TerraTec Noxon 2 net radio and iPod dock
Tune into a wealth of internet radio content
Review No sooner does DAB establish itself as the radio format of the future, than internet radio begins tapping it on the shoulder and trying to muscle its way past.
Once upon a time, DAB was a genuine mainstream proposition as long as internet radio remained tied to PCs and Macs. Those days are over - products like the Noxon look, feel and act like a real radio while setting free the real potential of internet content.
TerraTec's Noxon 2: just like a real radio
This is an important step in the development of the format. Radio fans are a finicky lot. They do embrace new technology, but only when it's wrapped up in a traditional package.
The Noxon isn't perfect, but it does deliver a real generational leap in radio listening, in an easy-to-use package. It has a regular FM tuner on board, and the performance is OK. It doesn't have the best reception we've ever heard from a table-top radio, but the sound is made richer by the unit's down-facing sub-woofer.
This is a really welcome addition to the product as it delivers a big boost to the sound across all the Noxon's sources, particularly when it's dealing with digital signals.
If you need to boost the volume a bit, say for a party, the unit splits into two pieces with the head piece able to connect to a hi-fi.
Overall, the unit produces a surprisingly rich and big sound. The machine also copes well with more complex jazz or classical feeds as well as the more common pop or talk stations.
FM set-up is very fast. The machine's search wizard stored 20 stations in a couple of seconds and switching between them is very fast. The unit also comes with the now obligatory iPod dock - fridges will soon be supplied with these, we're sure. Operation is straightforward: plug Steve Jobs' best friend into the top and the machine's own remote control takes over as the navigation tool. The iPod is charged even while the Noxon is switched off.
Non-iPod users - yes they do exist, just ask Sony - are not forgotten. There's a recessed USB port for an external drive on the side.
Controlling the Noxon takes a bit of getting used to. Instead of a central button to select different features, there's a four-way directional button, and functions are selected by pressing the right-pointing button when you've navigated to the correct menu option, iPod-fashion. Once we got used to this it actually felt quite logical and intuitive, but Terratec could have put the control in front of the display, rather than on top of the box.
The Noxon comes with a remote, which is a good size and possessed of useful shortcut buttons to the unit's main functions.
Internet radio is really what this product is all about and it's with this function that the unit really comes to life. Setting it up, there's a list of the most common makes of wireless basestation to choose from. Simply select yours from the list, enter your wireless password, and the Noxon goes online and searches for all available stations.
Terratec's Noxon 2: round the back
A full search takes just a couple of minutes, and then the Noxon has all that internet radio has to offer - the manufacturer reckons there's currently about 10,000 stations. Broadcasters are listed by genre and then by country. Selection and search is really fast - faster than it is on many computers. The sound over the net is of course dependent on the station's broadcast bit-rate, the speed of your internet connection and - most of all - the quality of the wireless link.
A function we really like is the dedicated Podcast search wizard. Again, this is listed by genre and then country and, like the station search, content is found and starts to flow almost instantaneously.
Yes, there are too many Podcasts out there now. Some of them take pointlessness and self-obsession to a totally new level, but there is some good content around, particular in terms of comedy, and the machine puts them all at your fingertips.
The Noxon's networking capabilities do not end there. The ability to link up to any existing media servers or computer on a home network is present, so the unit can play back any stored files. If a computer or media server is already network-enabled it should just pop up on the screen's menu. If not, the rather curiously named TwonkyMedia software can be loaded on to PC or Mac in a couple of minutes and you are ready to rock. It works by UPnP and is compatible with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DNLA) standard too.
The real challenge for any internet radio device is to deliver the sheer amount of content available in a usable form. The Noxon 2 does this well and there's even a function to highlight new stations as they come on line. Despite some of its eccentricities - it's not the best-looking product on the market, and the screen read-out is a little blocky - the biggest compliment we can pay the Noxon is that we all wanted to take it home.