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Holiday Gifts for Easy and Enjoyable Radio Listening

For this year’s Holiday Gift Guide I want to focus on some great ways to listen to the radio. Because we are living in the digital age, many of these gifts also work well for consuming other digital media.

Also, don’t miss Jennifer’s eclectic holiday gift guide featuring a radio in a jar, a radio tower picture calendar and more fun ideas.

Click each item to learn more:

Chromecast Is an Inexpensive Internet Radio

ChromecastThough it’s mostly associated with television, I think Google’s Chromecast is a simple and inexpensive way to add a wide range of internet radio to any room where there’s a television. At just $35 the ” target=”_blank”>Chromecast is really the cheapest internet radio for anyone who already owns a flat screen TV.

I received mine as a Christmas gift last year, and it has become an indispensable part of my home entertainment system ever since. Last February I wrote about how my Chromecast is an internet radio, with access to services like Pandora, Songza and Google Play. The range of services has grown since then, adding Rhapsody, Rdio, TuneIn, NPR One, iHeartRadio, BeyondPod, 8tracks and FM Nederland.

Sonos Makes Wireless Listening Simple

Sonos Play 1I recently completed a trial of the Sonos wireless music system while doing a review of Deezer Elite. In the process I’ve become won over to Sonos. While I’ve used Bluetooth and Apple’s AirPlay to wirelessly send digital audio to my stereo, these pale in comparison to the Sonos experience.

Sonos speakers and the Sonos Connect dock for your existing stereo all sound really good. But the real winner is the Sonos app, which runs on your computer and iOS or Android device. Sonos connects to internet radio services like TuneIn as well as most major music streaming platforms, like Spotify or Deezer.

Searching for stations, tracks, artists or albums and sending them wirelessly to a Sonos speaker or your stereo is dead simple, as is saving them to favorites for later access. The real killer feature is the ability to combine tracks from your own library with those from services like Spotify into queues or playlists. This is where Sonos has a true leg up on using iTunes, Google Play or Amazon Cloud Music individually.

I tested the Sonos PLAY:1, which is the entry point for the system at $199. It’s a single mono speaker that pretty well beats most Bluetooth speakers I’ve heard. It’s sound is rich and full-bodied, quite powerful enough for a small to mid-sized room. The only cable it needs is power, and you can control it from any computer or mobile device on the network running the Sonos app. For background listening mono is just fine. For stereo you just add another PLAY:1 and pair them together in the Sonos app.

Sonos ConnectI also tested the Sonos Connect which works with an existing stereo or home theater system. As I noted in my Deezer Elite review, I think it sounds really good and is easy to use. At $349 it’s a little more expensive than a PLAY:1, but a great option if you already have a nice system.

The bonus with Sonos is the exclusive ability to subscribe to Deezer Elite for a discounted rate of $9.99 a month if you pay in advance. Also, through December 27 Amazon is giving you up to $50 in store credit when you buy a Sonos speaker or component.

C. Crane CC Skywave Radio

CC SkywaveThe C. Crane company makes radios for enthusiasts, from AM and FM to shortwave. I have a CC Radio 2 which I listen to every evening and recommended in my 2012 gift guide. The company’s newest model is the CC Skywave, which is a travel-oriented small portable that covers AM, FM, Shortwave, aviation and weather bands.

I have not yet tried out the CC Skywave, but the highly trusted radio reviewer Jay Allen gives it high marks, saying it is highly recommended.

Stocking Stuffer Radio

Sony ICF-S10MK2A couple of my small portable radios were lost or bit the dust this past year. I replaced them with a small analog Sony pocket radio that has impressed the hell out of me.

At just $12.49 from Amazon the Sony ICF-S10MK2 is cheaper than most pairs of headphones, but delivers impressive performance. It makes a great travel companion or a good emergency radio since it runs on just two AA batteries. It’s also a good radio for yardwork or taking places where you wouldn’t want to risk a more expensive device.

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