Sunday, October 25, 2009

Griffin Technology's radio SHARK 2 Review

I've been testing the radio SHARK 2 by Griffin Technology for a few weeks and a few of my friends have asked me when I would be writing my review of this product on my blog.

Griffin Technology has released 2 versions of the radio SHARK. The visible difference between the 2 versions is that the first release of the radio SHARK is white and the second release of the radio SHARK is black. My review is on the radio SHARK 2 which according to people who have tried/reviewed both versions being the later release of the product is also the better of the 2 products in terms of sound quality and radio reception.

The radio SHARK improves AM/FM radio in much the same way as a generic PVR improves television. It gets its name from the shape (it is shaped like a shark's fin).

The radio SHARK is an AM/FM radio that connects to a PC via USB and allows users to record programs as well as time-shift live radio. Using the radio SHARK, you are able to "pause" live radio with a user defined buffer of up to 99 minutes (with the included radio SHARK 2.1.0 Build 214 software). The radio SHARK is USB powered so you won't need a spare power outlet in order to use it.

In terms of the AM/FM reception, I find the audio from the radio SHARK 2 to be quite good. The radio SHARK 2.0 comes with an external antenna that can be used in the earphone jack. I find that even without the external antenna (or anything) plugged into the antenna/earphone jack, the sound quality is still quite good.

In addition to the external antenna and software CD, the radio SHARK 2 also comes with a USB extension cord. For best reception, I recommend placing the radio SHARK as far away as possible from the computer. I also recommend placing it away from any device that produces strong radio waves like a microwave, wireless router, etc.

When the radio SHARK is on, the lights on the side of it power up (can be user controlled via the included software).

I find that the software included with the product to be somewhat limited. It does what it was designed to do (pause live radio, instantly record the radio, automatically schedule recordings, manually tune to a radio station, change from AM band to FM band, add a particular radio station to your list of favourites, and jump a few seconds forward/backward during a radio broadcast). However, when listening to the radio, there is no time indication on the buffer. The visual buffer length is the same size regardless of how much time is buffered. The software records in 3 formats (WMA, WAV, or MP3) and the software also integrates the recordings into iTunes if necessary. I have not tested the iTunes integration since I didn't have an iPhone, iTouch, or iPod at the time of my testing.

I like the radio SHARK 2 but I found a bug with it. After running the program for a few hours (~5 or 6 hours), on my Vista PC, the audio quality would become incomprehensible for some reason. The sound quality after using the program for 5 or 6 hours becomes very distorted and it seemed as if it was overlapping 2 different radio stations into 1 so it was almost incomprehensible. I have tried various settings in order to fix this myself but haven't been able to. The only solution that I found was that in order to temporarily fix this, I would have to exit the program and restart it. This would of course reset the amount of audio that was already buffered to zero and the buffering would start from zero. I contacted technical support regarding this problem and other than having me uninstall/reinstall the software, they were of little help.

Since the product doesn't prominently appear on the company's homepage, I think that the product will be discontinued soon and they won't fix the problem. I have been able to.

If having the product run 24 hours is important to you, I can't really recommend the product based on my issue with it on my Vista PC. However, if you only plan on running the program for a few hours a day as well as being able to either schedule or manually record your radio programs/stations, it is a decent product. The only thing is that after the scheduled recording, the program will continue to run and after the 5 or 6 hours of running, the sound quality will become distorted again. If your next scheduled program occurs before you're able to reset the sound quality (be exiting the program), you will be recording something incomprehensible. I have created a script which exits the program after my scheduled recording finishes which helps solve this problem.

What I like about recording my radio programs/stations onto my computer's hard disk is that I can use the Aluratek's Internet Radio Alarm Clock with Built-in WiFi and connect to my PC (configured as a media server) so that I can listen to my radio programs when I want even when I'm not in front of my PC. I can also place these radio station recordings onto my MP3 player or onto an iPhone/iPod/iTouch and listen to them when I'm outside of my home network.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

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