I am a huge fan of Internet radio and last year was introduced to the Logitech Squeezebox Boom, still the best ever Internet radio.  Recently, Logitech introduced a compact, $200 version called Squeezebox Radio that I’m gushing over and want to share with you.

The new Squeezebox Radio is a compact unit perfectly at home anywhere in the home and this includes any room or the garage, anywhere where connection to a high speed Internet connection, wired or wireless, is possible.  This also includes outside the home, in an office as well as during travel where access to wired or wireless high-speed Internet access is available without having to sign in/log on online via a browser window.

I have the highest regard for this uniquely excellent product.  I am also pleased that Logitech has agreed to participate on my upcoming 15-city national holiday tour.  It is always my objective to find worthwhile gadgets to share with you and having Logitech along as a sponsor allows me to share my recommendations on TV as well as here on MrGadget.com. As you know, I am not paid for any reviews and my comments and recommendations always reflect my true and honest impressions about each and every product reviewed without regard to any consideration other than what is best for my followers and all consumers, myself included.  Manufacturers supply products to me at no cost unless I purchase the product being reviewed.  Let there be no mistake on this.  I am never obligated nor coerced or in any way compensated to offer my comments.  You always get from me my true feelings. Nothing could ever nor would ever prevent me from stating less than flattering comments – EVER.  I do my own thing for YOUR benefit, always.  We’re in this together, you and I.   We are all consumers on the hunt for products and technologies worthy of our dollars.  I am privileged to be able to have this forum and the audience on television to share my findings.

What’s hot?

• Compact size easily fits any environment

• Powerful, clean, clear sound from integrated amp, woofer and tweeter

• Easy to set up using to www.MySqueezebox.com

• Numerous applications and services to which users may subscribe to gain access to free and paid content – all through the MySqueezebox Website

• Plays DRM-free iTunes music, Internet radio subscription services including Rhapsody, Napster, Pandora, Sirius, LastFM, Live365, others

• Feature set and ease of use make it fun to discover new music, find favorites and enjoy music as never before

• Is not directly connected to a computer, but, rather, to the wired or wireless network at home just as would be any computer or other device requiring Internet access

• Color display can show album art, track and station into, photo screen savers

• Social networking support: Facebook users can share music recommendations and see friends’ recommendations right on the display as well as user’s Facebook feeds

• Flickr users can show a slideshow, even while music is playing

• Auto-dimming display adjusts brightness based on room lighting

• Optional (and highly recommended) wireless remote

• Optional rechargeable internal battery pack can provide up to six hours of uninterrupted mobility and recharges automatically when radio is again plugged in to outside power

• Packs more useful, easily accessed features than any other device of its kind – a great value, especially if used to its full extent

• Works equally well with modest performing computers using Windows, Mac or Linux variants to access MySqueezebox.com for online setup

• A nearly perfect product

• Available in black or red

• Covered by a two-year limited warranty

• Available at Best Buy, Logitech.com, Amazon, and Fry’s Electronics stores.

What’s not?

• Would benefit from more output power for higher volume from headphone jack to provide better performance through third party pillow speakers (such as my favorite and ONLY recommended Soft Pillow Speaker from C. Crane)

• Users would appreciate greater control of display brightness beyond a single manual adjustment or full auto – I’d like to see it capable of being set to go brighter when finding and changing stations/sources and then set to go dimmer once at that setting, and another for selectable brightness when in the off position; settings that are available on the Squeezebox Boom

• Users would favorably respond to the ability to set on-the-display order of selections according to the user’s priority and interests; settings available on the Squeezebox Boom

Sound is clear and rich owing to the ¾-inch high-definition, soft-dome tweeter and 3-inch high-power, long-throw woofer powered by a 
Bi-amplified class D design integrated amplifier with digital electronic crossover.  Few portable-size radios of any kind sound this full and real, and have enough power and performance to fill any room with great sound.

