Internet radio player: Roku SoundBridgeRadio
Who doesn't like Internet radio? You can listen to stations from Poland or France, or search for programming that matches your taste or mood in a way that few over-the-air stations can.
But again, unless you have a device like the Sonos or Squeezebox, you're tethered to your computer. Wouldn't someone you know love an Internet radio that acted like a regular radio -- a radio you could put in the kitchen or the bedroom but still listen to SomaFM or AnnapurnaLive?
Give them the Roku SoundBridgeRadio (US$300). Most stand-alone Internet radios look like cheap plastic clock radios designed by engineers, but the sleek Roku is something they won't mind looking at every day.
It's like a regular radio, but it's pretty well tricked out: It's got stereo speakers with a subwoofer, AM/FM, six preset buttons, a headphone jack and an alarm clock with snooze and sleep. But it's also got 802.11b Wi-Fi and can tap into your PC's music library to stream your music from iTunes, Rhapsody, or other music servers, plus an SD card slot for playing music offline. You can even assign the preset buttons to your favorite playlists.
Give that special someone the future of radio.
Summary: The Roku SoundBridge Radio frees your favorite online stations from the confines of your PC -- and doesn't look like a piece of junk. Jake Widman
iPod clock radio: iHome iH8SR
Apparently, a lot of people would rather wake up to their own choice of music rather than whatever the Zoo Crew feels like playing at 7 a.m. How else to explain the proliferation of iPod clock radios that wake you up to whatever early-morning playlist you feel like putting together?
When I first saw the iHome iH8SR unit in a discount department store, I was skeptical -- I wouldn't expect a US$100 unit from a rack next to the blenders to deliver decent sound quality. I figured it was another product rushed onto the market to ride the iPod wave.
But then I visited a friend who had one in her kitchen, and I had to reconsider my original impression. The silver iH8SR (there's also an iH8BR model, in black) put out well-balanced stereo sound with a surprising richness for such a small device.
It's also got a built-in AM/FM radio with presets, a line in for other audio sources, a line out for an extension speaker, and a remote control. There's nothing particularly flashy about the iHome Clock Radio for iPod, but there's a lot to be said for a product that just does what it's supposed to do and does it well.
Summary: Surprisingly rich sound and a solid assortment of features make the iHome Clock Radio for iPod a good choice for someone who wants to wake up to their own tunes.