Best internet radio 2018: Great-sounding, easy-to-use internet radio receivers, from £50


Latest Technology and Gadgets / Post 535 Views

Almost nine in ten people in the UK listen to the radio at least once a week. Despite the rise of podcasts and streaming music services, we’re actually listening to the radio for longer – for an average for 21 hours and 24 minutes per week.

But what if you can’t get a good reception, or can’t find a station that suits you? An internet radio could be the perfect answer. These clever devices stream radio over Wi-Fi rather than relying on an old-fashioned aerial, so they’ll work anywhere where you have a decent wireless signal.

What’s more, they can stream stations from all around the world – so you can still listen to BBC Radio, Kiss, Classic FM and the rest, or try out world music from Brazil and Mali, classical broadcasts from Berlin and Vienna, talk radio from New York and country music straight from Nashville. The only question is, how do you pick the right internet radio for you?

How to choose the best internet radio for you

What types of internet radio are there?

You don’t actually need a dedicated internet radio receiver to tune into your favourite stations over the internet. There are plenty of apps and websites that let you listen on your smartphone, tablet or computer. However, a dedicated internet radio is more intuitive and convenient to use, and may well have better sound quality.

The units themselves come in a range of different form factors. There are smaller units with built-in clocks for the bedroom, as well as portable and tabletop designs, and larger stereo systems. Naturally, different designs have different strengths. The smaller units tend to be mono rather than stereo, although sound quality can still be very good – let’s face it, we frequently listen to music through mono Bluetooth speakers these days.

Portable models also tend to be more compact and able to run off batteries, while larger units have the potential for a bigger, warmer sound. Whether you want something you can carry around the house or a static unit to slot into an existing hi-fi system, there’s an internet radio to suit.

The other key question is how you control the device. Does it use buttons, a dial or a touchscreen to switch stations or adjust the volume? How easy is it to browse through the available streams and find new music? How many preset favourites can you store, and how are they accessed?

What other features should I look out for?

Many internet radios can double up as a standard Bluetooth speaker, which is useful if you don’t already own one. Some models support Spotify Connect too, so you can easily browse and choose music on your phone; they may also be able to stream tracks from an iTunes or DLNA-compliant NAS or media server in the home.

Finally, remember to check the physical connections. A USB port or SD card slot gives you the option of streaming tracks from your own media collection. Phono or jack outputs let you hook up to an external amplifier for extra volume or quality – and a headphone output can be handy for late-night listening.

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The best internet radios you can buy

Amazon Echo Dot: Best compact internet radio

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

The Echo Dot doesn’t look much like a radio, but Alexa comes with the ability to play any station on TuneIn’s massive playlist, and most of the UK’s biggest broadcasters offer dedicated skills as well. Discovering new stations isn’t all that easy, as there’s no screen, and the Dot’s small size inevitably means the sound is rather quiet and lacking in bass – but you can easily connect an external speaker via the 3.5mm line out socket, or over Bluetooth. If you’re just looking for a cheap and easy way into internet radio, the Echo Dot takes some beating – and of course, you also get all the other benefits of the Echo platform, including music streaming from Amazon Music and Spotify.

Key specs – Type: Smart speaker; Output: Not specified; Display: None; Controls: Voice, Volume Up/Down, Action, Mic mute; Remote control: No; Wireless connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth A2DP; Ports and sockets: Micro-USB power, 3.5mm line out; Dimensions: 83.5 x 83.5 x 32mm

Ocean Digital WR-238: The best budget internet radio

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

Hong Kong-based Ocean Digital offers a decent range of internet radios at prices the big-name brands can’t match. The WR-238 is particularly good value, packing in an alarm clock, Bluetooth connectivity and even a 2.4in TFT display, which shows the weather while the radio’s on standby. The sound quality is surprisingly good, with plenty of oomph if not much finesse, and it’s easy to search for stations via name, country or genre. Some users have complained of occasional buffering delays or drop-out, so it might not be ideal if your wireless coverage is patchy. Overall though it’s a great little radio that looks and sounds a lot more expensive than it really is.

