In an interesting move, VTech, the makers of wireless home phones, has entered the home-audio fray with the IS9181, a Wi-Fi-enabled Internet radio receiver that will cost $199.95 when it's released this spring.
VTech claims the "competitively priced music hub delivers higher sound quality than other similarly priced music devices" and it allows you to play not only Internet radio selections but also to stream your music library stored on your computer (the IS9181 is compatible with both Windows PCs and Macs). There's also the requisite line input so you can connect any digital audio player.
At launch, VTech will be hosting a comprehensive guide to the thousands of Internet stations worldwide on its Web site, www.vtechphones.com. The press release notes that, "Once a desired station is located using the guide, users can push their favorite stations directly to the IS9181 for one-touch access."
Stations can be programmed into presets and the unit ships with a remote. Interestingly, the IS9181 can be made portable by popping in six AA batteries, which means you can take the device outside so long as you remain within range of a Wi-Fi signal. We're not sure how long those batteries will last, but Wi-Fi devices tend to gobble power, so we recommend getting rechargeables for this guy.
All in all, the IS9181 looks pretty good on paper. Now we just have to hear how it sounds.
Here's a rundown of the full spec list:
*802.11 digital Wi-Fi technology, providing superior range and streaming rates
*Internet radio streaming from 11,000 stations or ability to search for any stations that stream online
*Internet radio stations search from VTech's site or on the device itself
*Preset favorites online
*PC- or Mac-stored MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, Real music file playing
*Connect an MP3 player or any audio device directly to the radio using the provided cord
*Connect the IS9181 (via RCA connections) to other audio systems for streaming access
*Internal 2.1 speakers
*Weather and horoscope text updates based on zip code
*Large full-color display
*AC Power Adapter
*Battery-operated option (requires six AA batteries, not included)