Thursday, January 15, 2009

New internet radios from Grace Digital

- New models for USA buyers from Grace include battery power and iPod dock
Before Christmas, Grace Digital said that they were going to be bringing out some new Reciva-based internet radios in early 2009.
They have now released the details and it looks like products should become available in February/March (update: one of them is not Reciva-based).

One of the radios features an iPod dock (not just an Aux-in socket). Internet radios with iPod docks are an interesting development. There are other manufacturers who have done the same thing, but it does blur the edges between internet radio, digitised music at home and personal media players.
Someone with an iPod that can handle Wi-Fi can achieve something very similar by getting a lower cost iPod speaker dock and using one of the many (free) internet radio players from Apple's AppStore.
Arguably it is not quite as easy to use - but it also brings many other functions.
However, if the person with the iPod sticks it in their pocket and goes out ... then the speaker dock becomes useless - but that is only important if there is still someone around to listen!
For people with their music collection stored on a computer - they can get to it via UPnP and other remote media streaming protocols or possibly over a shared file system and, of course, while sitting at their computer ... so they would probably not need the iPod feature of an internet radio.
Grace have neatly side-stepped the issue by making two versions available - one with and one without the iPod dock. You can pay your money and make your choice - with a 50USD difference in the models.
This option is something that some of the Pure advocates think that should have happened with the Avanti Flow.

So - what have Grace announced? In essence there is an update plus 2 completely new models, including one that is battery-powered.

The update (GDI-IR2000 and IR1000) updates the ITC-IR1000B by using what looks like the same casing and adds 5 more presets (via a new "Shift" button as seen on other Reciva-based radios), software controlled tone settings and, for the IR2000, Aux input plus a small remote control.

To accommodate the "Shift" function within the pre-existing case layout, the buttons go through some renaming and it looks like "Browse" and "Reply" have been replaced by "Retrieve". This will confuse established Grace and Reciva users if they ever need to help newcomers via the forums.

The new models come with some variations.

The GDI-IR3000 has 2 speakers and a variation with an iPod dock (IR3020) - both available with a richer remote control (offering 99 presets).


The remote compounds the "Reply"/"Retrieve" confusion referred to above by adding "Recall".
No indication, as yet, of the power of the speakers, but maybe it is 2 of the old ones - i.e. 2*4.5W

The final new model is the GDI-IRP600 (presumably "P" for portable) and is their first with battery-power. GDI-IRP600
From the user guide it looks like it is not Reciva-based. The menu structure is different and is presumably using the vTuner bask-end.
There are not many battery-powered Wi-Fi radios.
One big reason being the amount of power that is drawn when trying to run a Wi-Fi connection when a long way away from a wireless access point (for example - down at the end of the garden). Plus, if you are much further away (maybe out on a picnic) you will probably not find any wi-fi to connect to!
However, by including an FM tuner, that draws a lot less power, it does mean that this becomes a portable device that should be able to be taken away from home for the day or longer.

The recent addition of support for the internet versions of the Sirius satellite content via the Reciva platform (although requiring a paid subscription to Sirius) and possibly only available to Grace radio users, will no doubt be of interest to many listeners in USA.
Sonos and Logitech/SlimDevices have had Sirius support for a while - but Grace has the potential to bring it to a new entry-level price.

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