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Internet-era radio has vintage looks

By Mark Baard
August 15, 2011

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Internet radios
You have your first edition of William L. Shirer’s “Berlin Diary’’ on your lap, a mug of Ovaltine by your side, and a wooden radio set on the table.

Were it not for the ear buds you’re wearing, and your iPhone or iPod, you might be able to imagine you are taking a rest from your adventures in wartime Europe.

This digital music player looks so much like a 1940s tabletop radio that you would expect it to play only news from the front or performances by Benny Goodman’s orchestra.

The Victoria Nostalgic Internet Radio - like the SD63 Retro-Style Hi-Fi Stereo Headphones covered in this column last week - is yet another example of how manufacturers are latching on to consumer fascination with a time when hardware had style.

The Victoria has an exterior composed of walnut and birch, with rounded edges, wooden knobs, and an authentic carved pattern over its speaker cover.

Only the Victoria’s small digital display gives it away as a modern creation.

A Wi-Fi device with a single 4-inch speaker, the Victoria (priced at about $230) can stream thousands of Internet radio stations, the online music service Pandora, and other cloud-based content, according to the radio’s maker, Grace Digital Inc.

You can also connect the Victoria to your iPhone or another source via the radio’s auxiliary input, stream music from your PC or Mac, or play music from the computer via USB.


Compact device gives a boost to iPhone tunes

Those wee speakers for the iPhone that college kids unpack each fall are often wonderful - certainly better than the portable cassette players and boom boxes that pounded dorm rooms back in the day. But Orb Audio LLC says its latest compact amplifier will bring out even more of the best in your iPhone’s music library.

The new amplifier, the Mini-T, has a stereo mini headphone jack to connect to your iPhone or iPod, or any other music source, and it connects directly to stereo speakers. It’s capable of playing music from any single source at “reasonably loud volumes,’’ according to a statement from Orb, even though it measures only 6 inches wide, 5 1/2 inches deep, and 1 1/4 inches high. That makes it small enough to place in front of your computer monitor or on your nightstand.

Orb makes ball-shaped speakers, about 5 inches across, that can flank your PC monitor or TV screen from atop tall stands or rest on desktop bases. The speakers come in a variety of colors and finishes. The speakers, which the company says are handmade in the United States in small batches, are also more expensive than those mini-speaker packages hanging from hooks at Best Buy and Micro Center.

A pair of Orb’s Mod1 stereo speakers, with no subwoofer, costs $239. Its cheapest home theater package costs about $800.

Orb is selling the Mini-T for $88, and is selling the amplifier as part of a package with two speakers for $299.

A subwoofer for the Mini-T package will cost you at least about $300 more.

A few years ago, we noted that the selection of speakers and accessories at Orb’s website is overwhelming. That has not changed.