Most do not know that Logitech is one of the most prolific makers of high quality speakers among consumer electronics companies in the worldRead about their audio excellence. Unlike some other companies that use generic speakers in their products, almost an afterthought, Logitech designs and manufactures their own speakers for each audio product, and they are justifiably proud of their accomplishments in this field. They strive to make their products produce and deliver sound as good as it can be as a primary objective and not as a means to an end.  They have accomplished, professional sound engineers and speaker designers to provide acoustically excellent speakers for all their products. They could easily have used off-the-shelf cheaper speakers from an inexpensive supplier for this and other products, but, instead, provide a premium woofer AND tweeter that deliver the excellent sound you will experience from this Radio.

The look is clean and simple, without anything that should provide a user with complicated operational challenges.  There are six preset buttons that are easily set to favorites by tuning to that favorite and depressing the desired preset button for a few seconds until the display indicates that the preset is accepted.  Really, it is that simple.  I’ll get more into settings and operational “things” in a bit, but know this: This radio is exactly what anyone would want in order to fully enjoy music and more that may have been forgotten or pushed aside in the past due to complications of use or because of radio interference making it impractical to use a radio at home or in other locations.  In fact, it is easy to operate.

All the controls are electronic and not mechanical, including the volume knob at the lower left of the control cluster in the product photo.  Rotating the knob actuates the volume, electronically, up or down.  Depressing that knob activates and deactivates volume mute.

The big knob scrolls through menu items on the crisp color display.  Pressing the knob in selects what is on the screen, as if going into a menu a level at a time.  Think of it as it pressing says yes, then turning through choices until you want to indicate another yes, and so on.  Backing up and out of each menu toward the top level is accomplished through the back button, the one marked with a left arrow just to the left of the big main knob.  I find it completely intuitive, in most instances, to use these controls.  There is also a button marked with a house symbol that is the Home button, taking the use back to this main home area of icons and words through which to scroll again.

The main power button is located at the lower right of the control cluster. Smartly designed, the Radio, like their others, automatically comes on from the off position when one of the six preset buttons (having been previously set to a favorite content choice) is depressed. Isn’t that what a user would want to occur if pressing one of those buttons?

Another smart feature is retained on this new product.  When any of the almost unlimited numbers of alarms is set, the Radio knows the user would want the alarm sound to come from the speaker and NOT be directed to anything plugged into the headphone jack.  In this way, the user could leave a pillow speaker plugged in at night and still have the benefit of the alarm the next morning.  Can your radio do this? I bet it cannot, unless you also have one of only two others I know of with this level of intelligent design.  Those others are the CCRadio and the CCRadio II from C. Crane.

Logitech’s Wi-Fi (also capable of wired connection) Squeezebox music players all have the distinction of being demonstrably, significantly better than ANY other products in the category. Why? This is because only Logitech allows, promotes and provides an easy path of connectivity to and interaction with a greater variety of content through their partner agreements, yet they are not more costly than competitors’ products.

I call these Logitech products “Internet radio time machines” because of their capability to bring in so much new and very old content.  The new content includes your own DRM-free music from your own iTunes application on any of your networked computers.  By this I mean that any of the music you may have brought into iTunes from your own or someone else’s CDs, from your own unrestricted downloads from others or from other sites should play on this radio.  Some are of the mistaken belief that the iTunes computer application can only use music purchased from the iTunes Music Store.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

With that explanation out of the way, not only will these Squeezebox products play DRM-free iTunes music from networked computers, but these products will also go out to the Internet and play an unlimited amount of available additional music and other content.

Unlike the other, non-Logitech products that only play a limited amount of outside content from a single provider of free so-called Internet Radio stations, your Squeezebox products, this new Radio and the others from Logitech, aggregate content from a long list of providers from which you can select through applications to which you may link these Squeezebox radios.

This is where Logitech has made what could have been unruly, easy.  Out of the box, a Logitech Squeezebox Radio can plug in to power, discover your home Wi-Fi network and be set to log onto it with the passphrase you enter to allow it to join your network.  If you have an available Ethernet connection that goes back to your router, the Radio may be connected in this easier way instead of using the built-in wireless capability of the Radio.  Users simply follow the prompts to connect and use whatever Internet source is available. Once connected, you may immediately explore and listen to Internet radio stations.

