On page four of the owner’s manual for Grace Digital’s Tuner Wi-Fi Radio, there’s an unintentionally hilarious warning that reads, “Do not use this apparatus in humid or tropical climates.” So when considering the few minor caveats I have with the Tuner, keep in mind that I live in Alabama, where any dip in relative humidity below 70 percent leads to a rush on ChapStick at the local Walgreens.
For the most part the Tuner Wi-Fi Radio is an incredibly easy product to set up.
Not that there are many caveats to share, mind you. For the most part the Tuner Wi-Fi Radio is an incredibly easy product to set up, and nearly as easy to use, especially when you consider that from one box you can access Pandora, Aupeo!, Live365, Sirius Radio, MP3Tunes, FM radio, and pretty much every worthwhile internet radio station known to man or nerd. It also streams shared music from a networked PC or Mac, but that’s where things get a weensy bit caveat-y, so let’s stick to setup and streaming audio for a sec.
Unlike most of Grace Digital’s internet radios, the Tuner doesn’t feature built-in speaker(s). Instead, you’ll need to connect stereo or surround processor or receiver via RCA, optical, or digital coax, and quite frankly, as far as the hardware setup goes, that’s about as complicated as it gets.
Other than tinkering with Wi-Fi or LAN settings if necessary and setting the clock on the Tuner’s roomy LCD display, most of the setup takes place on the computer, where you’ll link all of your client’s various streaming music accounts to a master Reciva/Grace Digital account. From there, it’s mostly a matter of firing up the Tuner and browsing a ridiculous amount of music, either with the included remote or, better yet, Grace Digital’s free iPhone app, which may not be quite as slick as Sonos’ control app, but it’s pretty intuitive all the same. Plus, the included remote is IR-only and requires that you be able to read the Tuner’s display from across the room, and let’s face it, you’re probably gravitating toward iPhone/iPad control in most of your new installations anyway, so the app is a no-brainer.
If you’re kicking it old school with a pair of headphones in front of the Tuner, you can also use the combination tuning knob/select button to browse your preferred channels, but I found myself using the app even when at arms length, if only because the select button requires a firm press, and the Tuner itself–as well-designed as it is–is a little light and prone to butt-scooting after any amount of use. I wish Grace Digital had resorted to the old trick of cramming a lot of otherwise useless metal in the chassis to make the unit feel more substantial.
If it sounds like I’m picking nits, I probably am, if only because the things that the Tuner does well, it does so simply that there’s not much to write. It’s incredibly easy to turn on, tune in, and zone out to pretty much any internet radio station you can think of (in my case, oodles and oodles of NPR affiliates from sea to plastic-choked sea). And switching from internet radio to services like Aupeo! (the new Pandora, in case you hadn’t heard) or Sirius is a snap.
What isn’t quite as snappy, though, is browsing music actually located on the home network. Grace Digital offers two ways to access networked music: Windows Share or UPnP. The former is by far the more robust solution, allowing for sorting by artist or album and the like, but the Tuner couldn’t locate my PC running Windows 7 via Windows Share (a quick call to customer service revealed that, “Yeah, it just doesn’t work for some people; we’re not sure why”). It did locate the machine lickety-split via UPnP, but that left me browsing 26.6 days’ worth of music one song at a time, with no way of sorting them. Grace Digital is working on adding sorting capabilities to its UPnP mode, though, so there’s hope for the future.
Oddly enough, my wife’s Vista-equipped laptop, located on the same network and set up to share all of the music on my PC, was quickly snatched up by the Tuner’s Windows Share mode, but even so, browsing her music turned out to be a finicky affair, with the Tuner occasionally forgetting it was there, sending me back to step one of the setup process.
The point is, if your client is looking to access to a ridiculous amount of streaming music via their home’s main sound system without forking out a ton of dough, Grace Digital’s Tuner Wi-Fi Radio boasts exceptional performance and very good sound quality without much fuss. If they’re looking to share an iTunes library throughout the home, well… there are more elegant solutions. Then again, though, maybe the humidity is to blame.
The Tuner Wi-Fi Radio is a beautiful device that offers easy access to gobs of streaming music via the internet and over the airwaves
Setting it up for network music sharing requires a lot of patience and networking know-how, and might not work exceptionally well no matter what you do.
■ RCA analog, TOSLINK, and Coax Digital audio connectors
■ Supported audio formats: AIFF, AIFC, WAVE, CAF, NeXT, ADTS, MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WMA
■ Supported playlist formats: ASX, M3U, PLS
■ Supported streaming protocols: HTTP, HTTPS, RTSP, WSMP, Shoutcast
■ Up to 24bit/96K sampling rate via digital outputs
■ True 802.11g wireless connectivity