Written by Internet, Technology

Bush TR2015WIFI Wi-Fi Radio

I thought I’d write a brief review of the recently released Bush Wi-Fi radio. With the growing number of home networks being set up, this has to be a growth area for radio, and I’ve only really been waiting for prices to fall far enough to buy one.
This particular model can be purchased at Argos for £119.99 currently, although I also hear that it’s available for £80 + VAT at Makro if you’ve got one of their trade cards.
Anyway, back to the product in hand. Setting it up was really very simple with a quick scan for local networks and then a prompt to enter any appropriate passwords. There’s also a process for networks with hidden SSIDs so everyone should be catered for.
A couple of quick station listing updates (via Reciva), and I was away.
The three main options at the start are Stations, Media Player and Configure. I jumped to Stations, then selecting first Location, then Europe and then the UK which has 484 stations listed. First up had to be Virgin Radio. The sounds was good with nice bass considering that there’s only a single speaker on the unit.
The buffering was very quick, and under the station name, a second line told me that it’s Real Enabled. But another piece of text told me that it was actually using the 128k MP3 stream that Virgin offers. That made it sound awfully good. Plugging headphones in, just showed the quality of the audio – it was much better than our usual DAB signal, but I’ll leave that argument to others.
128k MP3 streams were also used for Virgin Radio Xtreme, Virgin Radio Classic Rock and Virgin Radio Groove, or “Virgin Radio G” as it comes up on the somewhat limited display.
Flicking over to Talksport, a station I’d never ordinarily listen to, revealed what happens when you use too little bandwidth for streaming. Their 20k WMA stream was worse than a decent AM signal. I found it pretty unlistenable. The buffering took longer as well.
Over on Capital Radio, the 32k WMA was only marginally better, but disappointing for a music station. The buffering wasn’t as bad as it was for Talksport, but really this isn’t up to DAB or FM in quality.
Similarly, Classic FM was also only on a 32k WMA stream, but the piece of music I listened to wasn’t as bad sounding as Shakira had been on Capital.
Moving over to the BBC, I tuned to BBC Radio 3. Choosing a BBC station gives you a choice of Live or On Demand. I chose live, and after a pre-roll informing me that I was listening to the streaming version of the station, it was onto the service which was encoded in a 44k Real format. I suspect that Real is the default option when there are choices, but that tends to be the BBC default anyway since it’s available on more platforms. Listening via headphones, the unit had good sound to the live concert that was being broadcast when I was testing it. You could hear a little “noise” in some quieter moments though. Reasonably acceptable, although not as good as a strong FM or DAB signal.
What’s really powerful about the BBC’s offering, is of course, the On Demand listening. Choosing On Demand from Radio 4, I was presented with an up to date list of current programmes. If there are multiple editions, then I get a day by day breakdown to choose the one I want to hear.
Some stations, like Virgin Radio, have a variety of streams available to listen, and the radio doesn’t really give you the option to choose. That’s down to Reciva picking the appropriate one.
It’s worth noting that I didn’t do anything too bandwidth heavy whilst listening. So no torrents or anything, but I did download a couple of sizeable files whilst listening to Virgin and BBC stations, without any interruptions or buffering.
Listening to the odd on demand programmes, I did notice the occasional break-up, and the BBC has that slightly annoying habit of changing bit-rates mid-stream. But it’s all very good.
There’s one more part of this radio that really needs addressing. As I’ve mentioned, Reciva are responsible for the station list. They supply the list to pretty much all the available wi-fi radios currently on the market. If you go to the Reciva website you can register your set online which creates a “My Stuff” section which lets you add your own streams and station favourites. So, although there are ten presets built in for favourites, you can have more by going to the My Stuff menu option.
Adding streams is especially useful if you want to use a higher quality version of a stream than the one offered by default. Unfortunately, none of the three I’ve tried so far has worked. I listen to Paul Harris on KMOX a bit, and CBS has an annoying new system of making you register before you get a player launched. Discovering the exact stream took a bit of detective work. But although it works in Windows Media Player, the radio fails to play the stream.
What’s really curious is that there is precisely no mention of Reciva or its website and the functionality it offers, anywhere in the Bush manual. You just have to “know” to get there.
I do think that some radio stations need to ask some serious questions about the quality that they’re currently using to encode their streams. As more people start to get these radios (and I’ve heard that one manufacturer is planning on building wi-fi into most of their digital radios in the future), sub-standard streaming is going to become as issue. And only offering streams locked into players is not going to be enormously helpful, unless the stations at least let Reciva know what the real addresses of their streams are.
The only two things I can say at this early stage that could do with improving are the size of the display, which is a little small, and the shame that there’s no way of getting some of the scrolling text that various players can offer. Obviously with no single standard for players, this latter is going to be a problem.
Still, all said and done, the ease with which you can just listen on demand to programming when you feel like it without booting up a computer, makes this a killer device. Roll on the advent of listening on demand in commercial radio in the UK.
By the way, it’s probably a bit misleading of Argos to print details on DAB Digital Radio in their catalogue in the entry for this unit. There’s no DAB or AM/FM on this product. They even print the DAB logo. Mind you, the photo shows the radio as having an antenna when it doesn’t.