Review – LV001 Livio Radio featuring Pandora

Internet radio has become one of the most popular ways to listen to an extraordinary range of music and programming. Internet radio is free, available 24/7, with more than 20,000 stations, but until recently it required a computer to listen. Now there are several manufacturers with a range of standalone radios that make it possible to listen without a computer. We took a look at the LV001 Livio Radio featuring Pandora to see how easy they make it to listen to your Pandora account and other Internet radio sources.

Since the early 2000's, has been supplying the world with free online radio. Pandora runs on what is called the Music Genome Project, which analyzes your musical tastes based on your song choices. It's become one of the most popular websites in the world, as well as an iconic brand. Pandora has been easily accessible on the iPhone and Android for quite some time, but with the LV001 Livio Radio featuring Pandora, you can access Pandora on a dedicated machine.

The LV001 Livio Radio featuring Pandora has a very simple and accessible design. There is a grand total of 7 buttons, which makes it really easy to use. There's a volume knob that's also used to navigate through the device's menus, a power button, a back button, a favorite button, a skip button a thumbs up button, and a thumbs down button. All of the buttons feel pretty sturdy, having not loosened at all in testing. The thumbs, skip, and favorite buttons are exclusive to this radio only, since the hardware is licensed by Pandora, and those buttons activate features found in Pandora's online streamer. These buttons aren't found on Livio's other radio, the NPR Radio (essentially the same product, but optimized for National Public Radio instead of Pandora). There's also a 7-watt speaker and a headphone jack on the front so you can listen to your mixes without disturbing the rest of your family. On the back, there's an Aux In port, a Line Out port, an Ethernet jack, and a power jack. Except for the Ethernet jack, they are pretty much your standard radio features. A remote control is also included with the radio, and has all of the buttons on the radio itself on it. It works just fine, which means you can change the station, skip a track, etc. as long as you aren't too far from the radio.

The goal is for it to look and work like a standard table radio, so while it appears that there isn't much new in hardware, it's hiding some sophisticated guts. The software is well integrated with the hardware for a moderately easy to use interface. The Pandora Radio is able to access over 10,000 radio stations using the Internet. This means that you can listen to KROQ (LA's premier rock station) in Philadelphia, and listen to WMMR (Philly's lauded rock station) in Los Angeles from your kitchen table. Even though it's been done before, it's still a very cool feature, and easy to use. The LV001 Livio Radio featuring Pandora is named so for a reason. You are able to access your Pandora account from the radio, and stream and play your own custom radio stations and mixes. This is even cooler, because you always have a constant stream of music coming out of a dedicated unit.

This is the first time a radio was designed to work with Pandora from the ground up. It's nice enough to connect a dedicated device to your account, but even more important is that the radio is equipped with two "Thumbs Up" and "Thumbs Down" button. Like a song, hit the "Thumbs Up" button, don't like another song, hit the "Thumbs Down" button, This takes the radio a huge step above others because Pandora's magic lies in it's ability to learn from your choices and suggest songs you might like. Normal Internet radios may connect to Pandora, but they can merely stream predetermined content. The Aux-in and Line-out ports allow you to connect to outside devices. The device provides good music quality through its built-in speaker.

While the radio was easy to setup and use if you know how your network works, there were a few bugs. The printed instructions felt like a draft instead of a fully thought out and designed manual. The display is easy to use, once you get the hang of it, but I think for someone not savvy about Wi-Fi or Internet radio would need some help. A prominent issue we kept experiencing had the radio interrupting songs in the middle to buffer and stream, and then it abandoned the song and skipped to a new one. This problem occurred even when the radio was only 10 feet away from our wireless router. Another area for improvement with the radio was the speaker. It's fine for low-volume use, but it doesn't cut it when we played it loud. Bass response was a bit on the low side but without tone controls you had no ability to tweak it. You could remedy this by plugging in a new set of external speakers, but most people are going to sit the radio on a shelf or table and use it entirely as a standalone unit.

A few improvements that would make a big difference would be the addition of tone controls, and a separate tweeter to increase the frequency response resulting in a much more musical sound. A slightly larger speaker might improve things as well. I'd also like to see an integrated, old-fashioned, AM & FM radio option. At the moment, we have a traditional radio next to the Livio, so we can listen to local programming. It would be great to do both with one unit! The unit faces stiff competition from other units, most notably the Logitech Squeezebox Radio Music Player that comes with a color screen and better sound quality at approximately the same price. Still, those units don't have the simple elegant design of the Livio, and most importantly for Pandora users, they lack those nifty "Thumbs Up" and "Thumbs Down" buttons.

The LV001 Livio Radio featuring Pandora is a solid standalone Internet radio player. It can connect to an iPod, and assuming you have Wi-Fi, connect to the Internet to play regular Internet radio, and of course it will sync with your Pandora account. While it's not without some minor flaws, it comes recommended for the Pandora lover. If you're looking for a good Internet radio that allows one to easily access and control Pandora, then the LV001 Livio Radio featuring Pandora will make a great addition to your home earning a "Thumbs Up" rating.

Thomas Fogel, Posted 11/14/2010

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