Customer Reviews: Grace Digital Wireless Internet Radio Adapter Featuring Pandora and SIRIUS (GDI-IRA500)
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VINE VOICEon September 30, 2010
Style: 4 Line standard display|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Update: It appears this unit has been revised to include wireless N which was not available in 2010 when I received my device.

This wireless internet radio has far surpassed my expectations. It has so many features that I cannot imagine what the more expensive units can do. There are several well written reviews that go into considerable detail already posted. So I thought that I would comment on the more negative reviews instead.

A couple of reviews mention static background noise. I own a new pair of Bose QC 15 $300 headphones and I plugged it into the headphone jack to listen carefully for static. I even turned up the treble to enhance static if it were present. There was absolutely no static, zilch. I listened during the quiet moments between music on numerous stations and modes. The sound is very clean and pure. I am a career electrical engineer and home theater is my passion. So I can say that with the unit I received, the sound quality is extremely good. It even offers numerous equalization settings. I am indeed impressed. I turned up the volume control to maximum to determine if I could detect any distortion. The sound seemed just as clean as it was at lower volume - no hiss, static or distortion that I could detect.

Some mention weak wireless reception. I own a two story 3400 sq. ft. home so I went diagonally to the opposite side of the house and on a different floor. I could not tell any difference in operation. I have a Black & Decker DC to AC converter with an internal battery. So I walked around the house to determine if the wireless connection dropped out of service. Again, it worked fine as I walked around inside the house and even into the front and back yard. This test may have more to do with the network wireless router, but both ends need to perform. I have a three year old Netgear wireless G router plugged into one of the ports of DLink Wireless N router. I did not want to degrade my wireless N network by connecting it to this wireless G internet radio. And that brings up a point I do not like so much. I wish there was a wired connection available. But they chose to be wireless only - and wireless G at that. People with wireless N will not be happy to drop their entire network speed down to wireless G just for the sake of having an internet radio.

I tested power interruption as well. I set the internet radio to a FM station and pulled the AC plug from the wall to turn it off. I plugged the AC adapter back into the wall outlet to see if it would remember the station I had selected. After less than a minute, it had regained the wireless connection and started playing the same radio station I had selected prior to power down. So that worked well I thought. So I decided to test the range of the remote control. It worked reliably up to 35 feet. The test was across one room, down the hallway to the opposite corner of another bedroom. There was only a very narrow field of view and it still worked quite well. It will probably work at a greater distance if it weren't as obstructed as my test case was.

The built-in clock radio works quite well. I chose the central time zone with automatic daylight savings time setting. The time was set automatically via the internet. The sleep timer works well. The alarm clock time setting was easy and intuitive. In fact, everything is very intuitive. I have not even looked at the manual yet. When I set up the wireless G router, I did not create a password, but I will later. I plugged in the internet radio and it set itself up without any intervention. It just worked. The most difficult setup effort was finding my old wireless G router and setting it up again. The wireless radio setup was for the most part automatic. I checked for a firmware update, but my unit was already at the latest revision. The firmware update is very easy to do.

I do not plan to subscribe to Sirius Internet Radio because I only plan to use the free stations. And there are so many stations available that it is mind boggling. It will take a while to learn all the functions available on this unit. I think it is very attractive with a high polish black color. The display is very good and readable. You can adjust the backlighting to whatever you prefer. Power consumption seems to be only 2.5 Watts using my Kill-A-Watt digital power meter. The back of the unit feels slightly warm after it has been on for a few hours. I measured the temperature and it was only 10 degrees F above ambient room temperature.

I tried not to repeat what others have already written. You can read those reviews to get a very good idea of functionality.
55 comments|209 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 22, 2010
I have streamed audio using iTunes on my computer for years, but when my wife wanted to be able to listen to a variety of radio stations, and didn't like the stations broadcast in southern California, I looked into an Internet radio for a present. I selected the Grace Solo because of the presets - I didn't want my wife to have to search through stations like I had to on iTunes. When I received the package I was a bit worried when I unpacked the box and felt how light it was. My worries were unfounded. Apart from the menu dial (described below), the buttons and display were top notch.

