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Review: LivioRadio’s “Carmen”

In the year 2010, with all of the new fangled means of listening to music, radio is dead. Right? Mp3 players, iPods, smartphones, and web equipped cars are quickly eating into the realm that terrestrial radio once played. With so many more efficient means of consuming music, we have to ask: Why even bother with radio?

Some people simply like the more “social” or “personal” aspect a human DJ brings. For others, it’s a matter of still not possessing a device to play their own music. And then there’s people whom feel radio (and music in general) isn’t that important in their lives, and as such, how they get music doesn’t really matter.

But I think I’ve found one little gadget that could make the radio relevant and fun again — The Carmen, by LivioRadio. Hop inside to see just how one seemingly extinct technology can be made so relevant again…

Software and Genearl Impressions

Now, right off the bat you’re probably already wondering how on earth someone could make a gadget that would make old as dirt, “terrestrial radio” useful once again. At least where I live, the radio is full of crap. Plain and simple. There’s a good station here or there; don’t get me wrong. But one thing bothers me as I’m sure many of you — they (the stations) play the same basic songs over and over and over again long after it’s become tiring. That’s why more and more people are moving towards mp3 players and streaming web radio/services. It’s easier, faster, and much more customizable from an end user standpoint.

I’ll admit, when I was contacted about the Carmen, I was skeptical that I would find any reason to recommend it. I mean, I’m a huge music buff. New, emerging music rarely makes it onto the airwaves these days it seems. Again, it’s just something that the internet excels at. Not to mention, I’m fairly proficient when it comes to technology (just a little bit ;) ), so I don’t have any problems finding online radio and recording the music played for later consumption. So why waste my time on a device that is focused on “radio”? But the Carmen impressed me.

To be truthful, the Carmen isn’t so much a terrestrial radio tool as it is more a web radio tool. Though, plenty of terrestrial radio stations have websites that allow for online streaming. WIth that said, the Carmen and other similar services/devices can tap into that stream and essentially breathe new life into your typical terrestrial radio station.

Upon firing up the software for the first time (Mac and Windows compatible), you’re met with a simple, single click action to launch the software. From there, you are instantly thrust into the meat of the product, able to browse through countless genres as well as search by radio station too! Discovering a new band that you haven’t heard of before is quite easy. The biggest plus for me was that within 10 seconds of opening up the Carmen software, I had already saved 4-5 German rock radio stations added to my favorites list.

Granted, listening to foreign stations is nothing new, and honestly, it’s pretty easy to find online. On that same note, recording online radio isn’t too entirely difficult either. All it takes is some cheap software (I’m sure you can find free options too). But what the Carmen excels at is being extremely intuitive. No, it might not have as many options as some would like or those whom are use to the wide range that the encumbered internet offers. Nevertheless, the Carmen has more than enough genres and stations to keep even more hardcore music connoisseurs busy.


Now toss in the fact that actually recording your new favorite stations is another single-click movement. Speaking of recording, the Carmen device holds a solid 2GB of audio. At first, I thought it sounded a tad low. But when you do the number crunching, it ends up equalling roughly 45 hours of recorded radio. As easy as it is to record and re-record radio stations to the Carmen, I doubt many users would go more than a day or two without recording some new content anyway.

Another piece to the puzzle that makes the Carmen pretty impressive is the unit and accompanying remote themselves. The actual USB/Car adapter piece houses the 2GB or storage, display, and navigation buttons, and isn’t any larger than your standard car adapter. The remote is equally tiny, roughly the size of a few long sticks of gum wedged together. Being that you’re listening to pre-recorded radio, the remote comes in handy for skipping ahead of those pesky ads that plague terrestrial radio.

Sound Quality

The final and perhaps most important aspect of the Carmen is audio quality. If you’re going to build a fantastic little device that makes recording and replaying radio so much fun and easy to use, you had better not skimp on audio quality. In my week+ of testing to and from my 9 to 5 job, I have to say that the Carmen doesn’t disappoint. Yeah, it’s broadcasted over relatively weaker FM frequencies, and as such, will suffer from minor interference from time to time in more populated cities (with lots of radio stations fighting for airwaves). But the Carmen is far from the worst FM-based audio device I’ve heard.

LivioRadio Account and iPhone app

One other aspect of the Carmen is that of LivioRadio accounts. Creating a LivioRadio account isn’t mandatory, but it adds to the overall experience and can make it more enjoyable. Much like other popular web radio/streaming services, a LivioRadio account allows you to store your radio listening history and favorites and sync those into the desktop application. If you have a multiple computer household, easily syncing music histories is a huge plus. Further expanding the fun, LivioRadio’s iPhone app provides all of the web radio discovery/streaming features in a smaller even more portable package.

Conclusion and Closing Thoughts

Coming away from my time with the Carmen, I’ll have to admit that I’m pretty impressed by the overall package. It’s small, extremely easy to set up and use, and sounds pretty decent to boot. The entire package will set you back $59.99, which is a tad high for what I’d call simple repackaging of free web radio services. But at the same time, doing it a-la-carte by yourself can end up costing you too — usually in the name of some software to record online audio. Then you have to add in the cost of a stand alone mp3 player to hold the audio as well as a car adapter to charge your device and you’ve already quickly reached or sailed past the asking price of the Carmen.

It all comes down to what your needs are. If you’re really into radio and more “social” sources of music as apposed to simply dumping 30GB of music on an iPod, the Carmen will help you enjoy all of that web radio for a pretty affordable price. If not, then move along. Simple as that. From what I’ve seen, however, I can honestly say the Carmen made discovering new radio stations a rather surprising adventure.

Website: LivioRadio


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