- Built-in WiFi
- Headphone jack output means you can add speakers
- Accompanying iPhone app with no setup required
- Built-in battery charger
- Somewhat sluggish performance when navigation menus
- Subpar sound quality
- Small screen w/ cryptic menus
- Box feels cheap
It’s not new news that Internet Radio will forever be lodged in obscurity. The bit rates are variable and as a result often poor in sound quality. But, for those who are looking for a specific genre (90s rock, big band jazz, punk rock, etc) you’ll surely find it online.
The Grace Digital Allegro is a portable, mono speaker that can access up to 16,000 Internet radio stations. It includes built-in WiFi, a small 4 lined backlit display, headphone output jack, 5 programmable alarms, time, a remote and a 6 AA battery slot if no AC outlet is available. The top of the box is outfitted with a variety of buttons (track forward/backward, snooze, volume), which includes a clickable jog wheel for cycling through menus and options.
Setting up the Allegro is a no brainer, though some will be challenged by the semi cryptic menus and lack of QWERTY keyboard when it comes to inputting WEP codes for router access. Accessing my router was painfree, though I would have loved a QWERTY keyboard or some sort of direct access to the setup process via the iPhone.
The screen of the device is frustratingly small, which is made worse by the hiercharchy, or should I say lack there of, of the menu system, which after even days of use was still difficult to remember and far from intuitive. The podcast list, though extensive, lacked any sort of search function.
During setup I was asked about my location. This ultimately provides you with a list of your local radio stations, though you’re not limited to those.
In terms of overall build quality the Allegro is to a large degree a matte black plastic box with 6 sides that have been glued together and 4 rubber feet. The buttons, when pushed are bit hollow and the overall feel of the box lacks any sort of opulence. It’s safe to say that you won’t be in ah upon removing this thing from the packaging.
The Allegro is a mono speaker system, so don’t expect thumping bass or a rich and dynamic timbre. Fortunately, there is a headphone jack, which means with the correct cord this thing can be attached to any home theater receiver or a set of powered speakers. Keep in mind, though, that many radio stations lack significant bit rate, so no matter the speakers the sound quality will be hampered. There is however a few preset eqs and a bass/treble setting that allows you to draw a bit more sound out of the tiny box.
The iPhone app relieves the Allegro’s small screen shortcoming, but unfortunately doesn’t address the menu system. So, often I found my menu option by elimination, not intuition. On a positive note, all you need to do is download the accompanying app to control one or many of Grace Digital’s boxes; no configuration is required.
The Allegro is capable of streaming your computer’s stored media, or files located on a UPnP compatible drive. I attempted to access my iTunes music and ultimately failed despite following the instructions. Without boring you with the details, the instructions appeared to be out dated and even though the Allegro is Mac compatible, they instructed me to access a file that didn’t exist.
Pandora and a few other Internet radio services (Live365 and Aupeo!) are compatible with the Allegro. But, and this is common with other devices that can tap these services, you’ll need to first setup them up using your computer before you can access the service. To enable Pandora I had to register for a Grace Digital account and then input a code that was specific to my Allegro box. The code can be accessed by navigating (on the box) to ‘Register’ in the system’s menu. Once complete I was able to access my entire list of Pandora stations and even add new stations from both the iPhone app and the device itself as well as rate them.
I didn’t test the Allegro using batteries and although none are included, it can recharge 6 AA NiMH without using an external charger. In fact, I found this option rather strange considering that the box lacks an FM receiver and requires a WiFi signal, which in all likelihood means you’ll be in proximity of an A/C plug. Though if you happen to throwing a BBQ (i.e. outside, where outlets are few and far between) this could prove useful.
The remote lets you navigate the Allegro box much in the same way you would if you were standing next to it. But due to the small screen, and accompanying iPhone app I found it rather useless. My remote’s volume up button arrived broken, which negated a large portion of the remote’s effective functionality.
Overall Grace Digital’s Allegro provides an unremarkable experience. The boxes performance between menus/station is a bit laggy and the all together build quality is a bit cheap feeling at $169.99. Factor in the subpar sound quality, cryptic menus and you’re probably better off with a Bluetooth speaker system for streaming tunes and podcasts from your smartphone.
You can buy the Grace Digital GDI-IRD4000 Allegro Wireless Internet Portable Radio from Amazon for $149.