A New Kind of Radio

A New Kind of Radio

I dig subscription-music services like Rhapsody, because they enable me to indulge my diverse musical tastes without investing a fortune in CDs; it’s like having the world’s biggest music library right at my fingertips. And I spend an extra $5 per month for the privilege of copying those rented tracks to an MP3 player. Most months, however, that fin is wasted because I forgot or just didn’t have time to update the library on the player. I think Slacker is about to solve my problem.

Slacker started life as a music-discovery service much like the Internet-radio services Last.FM and Pandora. But the company’s management team, staffed in large measure by veterans from iRiver and Rio, always intended to offer more than a service—they wanted to sell the razor as well as the blades. So now they’re following up the Slacker service with three models of the Slacker Portable Radio Player.

Unlike the typical MP3 player, which relies on you to fill it with music, the Slacker players will automatically suck down tracks over a Wi-Fi connection and store them for playback. The $200 model will allow you to monitor up to 15 stations; there will also be a $250 model with room for 25 stations and $300 SKU capable of tuning 40 stations.

You manage the stations you listen to using a PC- or Mac-based web browser, but you can also express your preferences for songs using the handheld device: Pressing the “heart” button on the player while listening to a track tells the service you like this kind of music and want to hear more songs like it; pressing the “ban” button ensures you’ll never hear it again. Your preferences are uploaded to the service whenever it can connect to the Internet.

Due to royalty agreements with the record labels, the free version of Slacker’s software limits you to skipping six songs each hour; you’ll also hear the occasional commercial. Signing up for the subscription service ($90 annually, in addition to the cost of the player) eliminates the restriction and the ads. It also gives you the freedom to store songs so you can play them on demand.

I’ll post a hands-on review as soon as I get my hands on the hardware.



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I have been eagerly awaiting this to come out for a while. Can't wait to get my hands on one.



I really like the concept they have going on here. The only thing that would keep me from buying this is I'm betting the battery life is crap while monitoring stations and I'm not paying money to listen to ads.

Has anyone seen any other software that can do things similar to this? It would be cool if there was a program that could sync up your MP3 player to Rhapsody / Itunes etc and go out and find new songs based on your tastes. It would be basically the same thing as this but more palatable.



This program will do something like that. I review it here:


RadioTracker doesn't work with Rhapsody or iTunes, but it will find and download music for you based on your preferences. You can then sync your MP3 player to the folder on your hard drive containing the downloaded tracks.

But the key differences are that Slacker does their own radio programming, versus monitoring other Internet radio streams; and the Slacker hardware downloads the tracks automatically, you don't need to do anything other than tell it about your musical tastes.

I'll check out the battery life issue as soon as I get an eval unit--they won't be shipping the product for another few weeks.



Seconded...great idea.

I could hope for more than 25 stations though.

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