So I ordered an Amazon Echo
I could go into volumes about how radio has influenced every part of my life. I might do that, but in pieces in various future articles. When I heard about the Amazon Echo, I was mildly interested. When I read about the integration with Tune In, I thought it might be worth a try. I ordered the Amazon Echo and immediately starting dialing in radio stations.
Like anyone who has been transplanted to another part of the country, I immediately started tuning in radio stations from my old home: Southern California. KLOS? Check. KROQ? Check. KRTH? Check. I listened to those stations whole heartedly for a few days, then I found that they were really no fun. They were clogged with commercials, and had hardly any music content. Then, I remember that when I was a kid, I used to help my uncle at KCSB, The radio station at the University of California Santa Barbara. Could this station still be on the air after all these years? It turns out that yes, it is, and it is much better than I ever remember it being. This find put me into mission mode: if this little station is out there jamming, there must be lots of stations out there doing things like this. Yes, it turns out there are. I felt like I was a kid and had just built my first shortwave radio (which I did in around 1979, just to see who the hell John Peel was)
I'll save it for a later article, but I will start a list for those who are intrigued by this world of internet radio.
Getting a feel for tuning
As the Echo is connected to Tune In among other providers, it's pretty simple to tune in, just say "Alexa, play the station BBC 6." and in a few seconds, you'll be tuned into BBC 6 Music. Incredible to say the least.
The Amazon Echo also works for tuning in other systems including Pandora and Spotify. This makes it perfect for the times when you know exactly what you want to hear. "Alexa, play Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."
A baby Alexa for Baby Paloma
My daughter is also a music junkie (she's 9). Because the Amazon Echo needs to be plugged into the wall, and is kinda big, I decided to to try the Amazon Tap. It's a smaller, portable version. It's exactly the same, with a smaller speaker, and a rechargeable battery.
This little buddy ended up being my favorite radio, actually. It's small, so, to get the day's news in the morning, I simply say "Alexa, what's the news?" and away it goes while I move around the house, reading the daily news from the list of sources I built.
Baby Paloma drags baby Alexa around the rest of the day, and between us, we hardly put a real dent in the battery life.
I should mention that, since there are three of us constantly using both devices, there seems to be a problem here and there understanding some commands. For instance, I have to beg and plead several times to get Alexa to "Play the station WFEQ".
Some ideas for the future
One of the ideas I am obssessed with right now is building an internet radio that I would actually like. The biggest problem I have with most such applications is that there is no real curation of stations, and picking stations is cumbersome when you need to choose from a huge list of stations. Something as simple as tagging seems like it would be the killer feature.
This problem is amplified when you want a short list of stations to tune into on the Alexa ecosystem. I do see it's possible to write custom apps for Alexa, and I might go ahead and write something like that.
Unfortunately, writing the software is generally the easy party. The hard part is designing a User Interface that is brief and gets out of its own way. I need to think about that for awhile.
I'll talk about this in more detail in the future, but I have also been playing alot with smart home and home automation. The Amazon Echo excels at this, and has become really handy. More later, I promise.
The best radio
In the process of playing with Alexa, I have done a great deal of homework in finding the best stations to listen to. This bank of knowledge (I'll share, I promise) combined with the ease of use of the Alexa family has made this the best radio I have ever owned.
I should also mention that while the Echo has a higher fidelity spearker, that fidelity will be lost when tuning into typically low (<= 128kbs) stations, so feel free to grab the Amazon Tap and drag it around.
Above all, please let me know of your adventures!
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