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Acorn Radio

I’m Going Nuts for this Little Acorn Radio

I must have been a pretty good boy in 2015 because on Christmas morning I found in my stocking a cute wooden radio that is shaped like an acorn, and is about the same size. It’s made by the Dutch company Kikkerland, which also puts out other small novelty accoutrements, like robot tea infusers and luchador bottle openers.

My wife gave me this awesome present with the intention of it being a travel radio–and because it’s irresistibly adorable. You see, I actually traveled more in this past year than any year prior, and especially for overnight and weekend trips I try to pack very lightly–but I still want a radio. But does it actually work?

Yes. It works surprisingly well.

The acorn is FM only, and measures about 1.5“ in diameter there’s not a lot of room for batteries, connections or controls. It just has one multi-function control button, a speaker on the top, and a single 1/8” headphone jack. That jack does quadruple duty. Most obviously, you plug in headphones there. However, using a supplied cable, you can plug in the headphone output of a smartphone or computer to use it as a speaker. When plugged in the cable or headphones serve as the radio’s antenna. In fact, it only functions when a cable is plugged in, and automatically turns off when you unplug it.

You also charge its battery using a special cable that has the 1/8" plug on one end and USB on the other. It charges up pretty quickly – in less than an hour. Once fully charged it plays at least two hours. I didn’t track the play time too closely, and most of my listening was for more like a half-hour at a time.

The lack of an actual radio dial could be a deal-killer. I’ve used other inexpensive “auto-tuning” radios before and generally been disappointed. Basically the only control you have is to seek up or down the dial, and hope you hit something. With my expectations already set low I was pleased to hear this tiny receiver lock onto to station after station, including three of my favorite local non-commercial stations, community radio KBOO and XRAY, as well as jazz KMHD. XRAY is an impressive get because the station operates only a legacy class D 10-watt signal and a higher-powered translator repeater. It was the translator at 107.1 that came in, I believe, based upon the other stations that I received around it.

As with any FM radio, the position of the receiver and the antenna make a big difference. But even in my first-floor apartment I was able to get quite listenable sound from about 12 stations.

stuffed monkey with acorn radio

With a speaker that can’t be more than 3/4" in diameter you shouldn’t expect rich, room-filling sound. The acorn radio’s sonics are roughly equivalent to a smartphone speaker. That means it’s additional functionality as a speaker for another device is of limited use, unless that device doesn’t have its own speaker, or that speaker is somehow even tinier and softer. Though, the lack of loudness is compensated by the fact that you can put it just about anywhere, even a shirt pocket.

Listening with headphones the sound is much fuller. It’s still not as good as my iPhone, but the latter is a multi-hundred dollar device. I’d say with strong signals the acorn’s fidelity is pretty equivalent to most pocket-sized radios I’ve used. It’s quite pleasant sounding, though with a lack of deep bass, and quite adequate for both talk and music.

And it’s a little wooden acorn that most definitely will accompany me on every trip because it takes up less space than a travel-sized bottle of shampoo or granola bar. Now, truth be told, for trips lasting more than a weekend I may still bring a bigger radio with an actual dial and a bigger speaker. But even at home I’ve taken to keeping the acorn receiver on my desk and using it just because it’s so darn convenient.

Is this the best portable radio I’ve ever used? No. If you want AM reception, more precise tuning or a louder speaker you’ll need to look elsewhere. But you’ll be hard pressed to find the same combination of cuteness and dimunitivity in a radio that actually works this well.

The next time you see a weirdo walking around with a little wooden acorn pressed up to his ear, that’ll probably be me.

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