However, it’s easier, once connected, to log onto www.MySquezebox.com to sign up and register you Logitech radios.  At that Site will be found a list of applications for which users may sign up if new and sign in if already a member of this free Site that only supports these Squeezebox radios.  So, this “new” content goes on to also include, without known exception, all genres of music, both local radio stations from your immediate market area as well as most of the stations in any US market area, the best of international radio stations, country by country, or choose genres of international radio stations.  How about Internet-only selections from around the globe?  Do you like college or underground radio stations?  Done. How about every country that has national stations?  Done.  What about podcasts? Sure.  Do you like on-demand programs from public radio stations?  Go ahead and listen.  Create your own “station” out of your interest in U2 or ANY other group or style. I’m not even warmed up yet!  The choices are simply mind numbing!  Do not be deterred, however, because it is manageable.

Once the basic “setup” is done online for this and other Squeezebox device on the user’s account, these settings are automatically, transparently saved to the actual device so long as it is online, even in the off position.  Remember, these devices are connected online and each device is individually addressable.  Not only are settings saved and simultaneously sent to the actual radio, but also there is a way on the Website to remotely control the radio as if sitting right in front of it!  You’ll have to trust me on this and experience it yourself.

Even without fully exploring all its capabilities, the Squeezebox Radio can be your portal to all the music anyone could ever want, free of any charges.

I would be remiss were I not to mention other goodies related to this Radio.  Through a hatch on the underside, users may install an accessory rechargeable battery pack that, at this writing, is not available. The pack recharges automatically when the Radio is plugged in normally. When disconnected from AC power, the radio is said to be able to function for as long as six hours on those batteries.

Another worthwhile accessory is the wireless remote control, the same one that comes with the larger $300 Logitech Squeezebox Boom you were directed to read about earlier. That fine remote control capability is built into the Squeezebox Radio and makes it so much easier to control, in my view.  Both the remote and battery pack are said to be available soon for only $50.  Check the Logitech Website for details not currently available, but believe me that these are worthwhile and not frivolous accessories. If, for example, there is a power failure, the radio will maintain time and operate the alarm, if it is set to play a sound other than an Internet-based station, which would also be unavailable in a power outage that would affect the user’s Internet connection.

Even if all you wish to do is listen to your local AM and FM stations more clearly than you can now heard them, without any hiss or interference from all your electronics, this is the radio for you.  Even if you would like to hear only AM radio from the center of a huge steel building in which this has not been possible, EVER, from a conventional radio, you can do it NOW with this Radio (and, in fairness, you may listen to at least a few of them from competitive products as well as have access to all of them from your computer).  However, never with the ease, with the simplicity of doing as would be “normal” by using what looks like a radio to listen to “the radio” has this been possible until Logitech created their Squeezebox radios with their unique software.

Earlier I indicated my reference to this and their other Internet radios as “radio time machines” and now I will discuss this piece of the puzzle.  Sure, you can listen to all genres of music, including music from each era, starting from the ‘30s.  This is a bit of a “time machine” experience.  What is so special for me is the opportunity to use this and the other Logitech radio products in this category as a time machine to allow the radio to be as if it was being operated in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, the ‘60s, the ‘70s and even into the early 1980s to hear so many of those great radio programs and famous personalities that were what and whom America trusted and listened to before there was TV.

Yes, these products, through freely available content from the Internet and from paid subscriptions with Live365 allow users to relive the times when Americans huddled around the family radio as we do with our televisions today to ONLY listen to the stars of yesterday.  In those days we listened to comedy, dramas, mysteries, soap operas and news of the day the only way we could, through the radio, to be entertained and informed without the immediacy and instant information in multimedia via the computer.  There was just radio, and these new “radios” allow us to listen, as it was then, to programming as it was then, with commercials for products no longer around, as well as for some, like Tide detergent, that are still with us today.  Many programs were sponsored by the big cigarette companies of the day, when it was claimed that “three out of four doctors” recommend one brand or the other of cigarette!  Oh, the shock and awe, the education we now can get from listening to those old programs.  Yes, these are indeed radio time machines!