The first thing you have to do is connect it to your wifi network - there's no other way, since there's no ethernet jack. The unit finds the wireless automatically, but if you have your wireless protected by a password (who doesn't), then you will need to enter that. The main menu dial is not easy to grab or turn - you end up using the tips of your fingers. You become adept quickly when you have to type a long WPA wireless password.

Once connected, it takes a minute to gather the list of radio stations. I am used to this list in iTunes, but the Grace radio surpasses iTunes by letting you sort the list in two ways: location and genre - iTunes only does genre. By "location", it's sorted by country. There's a long list of countries, and I was looking for a couple in particular (Denmark and France), it made my search much easier.

Two huge advantages of this Grace radio over other radios by other manufacturers: 1) the 10 presets (5 buttons with a shift button to get to the second 5 presets) and 2) the iPhone/iPod app to control the unit. I found that once I had setup the radio, it was much easier to browse the stations by using the remote. I imagine that I will maintain the preset list via my iPod instead of using the radio itself. The iPod app doesn't store anything on the iPod. It is just a program that lets you control the radio - so you can make one change on your iPod, then make another change on your radio, then another change on your iPod -- and all three changes will be there. Very seamless. Unlike other remotes that you may be used to, this remote has nothing to do with line-of-sight. Your iPod just needs to be connected to your wifi network. Note: I did NOT see a way to password protect the radio, so anyone with an iPod or iPhone who is on your wifi LAN can change the settings of your radio (including turning it on, off and changing the presets. All the more reason to protect your wireless network from intrusion.

The radio has some sound adjustment settings. You can adjust the volume and equalizer. There are both RCA and mini headphone outputs. I was surprised to see that the volume settings work on the RCA outputs. I would have preferred a more traditional "line out" mode for the RCA outputs, since RCA outputs are typically connected to some sort of amplifier. I have not connected headphones to this unit, so cannot comment on that feature.

I have connected this unit to both a small stereo system (Philips Micro System MC235B) and a larger stereo (Yamaha RX-V793). I ran the unit for hours each time and it worked great. I tried mostly 128k stations from Europe, and never heard a missed beat. The wifi antenna works great - it's only 802.11g and my Airport Extreme can handle 802.11g or n, but the signal strength was great at 25 feet through one wall. I didn't try it further away.

I suspect that my wife will soon want a second one of these to be permanently connected to our larger stereo.
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on May 19, 2010
I have an older stereo receiver driving a whole house built-in speaker system across multiple rooms. I needed an inexpensive way to connect my stereo receiver system to internet radio stations and other digital audio sources.

The Grace Solo exceeded my expectations; it is a very affordable internet radio solution (as little as $99 from Sears). It provides internet streaming function including Pandora that is only now becoming available on high-end AV receivers costing $1,000 or more (eg Onkyo NR807). It is also much less expensive than a $350 Sonos ZP90 for the same function.

I bought it for its Pandora support, and for its free Iphone / IPad remote control application. (Solo's free Iphone/IPad control app trumps the Myine internet radio alternative)

Things I really like:

* The accompanying product manual is very helpful (also downloadable at the Grace Digital website)
* Once the Solo device was set up and registered, It was easy to connect to Pandora and navigate to my previously defined Pandora channels
* The free IPad / Iphone control app immediately found and connected to the Solo on my wireless network from anywhere in the house
* Super cool, the Grace remote control app on IPad / Iphone can display the album art of the music currently playing on Pandora, changing with each tune
* I can most easily customize Solo content: add podcasts, search for & add internet radio stations, and other media streams at the grace-reciva website from any computer
* Podcast support works - eg, I set up a connection to "This American Life" podcast over the internet
* The Solo is software-updateable over the internet and can display wifi signal strength for problem determination.
* Solo navigation is straight-forward, similar to the hierarchical navigation approach of an IPod
* Although Grace Digital tech support doesn't appear to answer their phone, they were pretty responsive by email with about a 2 hour turnaround time on a Tuesday.
* Setting presets on the device is easy - just hold down a preset button while the source is playing - just like a car radio preset button
* The Solo supports connectivity to a UPnP media server

