Friday, December 29, 2006

Warning: Geeky post about Internet Radio, music, and audio in general

This is a very interesting new product. First shown at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, the InFusion portable internet radio from Torian began shipping in November.

It is a battery-powered, fully portable, WiFi-driven media playback device. It also functions as an MP3 recorder/player and a regular FM radio. The cool thing about it is that it is designed to access the gazillion internet radio resources without the need for a computer. All it requires is WiFi. As WiFi becomes more and more ubiquitous, accessories like this will be increasingly practical. Not only will you be able to tune in at the local coffee shop, but even at home, it will be possible to listen to your favorite Ivory Coast alternative-rock channel as you mow the yard, fix supper, or clean the garage.

I love exploring the obscure and bizarre creative corners of our musical world through the many internet radio portals that exist today. For more info on this, check out this very helpful Wikipedia entry for details and links to explore. The only drawbacks so far have been that I have to listen to it on my computer, can't easily record the streaming audio, and therefore I can't take it with me.

This type of device or a variant should and will likely become standard equipment on home stereo component equipment. In addition to the buttons that allow you to select CD/DVD, FM, AM, and Cable TV, will be a button that says IP or somesuch, which will then allow you to tune in to the amazing programming choices that exist on the internet. Obviously, broadband internet access will be required, but that, too, is becoming more available with each passing day.

Audio quality continues to be an issue with every IP audio device. While I expect the InFusion sounds as good as most of the other internet-based players, I have yet to hear any consumer online-driven audio source that sounds as good as a compact disc through a decent conventional player. MP3's offer incredible convenience and access, but the fidelity is greatly inferior to the CD, DVD, or other fixed digital playback systems. In general, audio playback quality has suffered tremendously the last few years because the industries that drive the technology shifted their focus from prioritizing high-fidelity sound to high-quantity delivery methods. There are a host of issues, technical and aesthetic at play and I'm not going to get into it here. My hope and expectation is that the quality of the sound will soon catch back up with the wonderful freedom that we now have to listen to programming available from all over the planet.

The InFusion at first seems a little pricey at $229 and it is only available via special order through their site. But it is cheaper than most IPOD's and many other MP3 players. I think the idea is way more interesting than satellite radio, although, obviously, where there is no WiFi, there will be very little fun to be had. Yes, I want one.

h/t RadioWorld Online

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