Freecom Musicpal media streaming - Review

Freecom Musicpal media streaming - Review

Tune in to internet radio stations without switching on your PC

Pros: Simple controls; streams music from a PC; good value

Cons: No WMA support as yet; mono speaker; no remote control

Bottomline: Lack of support for some stations means it's not as good as it could have been

Price: £85

Manufacturer: Freecom

Anyone who hasn't yet delved into the world of internet radio is missing a real treat.

With thousands of free-to-access stations available from all around the world there really is something for everyone.

However, having to fire up a computer in order to listen can be a real pain. Freecom's Musicpal, then, is a small, stylish device that tries to make internet radio as easy to access as traditional FM stations.

You'll need a broadband internet connection in order to listen to stations on the Musicpal. It has a network port so it can be connected to the router, but the neatest way to hook it up to the network is using a wireless network.

Freecom has kept things simple: there's no remote and the controls are limited to just two buttons and a pair of dials (one for volume, the other for menu navigation – both also act as buttons). The screen can also be set up to scroll other information such as BBC news headlines.

As well as linking up with internet radio stations, the Musicpal can also stream audio files from PCs and UPNP-compatible disks on the network.

The quality of internet radio stations varies wildly – some stations use poor quality transmissions, which results in an underwater-style audio effect.

However, with a single speaker the Musicpal isn't designed with high-end audio in mind. Crank it up to full volume and it distorts, but it's perfectly adequate at normal volume levels in a small room. A socket is provided should you want to output the sound to a bigger set of speakers.

Disappointingly, the Musicpal can't play the thousands of radio stations available online that use the WMA format, nor can it play back those files over the network. Freecom says WMA support will be added in a downloadable update, although there is no indication of when this will happen.

Housed in a neat, compact chassis, the Musicpal has impressive capabilities: being able to stream both internet radio and music stored on a home network is handy, as is the price tag of £85. It's just a shame more stations aren't supported: current users are missing out on a lot of music and talk.