels to suit the user. Reciva, the listener may configure his WRF-20 to access an enormous database of What distinguishes the new wifi radios stations and streams of his preferisn’t their hardware – it’s what you can ence, effectively increasing the hear on them! radio’s initial 12-channel memory substantially. Internet radio is like listening to satellite XM or Sirius, but with an astronomically larger selection, and without a monthly fee! Granted, the satellite feeds are available to portable and mobile radios wherever they roam, while Internet radio still requires the computer connection. 66 MONITORING TIMES July 2008 The WFR-20 is powered from AC; internal audio power to its speakers is 5 watts per channel, available for optional external speakers or a set of headphones from rear terminals. To feed the receiver’s audio to an external amplified stereo system, a stereo line output is also provided. Both audio sources employ standard 3.5 mm (1/8”) jacks. There is an additional 3.5 mm input jack for allowing the radio to accept an external audio source with two different programmable sensitivity choices to accommodate high or low input levels. Its WiFi connection is supported by both 802.11 b and g, or the user may wish to utilize a direct LAN (Ethernet) connection (cable included). The radio measures 11-1/2”W x 4-1/2”W x 7-1/4”D. As with all digital equipment, future upgrades are inevitable. Any such upgrades for the WFR-20 may be accessed on line via the Configure menu item. ❖ Internet radio peculiarities One annoying characteristic of Internet Radio is the capricious nature of some program sources; you may be listening to your favorite music and suddenly it’s switched to another piece. Or the buffering of the incoming data is choked by the connection and you experience frequent audio dropouts during your favorite passages as it catches up. Not all programs announce their program content, so it may be impossible to identify what you’re hearing without having access to their program schedule. And finally, not all channels are active all the time. Switching through the memorized stations is not rapid; it may take anywhere from a few seconds to nearly half a minute for the radio to load on each newly-selected channel. ❖ A final note Internet Radio is just one more staggering achievement in the evolution of the worldwide web. It offers the potential to draw divergent civilizations closer together. And what better way to do it than with their music and their voices? MT will continue to bring you Internet Radio programming information in regular installments. Stay tuned to the GlobalNet column!! The new Sangean WFR-20 WiFi Internet Radio is in the $300 price class and is available from MT advertisers.