Published on April 30th, 2011 | by Greg0
Livio Radio Pandora: A Bottomless Well of Great Music
When you want to listen to music at home, there are a plethora of ways. Sure, you can dock your iPod or iPhone, and you can also simply use a computer. If you have a home entertainment system, that may be your ticket- even the major consoles can stream music now, and some TVs feature apps that can be good enough. But some locations are a little tougher to manage- kitchens, libraries to name just two- and you might not want to carry your iPod or MP3 player with you from room to room. That’s where a small bookshelf system comes in, like the Livio Radios.
They offer a couple of different models, including one aimed at NPR fans, but today’s version is the Pandora Edition. In many ways, it’s similar to a unit we reviewed over the holidays and has many similar benefits and trade-offs. For starters, if you don’t already use Pandora, you should. It’s free, for the most part, and offers everything imaginable. But most of all, it works- learning your tastes in music over time and suggesting new and interesting stuff you’ll like. Unlike some systems, this one is pretty much only good for Pandora- other services are left in the wind (except for Reciva, which offers streaming radio). You can’t stream music from a computer, either. For many people, these limitations won’t matter, but for those with large music collections already shared on a local network, it might be better to look to a system like the Squeezebox or Sonos.
The Livio is easy to setup, as long as your wireless network name and password aren’t too difficult to enter without a keyboard. Both wired and wireless connectivity is built-in. The screen isn’t particularly great, and there is no touchscreen, nor any iPod dock. But there is a headphone jack for auxiliary input, and the unit looks and feels great- others can feel a bit cheap, but the Livio is solid and classy. This model was built for Pandora, and it shows, with easy thumbs up and thumbs down access on the base as well as the remote. And the remote is well-designed, a nice change from similar ones that can feel clunky.
Audio is not great, however. The single mono speaker can’t do wonders, but for both volume and clarity, you’d be better off with even a cheap pair of external speakers (which are easy to connect). Bass is light, and sounds can get lost pretty easily, though we didn’t hear much distortion. Of course, most streams are fairly low bitrate anyway.
Overall, the Livio is cute, available in either black or silver, and offers a decent package. A few missing features set it back a bit from the pack though, and the price is close enough to make this unit feel a little overpriced. With an MSRP of $200, we were able to find it for around $130 or so online.