There's something surreal about listening to Radio Dum Dum's lilting Hindi film tunes before tuning into a documentary on Native American Indian burial sites on Yellowstone Public Radio. But don't mistake this for a world radio. It's only able to tune to stations that already have an online presence, and those with a PC or Mac will already be able to listen online to everything this unit can supply.
It may have access to over 4,000 radio stations, but that's not all that's under the hood of this two-tone silver and black tabletop radio. On its side is an SD card slot that's capable of playing back MP3 files, although given the amount of faffing about that's needed to transfer files from a computer, it's a feature too far.
The reverse houses sockets that enable hook-up of almost any audio device - albeit only in analogue fashion - although an iPod or audio from a laptop seems the most obvious use. With no Ethernet port provided, internet connectivity is restricted to wireless, so if you don't already have WiFi this isn't a radio for you.
If you do, this unit is a real boon because it automatically detects your WiFi connection details, asks for a password and gets on with downloading the latest list of online stations. Such stations are available for searching alphabetically or by genre, but the daunting process of scrolling through by continent and country is lessened through the provision of a favourites list that's simple to configure.
This is important because the UK has hundreds of stations and the US over two thousand, while Kazakhstan and Uganda, for example, have just three and one, respectively. Menus can be sluggish and stations do take some time to buffer and occasionally drop out altogether, but that's something that will be familiar to anyone who's listened to radio stations on a PC.
If you tire of listening to Phil Collins introduced in Pashtan, another advantage of the WiFi connectivity is that this model can find and play MP3 or WMA music files from a public folder on any PC or Mac. There's also the chance to listen to recent podcasts from some stations on-demand: admirable versatility.
Sound quality varies because of the different bitrate of stations - a lot are abysmally low, even some BBC stations - but there is also an FM tuner for audiophile quality. In any case, the speaker lacks bass but is able to play even the lowest quality material in a quality that's humbling given the raw material. The problems with this unit centre around design.
The dial is too small and scrolling through long lists of radio stations is a fiddly process, especially when looking for US radio stations (surely a state-by-state list would be better). The blue LCD screen is set too far back into the unit and occasionally hard to read if the radio is positioned direct line of sight. Despite some foibles we were sad to part from this Internet radio: the world awaits.