Hi fi part 2: the kitchen radio

After buying the new livingroom hi-fi, my thinking was I want a device for the kitchen that does DAB+ for digital radio (eg music such as Double-J without relying on the vagaries of the internet connection) and can also do AirPlay (eg for music from iTunes on the Mac).

Devices that do both DAB+ and AirPlay in one kitchen-sized unit seem to be extremely scarce. The only one I’ve found was sold by Panasonic back in 2012: the SC-HC57DB, which also plays CDs. You can’t buy these new now, but you can find them secondhand and refurbished. That particular model had mixed reviews.

Okay then, what about concentrating on DAB, but also with network access to stream music via protocols other than AirPlay?

Pure do some nice radios. I looked through reviews and compared models — whose names are very confusing. I particularly like the one done up as a Marshall amp… with a Volume knob that goes up to 11.

I went out looking for Pure radios in the shops at lunchtime.

Pure radio

The Pure web site has a store locator which they might as well shut down (at least temporarily), as its data is hopelessly inaccurate. It says Big W and Target stock their products. I couldn’t find any. (In fact Target has moved to their own in-house hi-fi gear. Hmmm yeah… probably not the ultimate in high fidelity. $99 Target soundbar, anybody?)

It says Myer and DJs stock them too. This seemed more likely, but neither had any on display. It listed a store called Volume in Melbourne Central, which has closed.

The store locator doesn’t list Dick Smith, yet they did have some of their radios on display at their Emporium store, and happily in a spot where you could play around and listen to them. JB Hifi is listed, and do have them, but only a couple of models. Ditto Harvey Norman.

After researching the various models, I ended up deciding on the Pure One Flow, which gets good reviews — What Hi-Fi gave it 5 stars and the only down side they listed in the summary was it was “not the sexiest-looking radio we’ve ever seen”.

Given the lack of retailers stocking it, I looked online — a mob called WebRadios in Melbourne, who mysteriously only sell four products, had the best price. It arrived within a day or two.

Pure One Flow radio

Pure appear to have some skilled designers in product development — taking a leaf from Apple’s book, even the box was beautiful.

Pure radio upgradingOnce plugged-in and running, the radio wanted to patch itself when it was fired up, which I found amusing. Once done, it’s worked well, and is excellent for music from the kitchen, though it can go loud enough to be heard from most of my small house. Mono, but a good quality sound (to my unqualified ear).

Because I’m a geek, I deliberately got a model with network capabilities, though I haven’t fully explored them yet — beyond controlling it with my mobile phone, including piping music into it from the phone, and testing out streaming from a couple of exotic overseas radio stations. Neato.

If I really desperately want AirPlay, it does have an input, so I can add an AirPort Express. What I find more appealing through is that, if I get severe Sonos-envy, it can be part of a Jongo network of synced speakers (Pure’s probably not-quite-as-advanced version of Sonos), which can link through to an existing stereo via the Jongo A2 adaptor.

All in all though, I’m liking this new radio.

The other thing I’ve discovered while looking through the digital radio broadcasts is that I probably prefer the dinosaur music on Triple M Classic to Double-J.

My blabbering in the TARDIS

Deep within the bowels of the ABC studios at Southbank…

ABC Southbank (Melbourne) studios

…there is a Triple J studio called “TARDIS”.

TARDIS studio, ABC

Well, recording booths. I discovered that they’re not bigger on the inside.

I was there the other day at lunchtime. My blabbering has shown up as part of a Triple J “Hack” story on the costs of public transport vs cars.

What was yesterday?

Yesterday was the 5th of April.

It was Easter Monday, a public holiday in Victoria.

Most businesses were closed. When it comes to the shops, it looked like a Sunday: most smaller ones closed, most bigger ones open. (Not like Good Friday and Easter Sunday when everything’s closed.)

Schools were all closed, but they’re in the middle of school holidays anyway. Universities seemed to be closed.

The roads were generally quieter than a weekday. But as far as the reversible lane in Queens Road was concerned, it was a weekday, as in the morning it was operating city-bound. (Outside weekday mornings, it always operates outbound.)

Would a weekday parking restriction count on a weekday public holiday? I don’t know. Anybody know?

As far as the trains were concerned, it was a Saturday, with a Saturday timetable running, but without the two late-night after-midnight trains on each line. V/Line trains and coaches also ran to a Saturday timetable.

As far as the trams were concerned, it was a Saturday but with trams starting an hour earlier than the usual Saturday timetable. On a lot of public holidays they run a Sunday timetable but with trams starting at weekday times. I’m not sure why they don’t just fix the Sunday timetable so the trams regularly start a bit earlier.

Buses? All over the shop. Some routes ran Saturday timetables, some Sunday timetables.

If you travelled with a Metcard, it was a weekday. They don’t do public holidays. If you travelled on trains with a Myki, it knew it was a public holiday and should have charged a maximum of $3 for the day. (There you go, there’s an actual tangible benefit from it.) V/Line charged off-peak fares.

On TV, it appeared to be a normal Monday. Radio seemed a bit different — ABC 774 was doing its holiday thing of networking all the ABC Local Radio stations around the country together, with a host in some far-flung town broadcasting to the nation.

And me? I spent a fair bit of time at home, spending time with loved ones, and relaxing, so to me, it was closest to a Sunday.

ABC web site useable again

I noticed the other day that the ABC Local web sites were down for maintenance.

They got a revamp in mid-2008 that left it incredibly messy. Apart from the garish green and black colours, it was impossible to find things.

It’s like they forgot that they’re most often promoted via the ABC Local Radio stations; finding programme information and clips was really difficult, lost in a sea of links.

Happily they’ve given it another facelift, and not only are the colours a bit easier on the eyes, it’s a easier to find things again.

ABC web site late-2008 ABC web site early 2010

Progress, definitely progress.

Digital radio

Digital radio was launched today.

Interesting, and they’re crowing about a number of new funky features. But the bottom line for me is:

Q: Will AM and FM radio be switched off soon?

There are no plans at this stage to switch off AM and FM radio services. As there is an estimated five radio devices per home, listeners must be given time to change over all of their radio devices before any discussion of switch off of analogue services. In addition, planning needs to continue for the switch on of digital services to the rest of Australia outside of the five launch cities.

Digital Radio FAQ

I listen to radio a bit, but the new features like clearer sound and extra channels aren’t grabbing me. I’ll only upgrade if I’m dragged kicking and screaming off conventional radio. $150 for a set? No way.

Maybe the serious radio-heads will take it up?

Podcasting mogul Cameron Reilly has a post comparing Digital Radio to podcasts and notes that podcasts already have most of the features. True.

But then, I listen to radio for its immediacy. You don’t get breaking news on podcasts.

Oh, boy am I glad I missed the mind-numbing four-minute-long “road-block” (all stations) segment at 7:40am.