Just as when reading a good book and our minds provide the visuals, our minds provide the visuals as we listened then and can listen today to radio as it was. How cool is that!

Listen to the news AS IT OCCURRED LIVE during the Great Depression years, during the days leading up to World War II and on into the Cold War.  It’s an education not taught in schools, but through your Logitech Radio Time Machine, you are there, as if it is live at the moment, with all the popular, polished and professional “newsmen” of the day. You will hear their talent and skill, their excellent diction and grammar, their extemporaneous speaking ability, unscripted as was often required, to deliver needed, wanted information without stammer, stutter or mumbling, without poor speaking habits and awkward word fillers common today.  By contrast, today’s so-called news talents so often sound as if they are uneducated boobs.  The “news readers” of today make horrible, unprofessional grammatical errors that would not have been tolerated in those days.  Listen to the days when immigrants were actually able to learn to speak English, and to speak it well, by listening to and learning from our news pros from those days.  You will then listen to and watch today’s so-called news professionals and realize that few such professionals exist today. ‘Tis sad, but true.

I know I get a bit carried away on this topic, but I remember well when I was a USC journalism student and we were visited and guest lectured by respected radio and TV news icons of that bygone era, and inspired, even challenged to carry on that grand tradition. My, how things have changed!

Listen to significant, major world events, the actual broadcasters and professionals of the day that reported them, as if live today:  the horrific crash and devastation of the Hindenburg airship explosion, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the appeasement of Hitler before the War, the reports of battles, progress and defeats during the War, addresses by the King of England to the people of the US, eloquent addresses by then Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill to the US and the world during the War, tales of the heroism of soldiers in WWII, the stories of sacrifice and patriotism that were the way of everyday life in America during World War II, the urging of citizens to buy War Bonds, rationing of meat and other items, no new cars because auto companies switched their assembly lines to producing planes and tanks, collecting cans and other metals to support the war effort and on and on and on such that listening and learning provides a better history lesson than anyone today receives in school.  If the information in this paragraph us unknown to you, then you’ve a lot to learn about this country and the world, and this is a product that can make learning fun and you a better, more worldly, interesting person in your everyday life!

If you’d like to see a list of the programs from those old days, with links to and information about many that are still available, some through the Squeezebox Radio and others only via the Internet and your computer, click here.  Above I indicated that so-called “old time radio” was still available into the 1980s, and it was, in the form of a daily weekday hour long show called the “CBS Radio Mystery Theater,” traditional radio’s last gasp at drama before it went silent, running from 1974 to 1982.  Nearly all of those more than 1400 episodes of new-for-the-day shows are still available over the Internet, on a dedicated station found through my Squeezebox Radio as well as through your computer.  It’s just more fun and “authentic” to hear them on the radio as it was meant to be.

Get a Logitech Squeezebox Radio and discover radio the way radio was meant to be, the way radio was then and the way radio is today, and will be tomorrow.   There are truly unlimited capabilities of entertainment and information through these portals.  Discover and enjoy new and old music and musicians and musical artists of all types through this Radio.

There are simply no other radios at any price that can do what these can, and that is why I hope they not only sell many thousands, even hundreds of thousands of units, but why I also encourage buyers to explore and to take full advantage of the opportunities of discovery afforded by their purchase.

If you’ve made it to this point in this article, I hope you are excited about the product and will find joy and enrichment as I have discovered.  Why, you just might watch less TV, use the computer a little less and discover a new source of enjoyment, entertainment and education through your Logitech Squeezebox Radio.  These are the products that make a move back to radio not only possible, but also fun and rewarding.

I know you can sense my passion for this topic and for this and other Logitech products in this category.  I am proud to suggest them to you.

As they used to say, thanks for listening (or, in this case, reading)!

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