Things that are somewhat annoying:

* Grace support website forums appear little used and lack very much helpful content
* Setup can be a little glitchy - I had to power cycle several times for initial connection and also to obtain the registration key (needed for Pandora authentication)
* There doesn't appear to be a way to rename the built-in folders for better navigation clarity: there is "Internet Radio", "Personal Radio" and "My Stuff > My Stations"
* There doesn't appear to be a way to rename an internet radio station - you take what is named at the grace-reciva website

Despite the annoyances, Solo is a great value. I plan to add Sirius internet radio and experiment with Solo's UPnP media server support to connect to my Mac and to a NAS music library.

UPDATE: I was able to easily connect to my iTunes library via a UPnP media server application on a Mac, Playback by Yazsoft ($15). Playback is designed to work with iTunes. The Solo immediately found the Playsoft UPnP application on my wifi network and connected with my iTunes library. The Solo's navigation of the iTunes library is very similar to an iPod.
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on August 17, 2010
My parents wanted an internet radio and we tried this one and a Myine IRA. They each have their advantages, but in the end we kept the IRA and returned the Grace Solo.

Regarding the Grace Solo
Good - supports many formats including AAC streams
more streams supported than the Myine
much better documentation than the Myine
Allows user to specify any URL desired (via web site)
Controls on both remote and actual unit

Bad - specifying the URL via the web site didn't work and was hard to convince the Solo to
update user streams
weak Wi-Fi reception
menus not as intuitive as the Myine

Ugly - The unit we returned had a defective button on the front panel.
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on March 12, 2011
While I embrace the IRA concept, the Grace IRA500 will likely leave you dissatisfied. My new IRA arrived promptly from Amazon and hook-up was fairly routine. I started the unit as instructed and it lit up but was stuck on the main screen "Grace Digital". I tried to restart 4 times without luck. Called the manufacturer who doesn't their phone.... not even an answering machine. Tried the master re-set per their website instructions and no luck. Emailed Mfr and they could only recommend a master reset which I had already tried a number of times. Did notice on the Mfr forum page that this is an ongoing and seemingly fairly common problem.
My purchase, in spite of reservations regarding the postings regarding static was a complete waste of time. Between hook up, phone calls, resets and emails I would NOT recommend purchase of this item. Very poor quality and poorer customer service.
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on January 25, 2011
I was searching for an internet radio under $100,and this Grace radio fits the bill. Set up was a breeze,and the sheer number of stations you can get is astounding. Podcasts and On Demand features are there,as well. It supports all the Live365 stations and SiriusXM with a subscription,and of course thousands of streaming stations from every corner of the globe. I'm a big fan of 50s and 60s oldies and the sheer number of choices is incredible. England alone has nearly 50 stations in this genre. You can search stations by location and genre,plus if you want a specific station you can punch in the call letters. There are so many US stations..about 4000 plus to search through. I wish this radio had a feature where you could punch in a city or state and specific stations would come up. You can search stations starting with K or W,but say you want a list of stations in Los Angeles,for example, I haven't found a way to do this.

I am recently retired and discovering all kinds of stations has become a full time hobby. People complain about nothing to listen to on radio..true,if you stick to terrestrial radio,but with this amazing machine,whatever you want is there. Yes, I know you can get all these streaming stations on a computer,but with ten presets and a 99 station folder for more favorites,this is a pretty neat way to listen.

Great buy. For under a hundred dollars, I am hooked!
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on December 16, 2010
The right knob is the selection knob, and pushing it in is a click "select" button. The build quality is poor, so the right knob is hard to turn without pushing it in (which will select your current item). This makes it very annoying to enter your wireless WPA/WEP code. VERY annoying. On mine, the push button works terribly. The only relief to using the push button is that there is a "select" option on the remote. You can do almost everything with the remote EXCEPT enter your wireless WPA/WEP code. It picked up my wireless at home and at work no problem.

Entering your Sirius password is equally painful. I ended up changing my Sirius password to something easier to enter on the terrible keypad.

