Open Pandora’s Box with The Livio Radio

Everyone loves Pandora right? How can you not. These are the guys giving you the Music Genome Project where they are mapping out music, one song at a time. Pandora is a fantastic way to get commercial-free music from a browser or application, all based on a single song, artist or genre. Simple create a station and start immediately enjoying similar sounding music (defined by over 400 attributes). Click Thumbs Up if you like a song or Thumbs Down if you don’t (and that song won’t play again). The more ratings you make, the more Pandora “learns” and fine-tunes your station.

Until recently, you could only get Pandora through your browser or a cell phone app. My old non-active iPhone’s sole purpose right now is to simply stay connected to some speakers and stream Pandora. About a month ago, I was loaned a Livio Radio whose primary purpose is to receive Internet music and audio streams via a wifi or wired connection. There are a few other devices out there that allow you to stream your Pandora music to them, however, the Livio seems to be one of the only ones that actually dedicates itself to doing this task.

livio_front

Appearance/Aesthetics

The Livio Radio reminded me a lot of an old Sony tabletop radio that my family had when I was younger, except this looked like it had been updated. The front is simple and not cluttered. On the left is a large speaker and on the right are the controls and display. The display is backlit with and LED blue and the main volume-like knob has blue light emanating when on. The main knob is used to control volume but also helps you navigate the various menus. Other buttons on the face are small so as not to be obtrusive and include: Power, Fav, Back, Skip, Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down. The remote that is included with the Livio Radio also has similar functions. There is also a headphone jack on the front that, when headphones are plugged in, mutes the external speaker.

IMG_5407

The aluminum trim looks modern and not cheap, the white face is clean and partially translucent. One of my few complaints is that I don’t like how the LED and the blue ring around the volume knob when lit seem to have the color bleed from the back. You can see some of the “innards” or frame of the Livio when it is lit up. I would have made it a much more opaque to prevent the light from bleeding through. This is just a personal preference though. The body is textured black plastic that is supposed to look like leather. I think that Livio should release a “classic” version that has solid wood pieces for the body wrap. It would be a great project to disassemble the Livio Radio and create an elegant mahogany body for it.

The back of the device sports an Ethernet port, a power port, Aux in and Stereo Line out. There is also a large hole that is used, I believe, for speaker venting. The Livio Radio also has built-in WiFi which supports most wifi connections (and WEP, WPA & WPA2 security protocols).

livio_back_sm

The packaging is simple yet conveys what the product does, simply (under) stating “Livio allows you to create a new Pandora account or use your existing stations.” There is a bit more to the product than just using Pandora. Another great feature is the ability to stream other Internet Music or Radio channels that are pre-configured within the device. I felt that there should be a bit more product information printed on it though.

IMG_5399

Usage

I was very curious to see how easy it would be to set up the Livio Radio, especially since there isn’t a keyboard or anything. I wasn’t disappointed. The setup take about 15 minutes. Do note that you do need a computer to register your Livio Radio with your Pandora account during the process.

When I powered it up for the first time, I was walked through a series of steps to enable the full functionality (e.g., the Pandora linking). The first step is configuring the wifi connection (note that you can also plug in an Ethernet cable as well which makes the process a bit easier). I thought that entering my Wifi security key might be a bit difficult but in the end, it was merely tedious and only takes a little bit of time. I found that using the dial on the front was the easiest way to do this. I feel sorry for those people who have a 128-bit WEP key as you do have to enter in a large amount of characters. The Livio had no problem finding both of my wireless networks and I was up and running quickly.

I did do a search to see if there were any firmware updates. I recommend doing this prior to linking your Livio Radio to your Pandora account as there may be critical fixes. That process was easy to do as well.

Instead of writing all of registration steps down, this video shows the process in action (the video provided by Livio is a bit blurry and hard to see but it does help understand the process):

Once you have registered your Livio Radio and associated it with your Pandora account, the process for listening to music is extremely easy. Any stations that you may have configured within your Pandora account are immediately available and can be accessed using the radio itself or the multi-function remote that is included:

livio_remote

The nice thing about the Livio Radio is that you are not limited to just your Pandora stations. You also have access to a variety of other Internet music channels, grouped by genre, right within the interface.

My Thoughts and Suggestions

The Livio Radio is a great concept and does function quite well. However, I thought that it is important to provide some suggestions and thoughts on what is good, what could be better and some ideas for product enhancements in the future (forgive the mixture of positives and negatives below):

  • Quick Startup – I like the fact that you can be streaming Pandora in about 15 seconds or so from startup. That includes the time to “boot”, connect to wifi and get your music running.
  • No Pause – the web version of Pandora allows you to pause your music stream in the middle of a song and then, assuming you haven’t closed your browser, resume where you left off. Interestingly, there is no way that I could find to do this on the Livio. This would be a critical enhancement in my opinion.
  • Pandora Limits – If you tend to do a lot of streaming of music with Pandora, you might want to upgrade to the “Pandora One” version so that you aren’t cut off. The cost is $36/year and includes higher quality streams, a desktop application, no skip limits, you aren’t limited to 40 hours per month, and is free from advertisements. More info on Pandora One here.
  • Monetization – I would think that Livio and Pandora might be interested in some sort of way to make recurring revenue, so I was surprised that there was no button on the remote that says”Buy”. I envision that you could flag a song for later purchase within your Pandora account (and obtain via iTunes or Amazon CD/MP3 much like you can on the Pandora website).
  • One Pandora Account only – it would be nice to be able to have multiple Pandora profiles within the Livio. Currently the device only supports one account.
  • On-device Station Creation – this is a very nice feature to have. Using the dial, you can enter characters to create new stations fairly easily. The easiest way, however, is through the Pandora site on the web.
  • Lack of Bass – the music streaming from the Livio Radio is crisp and quite clear, however, I found, especially compared to iPod/iPhone/MP3 speaker systems, the bass was a bit understated.
  • Input/Output Capabilities – it is nice to see that the Livio does have the ability to connect other devices via a RCA (Red White) inputs or a smaller input labeled Auxiliary Input, AUX IN, or similar. The Livio Radio has a 1/8″ stereo line output as well as a RCA (red & white) output with the included adapter.
  • Livio Website – uhhh…time for a major site overhaul. This was one of my biggest complaints actually, but it is merely a personal opinion. There needs to be more product pictures, a better setup video, and technical specifications about the product as a whole. I found the scrolling Video and News Archives to be extremely annoying. And the Learn More page needs a bit more meat. But the focus of this review is not of the site, but rather the hardware. The device itself is well thought out which doesn’t reflect the nature of the Livio site, in my opinion.

If you are looking for a nice desktop or tabletop device that you can place anywhere in your house to stream Pandora Radio easily, look no further than the Livio Radio. Within about 15 minutes, you can be streaming your various Pandora stations. I recently used it for a party and plugged it into an electrical outlet in my garden and had streaming, commercial-free music for the entire length of the party. The MSRP is $199 and is available with free shipping on Amazon at that price.

HTD says: With the Livio Radio, you can put Pandora in a box and simply set the music free!

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9 Responses

  1. I love this and it is so true that once you have registered your Livio Radio and associated it with your Pandora account, the process for listening to music is extremely easy and so much fun. Rock On.

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Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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