Spending Smart

Capturing the hidden music

Price is the main difference among popular options for Internet radios

By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Correspondent / September 20, 2009

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You know about radio and CDs, satellite radio and MP3s, but did you know that the biggest selection of music is streaming over the Internet right now? And you can listen to it all for free.

In fact, there are more then 10,000 stations you can tune to with an Internet radio or special software on your home computer. The stations are a mix of Internet-only broadcasts and feeds from traditional AM/FM radio stations from dozens of countries around the world.

Internet radio adds up to a lot of music, news, information, and talk. It’s the Internet - it’s everything from the latest rock to the top 10 hits in the United Kingdom to dance music in Eastern Europe. Even New York fans can hear their local sports talk right here in Boston. The Globe tested four Internet radios.

The quickest and easiest way to get going with any of these radios is to plug them into your network with an ethernet cable. All four products will sync with your network and get you going automatically. Then, it’s just a matter of scrolling through all the menus to find a station that tickles your fancy. All four units will also connect to any wireless Internet access network.

At $149.99, the Livio Radio was our favorite of the bunch because not only do you get all the Internet radio channels, but the Livio is also compatible with Pandora’s ( wealth of online music, which just adds to the pleasure. The Livio also has an artsy look, a compact size, and a big sound.

The Logitech Squeezebox Boom, at $299.99, is a fantastic choice with its great acoustics and stylish fluorescent green display, but the price is higher than for the others we tested. Also, Logitech has two brand new Squeezebox branded radios coming out this fall, including a touch screen radio that looks amazing.

The Myine, at $149.99, has all the features of the other radios except the speakers, so it’s as good as whatever home theater or stereo setup you have going on at home. It’s also a vertical setup, and we would like it better if the Myine was designed flat with a front-facing interface like a small DVD player.

Finally, the Cobra radio, $179.95, was a big surprise. Cobra has the CB radio and radar detector markets covered, but the CIR1000A was well put together and sounded just as good as the similarly designed and sized Livio Radio. It was a few dollars more, and that’s really the only bad thing we’d say about it.

Pros: The Livio has a compact size and artsy look, but the sound is anything but small. It also works with
Cons: The knob should be a little deeper.
The final word: We’re happy. You’ll be, too.

Pros: It’s small and does everything an Internet radio should: It gets radio off the Internet.
Cons: The price is high for something that doesn’t even have speakers.
The final word: If you have a great speaker setup at home, this will add to it nicely.

Pros: The Squeezebox was the best-sounding radio we tested. We love the green light display and intuitive interface.
Cons: It’s a bit expensive. It’s also the largest of the four products, if footprint means anything to you.
The final word: We anticipate the price of the Boom will drop when the next two Squeezeboxes are released later this year. If you can get the Boom for under $200, it’s a steal.

Pros: Cobra surprised us here. The radio works well, configures in a snap, and sounds just fine.
Cons: Price is the only naysay, especially with the Livio having more features at $30 less.
The final word: We’d be happier if it were $99.