PoGo Products is betting that lots of people hate missing their favorite radio shows, just as the millions who program their VCRs can't go without their favorite television series. The company likes to promote its Radio YourWay recorder as a TiVo for radio, and it's the truth--although the unit plays MP3 and WMA files, its major selling point is its ability to digitally record AM and FM broadcasts. Measuring 2.17 by 3.88 by 0.71 inches, the Radio YourWay is roughly the size of a cigarette pack, so while it can slip into a front shirt pocket, it will be a little bulky. At 2.8 ounces, its weight is about halfway between that of a flash player and an Apple iPod.
The unit sports a utilitarian layout, with the Play/Pause button in the middle of a circle of navigation controls. A small speaker on the back provides pocket-radio-style listening; you'll need to attach the included antenna wire to use the speaker instead of headphones, which normally act as antennae for portable devices with radio tuners. Most of the functions, such as file deletion and EQ, are handled by a single button. But if you want to erase multiple files simultaneously, you have to do it from your computer through the bundled TM Explorer software (see the Features section).
On the downside, the unit feels a bit flimsy, as if the buttons weren't built to withstand long-term use. With only 32MB of memory onboard, the Radio YourWay is clearly not designed to compete with standard MP3 players, although it does have an expansion slot so that you can add more memory with SD or MMC media. The monochrome LCD, which displays big, block, digitized characters, looks like something from an early-eighties handheld video game, but at least it's large, and some users might find its retro appearance appealing.
The device is powered by two alkaline AAA batteries and connects to your computer via the supplied USB cable. If you use rechargeable batteries, you'll need a separate charger; the AC adapter is for powering the unit only when you want to listen to broadcasts through the PoGo's built-in speaker. What really separates the Radio YourWay from the pack is its ability to digitally record directly from its AM/FM tuner, either on the fly or with the timer. You can also listen as you record. The device's timer is akin to your VCR's--frustrating at first but relatively simple once you get the hang of it. Unlike with a VCR, however, you can't listen to one station while recording from another. But you can schedule an FM recording for one block of time, and an AM recording for another. Radio recordings are treated as voice files and saved in RVF, which uses a much lower compression rate than music file formats (more on this in the Performance section).
The TM Explorer software is simple enough to use for transferring files between the player's internal and external memory. Three folders for music, voice, and data in the Recorder menu keep everything well organized. After you upload recordings to your computer, the application can convert the RVF files to WAV format at the click of a button. Afterward, you can use an audio editor to eliminate commercials, make best-of compilations, and hunt for samples to place in audio projects (as long as you clear the rights). Conversion to WAV, of course, drastically increases file size. Our 1.78MB RVF file became a 28.6MB expanded WAV file. However, you can save space by recompressing a WAV file to MP3 or another format with a program such as dBpowerAmp Music Converter.
The built-in speaker allows you to listen without headphones to MP3 or WMA files, as well as live or canned AM/FM broadcasts. But it's more appropriate for voice transmission--music coming through the single speaker calls to mind old transistor radios. Although you can record your favorite songs off the radio, the device's recording quality simply isn't good enough for music. It's better suited to talk-radio and sports programs. Radio recordings are saved as RVF files with a sampling rate of 16kHz to 20kHz, too low for audio in any codec. The upside is that you can record an hour on a mere 7.2MB of memory. The compression magnifies any static or hiss in the source signal, so the record function works best with a cleanly received station. The antenna helps significantly.
The Radio YourWay's digital-music capabilities are pretty basic. The LCD offers no artist names or other song information, just the track number and the elapsed time. MP3 files come across as slightly muffled through the supplied earbuds. The audio quality improves with better headphones, but even then, it's still not on a par with what you get from the best-sounding MP3 players. And that's fine since this device is not primarily an MP3 player.
Files transferred to the unit at a rate of 0.34MB per second--unexceptional but reasonable. PoGo rates the battery life at 10 hours, although that number decreases when you do lots of recording and configuration.