A few months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Livio Radio which streams Internet music but also has the built-in functionality of Pandora. I was sad to see it go at the end of the review, but I was lucky to get my hands on another music streaming device (this time sans-Pandora) called the Ira Wi-Fi Internet Radio, made by Myine. Ira actually stands for “Internet Radio Appliance” which does live up to its name.
With the Ira, it’s a BYOSS type of environment (Bring Your Own Stereo & Speakers). Essentially the Ira is a wifi enabled device that connects to your stereo system or other component that accepts audio inputs and pulls various music sources from the Internet using your wifi connection.
There are over “11,000” stations available for streaming, according to the Myine site, with a wide range of options like Alternative, Classical, College, Country, Dance, Oldies, Public, Rock, Top 40, and Variety (these are a few of the categories with the most stations) and there are several categories for Talk including News, News Talk, Religious and Sports.
Some of the key points about this device versus a Radio, Satellite Radio, MP3 Player and the Ira are clearly laid out on their site. It’s pretty hard to argue with the advantages that they present:
- FREE music – once you buy the device there are no additional costs (aside from your bandwidth charges of course)
- 11,000 stations – as mentioned previously; I didn’t actually count them but I’m sure that stations come and go, but there are a large number. I can’t comment on their quality (streaming & content) though.
- “On-Demand” Programming – they talk about podcast subscriptions
- No computers required – but you do need an internet connection AND a wifi router
- Digital Sound Quality – this is debatable since it depends on the quality of the stream, sure, it is streaming via a digital medium, but the output is not via a digital (optical or other) cable
- Live Programming – they explain this as no timeshifting, this was the only way to differentiate again an MP3 player. Sort of what you expect from a streaming device
I kind of liked the way they did this (somewhat skewed) comparison, especially with the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) at the end. The FM Radio was the cheapest at $25, next was the Ira at $150, the Satellite Radio at $249 and lastly with the MP3 player at a whopping $29,949. I didn’t quite get the MP3 price until I read the “fine print.” They rolled the price of 30,000 songs, each at 99 cents, into the final price. I’m not sure I would do that; most likely, I would simply digitize a bunch of my CDs (so my cost is deferred). But I’m getting a bit sidetracked.
Setup & Usage
The setup takes only a few minutes. The hardest part is scrolling though the password section (as I mention with the Livio, I feel sorry for those people using 128-bit WEP passwords as it will take a while to use the remote to enter it in). They do have an automatic wifi setup wizard that will attempt to connect you (e.g., with Linksys routers). I used the manual setup however, which worked fine.
Once you get your wireless network configured and the Ira connected (and do note that it does NOT have an Ethernet plug, you must use wireless), the rest of the functionality is pretty straight forward. The video below shows some close-ups of the device and its interface as well as the basic functionality.
The Ira handles all types of wifi connections including: WEP, WPA (AES or TKIP), and WPA2 (AES or TKIP). You need simply to put it in proximity to a audio source where you can plug in the (included) stereo cables (RCA and 1/8″). There is no built-in speaker so you MUST connected it to a stereo or hifi.
My apologies to Myine as I don’t know how to pronounce the name of the company AND I managed to flip flop the product name and the company name in my video (above) – how embarrassing, however, it goes to show that I might not have the name or brand as “accessible in my mind” as I would think it should be.
The problem with having a product or company name that is not easy to remember or pronounce is that your product will often simply be forgotten (unless it is so great that people take time to learn how to say it and more details about it). I’m definitely NOT saying that the Ira is bad, I’m just saying that Myine has a bit of a challenge potentially trying to get their name out and having it stick.
Here are some other thoughts I had after a few hours of use:
- Don’t unplug it when it’s powered on – I made the mistake of pulling the plug when it was fully powered and streaming and I lost all of my favorites.
- Very easy to set up – it truly only takes a few minutes to configure your wireless connection and then be searching for and finding radio stations.
- No built-in speakers – the device requires that you connect it to something else, whether it be a TV or hi-fi, it does need a place to send its audio. This is a bit of a drawback as I would have liked to have been able to truly put this anywhere and have music streaming from built-in speakers.
- Don’t lose the remote! – if you lose the remote, the Ira essentially becomes a nice electronic paperweight. There are no buttons on the outside to control it (or even power it on or off, for that matter).
- Small & Portable – while this isn’t a completely portable device, it is extremely easy to move around and connect to various hifi appliances.
- Glossy black – as with any highly glossy, black devices, it does tend to show fingerprints easily. However, since you rarely have to touch it (because there are no buttons on it), this isn’t really an issue.
- Simple interface – there is something to be said about the Ira’s simple interface. It doesn’t try to do anything fancy. You can drill down to radio station streams easily as well as search based on keywords or station names. It is a bit of a pain using just the remote to enter in words or call signs but once you set up your streams and save them as favorites (you can save up to 40), the Ira is extremely functional.
- Future upgrades – you can have the Ira automatically check for firmware updates. There is a “Mode” button that, within the documentation, says “Currently this button is not used. May be added in future software updates” which to me means that new functionality will be added as it is developed.
- Reboots & lost streams – I did, somewhat frequently, encounter some reboots of the device while I was streaming. I’m not sure what caused this but the nice thing was that the Ira went back to the station I was playing and streaming was resumed within 30 seconds or less. Also, there were times when some streams were not available. I believe this was simply the nature of relying on the internet to get the stream and not the Ira’s fault.
One of the minuses of living in the suburbs is that sometimes you don’t get as many radio stations over the air as you would within a metropolitan area. Therefore, one of the first stations that I made as a favorite was our local NPR station (KQED) which, using a regular, over-the-air radio produced a lot of fringe static. Now with the Ira hooked up in the kitchen, my wife is very happy. As I showed in the video (above), I was able to subscribe to KROQ from LA (including my new favorite which is their alternative HD 80’s station). Lastly, my kids are happy because I can now stream Radio Disney without having to rely on the non-stereo AM broadcast.
I personally don’t have the budget to subscribe to satellite radio, although I would definitely like to. With the Ira, you can get near-satellite and digital experience from streaming from the internet. Remember that you must have a wifi router to connect to in order to use this device. But for the price point and the functionality, it is a good “poor man’s” alternative to satellite radio.
Disclosure: All of my review policies and best practices that I honor and follow are fully disclosed within my About page. The Myine Ira was donated to me for the purpose of doing this review.
HTD says: If you want to unlock music, audio and radio broadcasts from around the world, the Ira might be a good option for you to consider.