For Pandora, you go to [...] to register your radio (go to settings to display your radio "key"), and from that website, add Pandora. This isn't explained in the manual, or on the radio (when you try to play Pandora for the first time, it says go to [...] for instructions (they aren't there). But I stumbled on the instructions from a friend who thought he heard from someone that there is a different site to go to to register. But that was STILL easier than entering a password on the radio itself! The site also lets you do some more customizing, but doesn't go so far as to let you configure the 10 presets (that would be cool).

Mine had the latest firmware.

After I got my code inputted, it worked as advertised but it has a few quirks (like that Pandora setup). You'll have to see it in action to appreciate these quirks, however. For instance, if listening to Pandora, the 5 presets become the play/pause/next options in Pandora. So you can't jump to one of your primary 5 presets when in Pandora. But you can use the "shift" presets 6-10. Outside of Pandora, the 5 primary presets work fine.

I like that you can preset an internet stream, Sirius, Pandora, and even local MP3. So once it's setup, you just push a preset and listen.

So, the setup is a little quirky, the build quality of the moving parts is terrible, but once past that, it sits on the shelf and plays music and news, just like it should. And it passes the wife test. The wife can push a single button (preset 1 also turns the radio on) and listen to Sirius radio.

It's only slightly larger than the Sirius Starmate 5 radio and dock combo (the popular one that most Sirius customers have in their cars) and will remind you of your Starmate. It's great to listen to Sirius for only 3 dollars a month, instead of 15 or so that a second Sirius radio would cost, and it has the added ability to stream Pandora, internet radio, and even your own MP3 collection from your home network. And its certainly easier and more convenient then putting a laptop (or even your smartphone) by the receiver to listen to some dinner music.

Overall, we are satisfied. I just wish the knobs where easier to turn. Even if it had a separate "select" button instead of pushing the knob, then it would be much easier to deal with out of the box.

I hope this helped.

UPDATE: a firmware update fixed the Pandora preset issue. Upgrading to 3.5 stars, still recommend this product. Just don't expect the quality of a Sony receiver, but it still offers a great solution for music in your home.

UPDATE 2: I just got an iphone (and and ipad2), and the free iphone app is the coolest! It works better than the included remote. Almost instant response to volume, on/off, channel change. The iphone app really makes it worthwhile to have the radio. I upgrade to 4 stars, although the build quality is still questionable. The app finds the radio instantly, just launch the app. You don't have to setup anything, it just works magically.
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on January 2, 2012
I've had a Logitech squeezebox for a year and love it.
Unfortunately, my wife and kids love it too and keep taking it out of the bedroom to use in the kitchen. I purchased the Grace IRA500 to replace the Squeezebox on my nightstand. Keep in my mind, I (we) only use this for Pandora radio function.
Taking it out of the box you notice how inexpensive it feels - I though plastic was plastic but my Logitech unit feels substantial and this unit is the opposite. The menus were a pain to use as was setting up the wifi...not difficult but not easy.
sound quality was OK. The biggest gripe, which eventually led to returning this radio, was that nearly every other song would not get played completely. The screen said the unit was "buffering" but most of the time it never restarted playing and I had to manually skip to the next track. the "buffering" message would stay up indefinitely sometimes. Not a wifi problem as my wifi router was only 20 feet away. The good news was the vendor issued a RMA within 24 hours and didn't give me hard time. Maybe it's unfair to compare this unit to one twice the price, but even at $80 I expect a unit that plays a whole song.
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on April 9, 2015
This is like a component tuner. I have an old console stereo from the 1970's which is in mint condition. Old console stereos are no longer in style but this thing is a beautiful piece of French provincial furniture, too nice to get rid of. I added this little Grace Digital Primo to the Aux. in and now the old stereo can receive 50,000 radio stations and I also use Pandora and SiriusXM. It works exactly like I hoped it would.
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on March 25, 2015
The unit is very user friendly, easy setup. Crystal clear audio. Appears to be made of high quality materials, and made to last. Connected via AT&T U-Verse. Output via a matched Pair PreSonus Eris Studio Monitors, Magnificent sound. Would recommend to all.
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