Integrates the best online music services with old-school CD and radio capabilities. Unbeatable music options with perfect sound. Syncs easily with most devices.
The instructions that come with it are a bit confusing. It's expensive, but you're paying for top quality.
Rivals pricier models with its superb music/radio capabilities and precise connectivity. Lightweight, streamlined design and vivid display.
Doesn't have a built-in speaker but easily connects to your favorite external speakers for the sound you want.
Sports convenient preset buttons and easy-to-read digital screen. Has a lightweight design and is on the lower end of the price spectrum.
WiFi connectivity can be unreliable, and it's difficult to sync with some Bluetooth devices.
Effortlessly streams music from countless online sources and thousands of online radio stations. Has a digital alarm clock function.
The design is somewhat bulky, and the sound is not as rich as that of some high-end competitors.
Internet radios are the perfect marriage of new tech and old-school convenience. While most of us can stream music from the web directly to our smartphones, nothing beats the convenience of a standalone music streamer that can keep music playing without interruption. Whether you’re seeking a casual stereo you can leave on to broadcast your favorite tunes in your home or a web-connected streaming device to connect to your existing stereo, an internet radio is your ideal option.
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Read our shopping guide for internet radios and get to know the features, drawbacks, and price points of internet radios. Then, check out the grid above to see the specific models we recommend.
On paper, most internet radios sport the same basic feature set: they stream music from the web either in the format of an online radio station or a streaming music service like Spotify. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end, because each internet radio brings its own interface to the table. As you’re shopping for an internet radio, spend time thinking about how you want to interact with your device, because your decision defines the experience you’ll have.
There are three main types of internet radio interfaces.
Nearly all internet radios include remote controls, but some of them can only be controlled through their remote. Using a remote as the primary means of interacting with your internet radio can certainly take longer, but it’s perfect for anyone who misses the old days of using a remote to play tunes through a hi-fi system.
A few cutting-edge internet radios support cloud-based digital assistant services like Google Home or Amazon’s Echo service. While models with built-in digital assistants are the most expensive, many find that the luxury of simply asking for what they want to hear is worth the price tag.
Many internet radios have built-in touchscreens with interfaces similar to a smartphone. (In fact, some interfaces are built on Google’s Android operating system.)
Touchscreen controls have the smallest learning curve, but much like smartphones, the experience can be marred by bad apps. Touchscreens are ideal for those who prize simplicity.
Many of the less-flashy internet radio models feature a small LCD screen that can be operated with buttons and knobs. While LCD screens can be a little more clunky to work with, internet radios that use them are much more affordable than their touchscreen cousins.
Internet radios with LCD screens are ideal for people who like to leave on a certain station, but they can frustrate people who like to change the station frequently.
Internet radios are more versatile than their name lets on – most, but not all, models can play audio in several different formats. As you’re shopping for an internet radio, consider your different music sources and which you’ll want to access. Consider both common and rare music formats, including the following.
While it may seem obvious, it’s important to make sure that any internet radio you buy can easily access free online radio stations. (Some satellite radio devices have WiFi and can be easily confused with internet radios, so read product labels carefully.)
If you also plan on streaming music from Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, or TIDAL directly to your internet radio, check ahead of time to ensure they’re supported.
Believe it or not, some internet radios include compact disc players. And truth be told, CD-quality audio is far superior to streaming audio, so if you’re a budding audiophile, you may want to grab one that can play your discs.
Many internet radios support Bluetooth, so you can connect your smartphone and play any audio through the radio’s speakers.
One of the most important things to think about before you buy an internet radio is how you plan on getting music to it and playing music that’s on it. As you’re shopping, consider how you’ll need to connect your internet radio to your WiFi network or other devices. The most common connectivity options on internet radios are the following.
As you’d expect, most internet radios connect to your existing WiFi network to access online stations from across the globe.
Many internet radios also feature Bluetooth connectivity, so you can stream music directly from your phone.
Despite reports of their imminent death, headphone jacks and the 3.5mm cables used to connect them are still very much a standard feature for internet radios.
Similar to a 3.5mm cable, some internet radios have USB ports for connecting directly to audio sources with USB output, like an iPod.
While it’s typically found on high-end units, some internet radios have Ethernet ports for establishing hard-wired connections to your network instead of wireless ones. Wired connections are more stable, reduce buffering, and create a faster, more stable experience overall.
As you’re shopping for internet radios, keep these primary price points in mind.
In the $50 to $99 range, you’ll find internet radio models that are either dedicated to one setting (like one for the shower) or models that only have the bare minimum of features. If you just want a simple, cheap option and don’t need your audio to sound better than an FM radio, stay in this price range.
In the $100 to $399 range, expect to see a wide variety of options that range from good to great. If you need a long list of additional features (like an FM tuner, support for high-resolution audio formats, or a built-in CD player), expect to be on the high end of the range.
In the $400 to $500 range, a handful of manufacturers make premium devices that deliver audiophile-quality sound, every feature under the sun, and luxury product designs. If you want every feature there is, expect to pay top dollar.
Before you buy an internet radio, consider these tips.
If you’re new to internet radio, try it out on your smartphone first. There’s never a bad time to explore the vast, near-endless number of radio stations out there, and you can start picking your favorites today with your smartphone. By picking out your favorites ahead of time, you’ll have a much better idea of which stations and apps you’ll need your internet radio to access, and you can rule out any models that don’t meet your needs.
Don’t just compare models; compare remotes. A poorly designed remote control can sour your experience with an internet radio, so pay special attention to what comes with each internet radio. Look for remotes that aren’t easily lost and those that offer one-touch access to a specific audio source. The remote control may be the primary way you access your internet radio, so don’t be afraid to rule out options with remotes that don’t feel right to you.
Pick your music subscription services before you buy. Not every internet radio supports every streaming audio service, so it’s important to know which ones you like before you shell out any money. Keep a list of your requirements of both the services (like Pandora, Spotify, or Google Music) and the individual stations (like your favorite IHeartRadio channel), and limit your search to radios that meet those needs.
Q. Can I use my satellite radio subscription with an internet radio?
A. Sort of. Most internet radios don’t include the necessary hardware for receiving satellite radio broadcasts, but they do include connectivity options to use additional third-party hardware. If you already own a portable satellite radio receiver, look for an internet radio with an auxiliary 3.5mm jack – then use a 3.5mm cable to connect it to your satellite radio receiver.
Q. Can I get my local FM radio stations with an internet radio?
A. More than likely, yes. While some internet radios include built-in FM radio antennas, most terrestrial broadcast stations also broadcast their signal online. If you’re worried about being able to hear your favorite local radio station online, visit their website to learn about their digital broadcasts.
Q. Can I connect an internet radio to my existing stereo?
A. Most internet radios can be connected to, or accessed by, an existing stereo. You can connect them together with a 3.5mm auxiliary cable.
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