Kogan Deluxe Digital Internet Radio
A well-priced digital radio that supplies very good Internet streaming and network features
- Good sound
- Good Internet streaming and networking functions
- No skip buttons for radio and streaming music functions
- Poor remote
Kogan's Digital Internet Radio has versatility that allows it to be used not only for over-the-air radio, but also for streaming Internet radio and MP3s off networked computers. Its sound quality is good, it's easy to use and it's well priced. We like it.
Price$ 179.00 (AUD)
Kogan's own-brand Deluxe Digital Internet Radio is one of the most versatile digital radio products on the Australian market. It comes with networking features, analogue audio input and an iPod dock for under $180, and it performed surprisingly well in our tests. It lacks a couple of key usability features and its build quality isn't great, but for what you pay, you get a highly capable device that's sure to bring you musical joy.
Physical features and sound quality
Physically, the Deluxe Digital Internet Radio is rather large in size (325mm wide and 160mm deep), but it can be situated either on a table or bookshelf depending on how much space you have. It could also reside on a bedside table and act as a clock/radio alarm. The front of the unit has an OLED display that shows plenty of information and it's easy on the eyes — there are three brightness intensities to choose from, too. There are control buttons to the right of it that feel cheap, and a credit card-sized remote is supplied as well.
The rear has an auxiliary (3.5mm) input, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an Ethernet port and analogue audio (RCA) output. There are mid-range speakers located on either side of the unit, as well as a tweeter on the front, and there is an iPod dock on the top that can work with an iPod Touch, Classic or Nano, and up to an iPhone 4S. That dock will also charge the i-device as well as allow it to be controlled via play and skip buttons above the radio's display.
The sound quality from this Kogan radio is surprisingly good. Its volume can easily fill an average-sized room and it's a good match for small apartment. The sound emitted from the speakers is flat by default, and also somewhat bass-heavy. However, this can be changed in the EQ settings, where you can either select from a pre-set level or create your own. Unfortunately, to get to the EQ you have to travel deep into the menu system rather than press a dedicated button. We added some more treble and toned down the bass in order to make the sound a little brighter. Vocals from Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, Janell Monae, Jesse Ware, Melodie Nelson, Shai, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam sounded accurate and the music did not drown them out.
The side-firing mid-range speakers and front-mounted tweeter provided a very enjoyable listening experience, even at loud volume. We found optimal listening to be at about 75 per cent of full volume, but there was barely any distortion evident from the songs we played, even at full volume. The analogue output on the rear can be used to plug the Kogan radio in to an amplifier, too, but this only complements the internal speakers rather than channelling the sound discretely through the amplifier and its external speakers.
Radio and music streaming
The primary function of Kogan's device is to be a digital radio, and it performs this task as well as any radio we've seen to date. We had no problems tuning in to our local digital stations here in Sydney, with the radio playing them smoothly and without dropouts. Our review model came with all digital channels pre-scanned and it looks like it had done the rounds up in Brisbane, too, judging from the station list. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a way to remove these stations or edit the station list so that they wouldn't appear. The best we could do was order the stations so that they appeared in order of validity (with the Sydney stations therefore showing up first).
You can listen to traditional FM radio as well and there is a built-in antenna to facilitate this, which will need to be extended. We didn't get good results from the FM tuner, but our test location has always been bad for analogue radio signals.
When listening to digital radio, the unit's display will show you the station name and the time, and you'll be able to switch between other bits of information, too. You'll be able to see the station frequency, the signal strength, the specs of the stream, the date and either a description of the station you are listening to or the particular program (or song) that's playing. It's not easy to jump between stations. The remote control lacks skip buttons, which means that to change stations you have to bring up the station list and move up and down to select the station you want.
In addition to regular radio, the Kogan Deluxe Digital Internet Radio, as per its descriptive name, can be used to stream radio stations from all over the world via an Internet connection. To connect the radio to the Internet, you can use an Ethernet cable, or you can use Wi-Fi. There is an integrated 802.11g module and it can be set up manually (with you selecting the network and entering the password), or by using WPS (WiFi Protected Setup). That's what we used; we simply chose WPS in the radio's menu, pressed the WPS button on our wireless router and the connection was made within a minute.
Internet radio stations are plentiful and you can choose to listen to music based on genre or geographical location. The radio lists Digitally Imported stations, which we love, and we were also partial to Eurodance stations from, well, Europe. It's a particularly useful radio if you want to tune in to foreign language programs. Favourites can be set so that you won't have to go hunting for channels all the time. To set these, all you have to do is press one of the P buttons on the remote control for a few seconds until the screen flashes the message that it has been set. There are only 10 of these buttons though so you'll have to be pickier than a nightclub bouncer. Presets work independently of the function though, which means that digital radio and Internet stream presets are kept separate. This way you can store 10 each of those types of stations.
Our only problem with streaming radio was that it sometimes took a while for the wireless connection to be made — almost a minute in some cases. Funnily enough, we used Internet radio as the mode for the alarm, but because it took so long to connect, the alarm defaulted to the buzzer instead.
When listening to Internet stations, the Info button on the remote can be used to browse through the description of the station, its genre and location, its technical specs and how well it is buffering. The radio worked well from a mid-range distance of 10m away from the router during our tests, but the performance of streaming radio could vary depending on the distance of the radio from your wireless router and how well the wireless signal can get to it in your environment.
The neat thing about this Kogan radio is that it can also be used to stream MP3 files from computers on your network. The radio detected all of the shared folders that contained music on our network and we were able to browse for music either by song information or by folder. A playlist can be created easily (called My Playlist) using songs on your network, and as long as your network settings and shared folders don't change, and as long as you don't power off the radio from the outlet, this will always be available and easily expanded upon, too. Because there are no skip buttons on the remote control, it's not as easy as it should be to skip songs in a folder or playlist. You have to bring up the list of songs and use the up and down arrows to go to different songs. The list also doesn't appear in context. For example, if you are on song 20 in a playlist or folder and you want to skip to the next one, the list of songs you bring up will show the start of the list rather than the song you are playing, which means you'll have to do some scrolling.
The worst thing about this radio is its credit card sized remote control. It's small, with annoyingly flat buttons and it doesn't have useful features such as play/pause, skip and menu. If you want to change the radio's systems settings (including the alarm function), you have to press the menu button on the radio itself. This includes EQ settings. Without skip buttons, it's not intuitive to change radio stations or to skip songs in a playlist. You need to press the up or down arrows to bring up the list of stations or songs and use the arrows to navigate to the song or station you want to play.
Overall though, it's a device that performs all of its intended functions very well and it was reliable during our week-long test period. We enjoyed using it primarily for Internet radio, in addition to streaming music from PCs, and it was also great for digital radio and for listening to music off older MP3 players such as a Creative Zen (through the analogue auxiliary port). Its menu system is not hard to use once you get the hang of it and its sound quality is exceptional for the price. We like it and had a good time testing it.
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