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New Wi-Fi Radio Is Small and Mighty
Category: Personal Technology
Wi-Fi radios are an anomaly.
They're made to look and feel like radios, but they're really not radios at all. They're really small, single-purpose computers that are programmed to receive thousands of music streams (from radio stations or your hard drive) via Ethernet or wireless (Wi-Fi) connections to the Internet.
Most of the radios I've tried (and I've tried a bunch) seem to be designed in Europe, Great Britain and Asia. Now, the premier radio specialists in the U.S. have come up with one of their own.
C. Crane Co. of Fortuna, Calif., calls its model the CC WiFi Radio. It is utterly adorable!
C. Crane says its radio has a small footprint. They ain't kidding. It measures a paltry 6.5 inches by 3.9 inches by 3.9 inches and weighs a little more than one pound. It actually seems smaller and lighter in real life.
It has crammed a great-sounding 2.5-inch speaker inside along with headphone, line-out and Ethernet jacks on the back. This is a perfect size for a nightstand or any other nook or cranny you can think of. Power is handled by a 7.5-volt external power supply.
There's a back-lighted, two-line display on the front, and controls include a large, multifunction volume/selector dial on the front surrounded by six little buttons that control a bunch of other functions.
The CC Wi-Fi can handle files encoded in Real Audio, Microsoft Windows Media Player, MP3, Apple's AAC MP4, AU, WAV and AIFF formats.
The set-up is similar to that of other Wi-Fi radios: You either plug in an Ethernet cable or program the radio to get signals via your home or office 802.11b/g wireless network connection. After that, you find the stations you like, and you can then program them into the whopping 99 memory settings. Until now, the highest number of memory settings I've ever seen was 12 -- in a Sangean table radio.
When you're done, all that's left is to sit back and enjoy.
I've set the internal alarm to wake me each morning to my favorite station -- whether it's all-news WINS, or music from WFUV in the Bronx, N.Y., WBGO in Newark, N.J., or TSF from Paris. Radio stations come in loud and clear -- and some streams (such as WFUV and TSF) that "broadcast" a 128 kbps signal sound terrific.
I do have two small gripes.
First is that the radio is physically so small and lightweight that pushing the on-off button is sometimes a two-handed operation. I guess that's the downside of such a small radio.
The other gripe is more easily fixed. Although the receiver has 99 preset memories, only three are actually available by pressing pre-programmed buttons.
The rest are accessible only by using the (included) remote control. Worst of all, there's no readout of your saved-station list -- so you have to access each one separately until you find the one you want.
When I brought this up with C. Crane, the company agreed -- and said it would see about a software solution that would let you scroll through a list of your saved stations. This kind of change can probably be added to a future firmware update. (Don't forget, it is easy to automatically update a computer that's connected to the Internet.)
Those quibbles aside, I absolutely love the CC WiFi radio. You will too. It's available on the C. Crane Web site for $215.