I first reviewed a wireless music player about five years back. There was Internet radio even then, but the experience of running those stations from around the world inside your living room was anything but easy. But now Internet and wireless networks are much more common that they were earlier. It has also become much easier for wireless players to log on to Internet stations of your choice. In fact, the experience is good enough for you to look at these as replacement to your old fashioned radio experience. This week I had the opportunity to test the SoundTouch Portable wireless music player. Here is what I thought.
Design: The SoundTouch Portable, in fact the entire series, looks a lot like the SoundDock devices from Bose. The Portable is obviously the smallest of the series and weighs under 1.5 kg, making it very easy to move around the house. The Bose build quality is obvious everywhere. But I did not really like the Formica-like finish in some places. There is a small OLED panel in the front that shows basic notificiations. On top are six channel buttons flanked by power, aux, and volume buttons. The same buttons are recreated on a very basic remote. It is as simple and functional as any design can be.
Setup: This is a crucial part of the device. So if you are not one of those who have a wireless set up at home, this isn’t meant for you. To set up the device you need to first connect this to a PC and configure it to your Wi-Fi network. There is nothing to be worried of here as the app will handhold you through the entire process. All you need to know is your network password. The SoundTouch app will also install on your desktop in the process. You can use this app to control the player as well as add channels from what seems like a curated list to the station slots. It also connects to the iTunes or Windows Media Player where you have catalogued your music. So one of the stations can be your own playlist. This might sound complicated, but trust me it is quite easy. Plus, you have the option of adding the same app on your Android or iOS devices to keep changing channels without having to switch on the PC every time.
Performance: Being a self confessed Bose fan I have always maintained that it is almost silly to write that the sound quality is good when testing a unit from this company. However, there will have to a disclaimer this time as the audio quality here will depend on the Internet radio station you are playing too. I say this because the experience while playing my playlist from the laptop and while using the SoundTouch was what I have come to expect from Bose. But I cannot say the same with all the stations that I played. I often felt that the device was too good for some of the stations. So I suggest you be choosy while picking stations as presets.
Once the device has been set up, it is as easy as clicking any preset buttons to play the stations of your choice. However, this will depend on your Wi-Fi network and Internet connectivity also. I felt frustrated a couple of times when the device failed to play only to realise that my service provider had ditched me at the moment I was ready for some quality music. The other small issue I had was the fact that the SoundTouch app does not let you add any Internet radio station you want to. Having been a fan of this medium for long, I have a few favourites. But they failed to show up in the searches. Plus, I could not find channels for Malayalam music, of which I know there are lot on the Net. Hopefully, the SoundTouch app will keep adding more channels soon. The Portable version is not all that loud. So if you have large rooms then maybe look for the SoundTouch 30 which is larger and louder.
Should You Buy It? Definitely, if you are 1) a fan of Internet radio and would love to hear random songs; 2) have a good Wi-Fi network and a good Internet connection to power it and 3) can afford it. At Rs 32,513, the SoundTouch Portable is not all that expensive, especially since there are no other devices that making playing Internet stations so easy.
Price Rs 32,513