Another feature on the radio is that it’s got a built-in Media Gateway. It can scan for shared folders on PC on the network and play the MP3 files it finds. It takes quite a while to scan, so if you’ve got several gigs of tunes go make a cup of tea.
There’s a headphone out at the back, and I was hoping that 192Kbps MP3 would sound better and though there was an improvement it still quite compressed and woolly.
Another potentially interesting feature is the Reply button, which is there as a return path for interactive services. There aren’t any right now, but there could well be in the future. Perhaps for interactive radio quizzes and Pop Idol style voting.
Overall, the Acoustic Energy works well, and is an impressive debut for stand alone Internet based radio. However up to now I haven’t mentioned the price. At £180 it’s not exactly a impulse purchase.
It could really appeal to anyone living overseas that wants to listen to the comforting sounds of home. However, both the bit-rate limitations of online radio and the radio itself means that sound quality isn’t a distinguishing feature.
The sound quality issues means that it will only suffice for background listening in the bedroom or den though it does suit speech more than music. A battery option also wouldn’t go amiss.
For me, the best feature by far is being able to access the BBCs On Demand service without a PC and for some that might be worth the entry fee alone. Otherwise, you’d have to really want to be able to pick up stations that you can’t over regular analogue or DAB.
One final point to consider is that if you leave the radio on all day and night you’ll be using a fair old amount of bandwidth. Those who are are on a Internet service with a low cap could easily get a nasty shock when they are charged extra by their ISP.
If you’re a big fan of online radio stations, the Acoustic Energy Wifi Radio is a winner. In particular being able to access the BBCs On Demand services without a PC is a great feature. However, low online bit-rates and below average sound quality do detract from its appeal.