Beyond accessing radio stations through apps on my iPhone, internet radio was a new concept that I had never really considered. So, when I was given to opportunity to test the Grace Digital Mondo Internet Radio, I was keen to see what it offered.
Complete with a catalogue of internet-based radio streams, including all the popular mainstream stations, the selection of thousands of stations is truly impressive. But how does the overall experience compare to the one provided by the traditional FM and DAB radio systems?
Normally I’m an FM and AM radio listener, I’ve tried DAB but have never been convinced by the quality and I’ve found it less than reliable. I was half expecting the internet radio experience to be similar, but after testing it for a while I was pleasantly surprised.
Setting up the Grace Digital Mondo Radio
When you first switch the Mondo on it automatically scans for local WiFi access points. Using the dial and the 3.5″ colour LCD screen on the front of the radio you select your access point and then enter your passkey.
The process of selecting the characters is quite awkward but not complex. The biggest issue I had was remembering to distinguish between upper and lower case, fortunately you only need to go through this process once during the initial setup.
When the radio has been successfully connected to your internet connection you will be able to access the range of stations as provided by the Grace online database.
How Many Stations??
This is where internet radio really shines. There are thousands upon thousands of stations available for you to listen to, in fact it can can be a little overwhelming when faced with the channel list.
To help you find a station the Grace Digital Internet Radio provides a number of search tools designed to minimise the effort required to select the required channel.
Firstly there is an option to display the stations that are local to you. As the radio is connected to your router it knows your rough location. Using this information a station list is produced showing the commercial (and BBC in the UK) stations available in your region. This is certainly much quicker then the old fashioned FM method of manually searching through stations that are being broadcast in no logical order.
If you are looking for national or international stations you can browse stations by either location or genre.
A location search lets you select which country’s radio stations you want to browse. After you select a country you get an option to either see all stations or select a genre subset.
A genre search works in the opposite way, letting you select a genre from a significant pick list and then either viewing all the stations in that genre or choosing a country subset.
There is also a traditional search box field allowing you to enter a search term using the fiddly dial based character selection system.
For those interested in the compatibility of the radio, the Mondo Supports the following streaming protocols: HTTP, HTTPS, RTSP, WSMP & Shoutcast.
When you have found one of your favourite stations you can add it to a list of 10 preset stations for quick access. Simply hold the preset button you want to assign the station to for a couple of moments.
Audio Quality and Technical Specifications
The audio quality of each station is dependent on the bandwidth that it’s broadcast at. In my experience any station broadcasting at 128kbps is fine for music and talk radio works fine at 32kpbs. Some stations offer a choice of streams in different broadcast quality, so you can try them to see which is better for you.
It’s worth bearing in mind that unlike FM and DAB radios, changing stations isn’t an instant affair as you will need to wait while the device connects to the internet stream and then buffer the music. It can take up to 10 seconds to switch stations, but this isn’t a real hardship – it’s just an effect of the technology used.
The Grace Digital Mondo radio has a 12w Amplifier, attached to a 3″ woofer and 1″ Tweeter. This means that this won’t be the best cutting-edge audio experience you’ll find on the market, but it’s more than ample for a household radio.
As well as providing access to internet radio stations, the Mondo Radio has a built-in USB port which can be used to used to play your IFF, AIFC, WAVE, CAF, NeXT, ADTS, MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WMA audio files.
It’s also possible to connect to a UPnP server. There’s also aux-in and phono connectors on the rear of the device to add additional connectivity options.
As you might expect from a connected radio there are a number of online features which add to the value of the device. Where a subscription is required you’ll still need to pay but out of the box the Mondo provides access through to..
- MP3 Tunes
- NOAA Radio
- NPR Services
- BBC & BlogTalkRadio Podcasts
- Rhapsody – 2 Months are included through a voucher supplied with the Mondo Radio
There are some big names featured here, and if you explore these services or are already a user of them you will see the value of this facility over the traditional radio hardware.
Perhaps the biggest name in music streaming is missing though. At the moment Spotify isn’t available on the Grace Digital platform. Within the Spotify forums there is a suggestion that Spotify compatibility will be added to Grace devices sometime during 2015 but if this is a ‘must have’ for you then you may want to wait until its officially launched.
With this being a connected device there is also accompanying free iOS and Android app. This allows you to completely control the device from the comfort of your own smartphone. The app is functional rather than visually appealing but it is easy to use and does the job well.
Is it Raining Outside?
One of additional features I like is the included weather widget, which uses your location and connectivity to deliver an update weather forcast for the week ahead, it may be a simple addition but its a nice touch.
Is it Worth it?
Costing more then your average DAB or FM radio, whether or not this radio is right for you depends on what you want to use it for.
If you are a creature of habit and only want to listen to Radio 2 whilst cooking dinner, or if you are looking for a cutting edge audio player, then there are probably better value options for you. However, if you like to explore music, want to use online services or have become disillusioned with DAB or AM/MW quality then actually the Grace Digital Mondo Internet Radio has much to offer.
Internet Radio might be the future of broadcast music and device like the Mondo might provide the stepping stone into that world.
Want one? It’s available on Amazon for £147.13 but you can hunt around and find it for less on eBay and other stores if you have a hunt around.