The press release from Myine Electronics states “Myine’s Ira Wireless Internet Radio is designed to harness the universe of radio broadcasts available on the Internet and to allow user enjoyment anywhere a wireless internet connection, a speaker system and power sources are available.” And that pretty well sums it up – and it does a great job at it too!
The general point of the unit is to not only give you access to the world of internet streaming radio and podcasts, but to do it easily, quickly, and without having to know a whole lot about what’s going on with your network or connections. “There is a lack of good products available for people who are not tech savvy or just busy,” said Jake Sigal, Principal and Founder of Myine Electronics. “Ira doesn’t have any unnecessary bells and whistles, and sets up automatically right out of the box without a computer. We believe that with potentially confusing electronics, less is more.”
When you first break the Ira out of the box, you’ll see that it comes with the unit itself, a power cable, and a remote. It relies on WiFi being available to access the internet, and this is the first caution I would give potential buyers – make sure you have WiFi in your home, and that it is strong in the area you intend to put the Ira. The Ira seems very sensitive to interference and distance, so don’t expect it to work as consistently and quickly as your laptop card does.
After plugging it in to the power and a set of speakers or a receiver, the next thing you’ll need to do is configure it to access that WiFi broadcast. Although the Ira is geared towards ‘low-tech’ users, it will definitely take some knowledge of networking and network configuration (plus a fair amount of patience) if you have any security enabled. Although it picks up the SSID if you are broadcasting that, and will tell you what type of security or encryption protocol, you’ll need to be able to enter the passcode. If this is a WEP secure connection, this means you’ll need to use the arrows on the remote and a pseudo keyboard on the screen to plunk out the 16 digits/characters/symbols – and unfortunately the Ira will not save incorrect configurations meaning you’ll have to do it all again if you get one of the numbers wrong! It saves it if you get it right, so this may not be a big deal, particularly once you’re past it.
Once you’ve got it all set up, you really start seeing the value and power of this unit. Users can filter by location or genre, and there are literally thousands of stations available. There are you’re your typical shoutcast internet only stations, but also streaming live stations from around the globe. You’ve also got access to podcasts (including yours truly) and audio presentations, though you may find some of the more obscure ones missing. Myine selects the podcasts and stations that it will display through some mechanism that wasn’t revealed to me. They did add podcasts that I requested (e.g., TechTalk on WRLR) without any questions or hesitation however, so I don’t see this as a big hit.
If you’re familiar at all with listening to radio or streaming audio on your laptop or desktop, you’ll “get” this product immediately. What’s really neat about it for me is how portable it is – I can listen to tunes up in my bedroom, then take the little unit downstairs to our porch outside, plug it into some speakers there and keep listening – without having to drag my laptop with it’s rather junky soundcard all over the place! It’s even small enough to throw in a jacket pocket and take to someone else’s house to show off.
One area for future development and a feature that I really missed on the Ira is the lack of song information. Most stations broadcast the track and artist info with the song, but oddly the Ira unit does not display it. You can get a lot of other streaming and audio info, just nothing about the current track playing. The Ira software does have the capability to get updated over the wifi connection you use, so I would expect to see this fixed in a later release.
Overall, I have to give this about a 3 out of 5 chips. It’s a fantastic little product and idea, with portability and ease-of-use in the forefront of internet connected audio players (plus the benefit of not paying for XM or other similar options!). The lack of song tagging and weak reception strength make it just a little tougher to use than it should be however, and drops it down a notch. The price point is a touch high but still definitely within reach at around $130. The Ira by MyIne can be found on Amazon.
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