Key specs – Type: Compact radio; Output: 5W; Display: 2.4in colour TFT; Controls: 5x preset buttons, Preset, Left, Right, Power, Home, Volume dial; Remote control: Yes; Wireless connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Ports and sockets: 3.5mm headphone, 3.5mm line out, 3.5mm line in; Dimensions: 194 x 126 x 122mm

Pure Evoke F3: Best internet radio under £150

Price: £120 | Buy now from Amazon

Less than 12cm high and 20cm wide, the Evoke F3 is compact enough to nestle neatly in your kitchen or bedroom – yet it packs in plenty of features. As well as FM, DAB and internet radio, it works with Spotify Connect to stream your own playlists, and can also connect directly to your phone via Bluetooth. The simple controls and 2.4in colour TFT display make it easy to find stations, and there’s a fully featured remote control bundled in. Best of all, the Evoke’s chunky, bass-ported design delivers a warmer, more rounded sound than you’d expect from its size, and we found Wi-Fi connectivity was extremely reliable, with no glitches or stutters. A classy all-rounder that’ll fit anywhere.

Key specs – Type: Compact radio; Output: 5W; Display: 2.4in colour TFT; Controls: Power, Info, Back, Source, Home, Volume/Select dial; Remote control: Yes; Wireless connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth A2DP; Ports and sockets: 3.5mm line out, 3.5mm line in; Dimensions: 195 x 110 x 118mm

Roberts Radio Stream 217: The best portable internet radio

Price: £125 | Buy now from Amazon

The Stream 217 looks like an old-school portable radio, but it has plenty of modern features. Double alarm functions make it perfect for the bedroom, and it’ll also work as a Bluetooth speaker, or a wireless streamer via DLNA or Spotify Connect. The Undok app lets you use your smartphone to discover stations and control the radio, or you can stick with the onboard controls and 2.4in colour screen. As well as internet radio, you can pick up FM and DAB transmissions, and the sound is classic Roberts – not too bass-heavy, but clear, punchy and packed with detail. With a choice of mains or battery power, it’s a great all-rounder that can accompany you everywhere around the house.

Key specs – Type: Portable radio; Output: Not specified; Display: 2.4in colour TFT; Controls: Volume dial, Power, Alarm/Sleep, Info, Preset, Mode, Menu, Forward, Back, Tuning dial; Remote control: No; Wireless connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth A2DP; Ports and sockets: 3.5mm headphone, 3.5mm line in; Dimensions: 300 x 174 x 105mm

Revo SuperConnect: Most stylish internet radio

Price: £282 | Buy now from Amazon

This high-end internet radio boasts an eye-catching vintage style. The black, white and walnut versions all look beautiful, and they don’t sound bad either, thanks to a single balanced-mode radiator driver that dishes out a warm sound with crisp highs and lashings of bass. The controls are nicely straightforward: you can either use a small joystick-style control to make your way around the sumptuous OLED display, or use the supplied remote control. The SuperConnect also makes a great Bluetooth speaker, complete with high-quality aptX streaming, and you can stream from Spotify and your own music library via DLNA. It’s an expensive bit of kit, but the marriage of sound and style is hard to resist.

Key specs – Type: Compact radio; Output: 15W; Display: 2.7in OLED display; Controls: Volume dial, Mode, Menu, Info, Alarm, 3x playback controls, 8x preset buttons; Remote control: Yes; Wireless connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX; Ports and sockets: Stereo phono outputs, optical digital output, 3.5mm headphone, 3.5mm line in; Dimensions: 270 x 180 x 120mm

Ruark R2 Mk3: Best high-end internet radio

Price: £419 | Buy now from Amazon

Audiophiles love Ruark’s kit, both for its superb style and excellent performance – and the R2 Mk3 makes an instant impression, with its stunning handcrafted wooden cabinet and curvy lines. The text-only OLED display shows a clock when you’re not using it to select sources or find a new station, and the multi-function RotoDial makes it easy to track down and pick new online stations or switch to a DLNA or Bluetooth source. You can also stream Spotify playlists directly to the R2 Mk3 via Spotify Connect. The sound is superb, with much more space, volume and richness than you’d expect from a relatively compact tabletop unit, lending real presence to just about any kind of music. It comes in walnut, white and soft black, and if you’re feeling flush, you can even pair multiple units for a multi-room system.

Key specs – Type: Tabletop radio; Output: 20W; Display: 3 line OLED display; Controls: RotoDial controller, power; Remote control: Yes; Wireless connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX; Ports and sockets: 2x stereo phono in, 3.5mm headphone, 3.5mm line in, USB; Dimensions: 340 x 185 x 120mm