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Back in the day, people listened to the radio all the time, and families would gather ’round it in the evenings, and it was all a very big deal--um, so we’re told. Today it’s easy to look at radio as a last resort, the old standby when you forget your iPod or there’s no computer around for firing up Pandora. Fans of radio will appreciate the Aluratek WiFi Internet Radio, Home Theater Edition, aka the AIREC01F (another tech product whose name just rolls off the tongue).
The Aluratek connects to your stereo or powered speakers with RCA cables, then connects to your network over Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Entering our wireless network’s case-sensitive password with the remote’s numeric keypad was frustratingly slow and error-prone. But once you’re connected, you can scroll through the stations by location, genre, and so on, in pages of 100, and add them to your favorites list. We were blown away by the huge selection: every kind of music, TV audio (in case you feel like listening to some C-SPAN), news, sports, even scanner channels. You can listen in on NASA’s Mission Control, for example.
The idea of one device to stream music and Internet radio to our stereo is intriguing--the Apple TV doesn't get internet radio, for example. But the Aluratek's so-so streaming experience makes it most attractive to people who listen to a lot of radio.
Video may have killed the radio star, but Internet radio is helping resurrect it.
For search capabilities, not to mention easier browsing, you can log in to aluratek.vtuner.com with your device’s vTuner ID and interact with the stations list--even add new stations that aren’t listed already. You can manage your favorites list from here too.
To play music from a USB drive, connect it to the port in back and select Media Player mode. Browsing with the remote is simple, but iTunes-standard AAC files (ending in .m4a or .m4p) aren’t supported, only MP3, WAV, or Mac-unfriendly WMA files.
The Aluratek is a UPnP-compatible device, so it should be able to read music stored on a Universal Plug-n-Play server. But the manual recommends PC-only software for hosting the server. To run a UPnP server on our Mac, we installed Elgato’s EyeConnect ($49.95, www.elgato.com) after not having luck getting the Aluratek to work with Playback ($15, yazsoft.com) or Connect360 ($20, www.nullriver.com). EyeConnect lives in your System Preferences, lets you share music from iTunes or anywhere else on your Mac, and works with the Aluratek. Browsing our iTunes playlists with the Aluratek’s remote, however, was a less than satisfying experience, with big lags between screens.