The final product in my showcase of Internet Radios is the IS9181 WiFi Internet Radio from Vtech. We have been using a Vtech cordless phone system for some years so I’m familiar with Vtech’s attention to detail and the clear sound quality of their phones. I was totally surprised to learn that they had added the Internet Radio to their product line and I was anxious to give it a try.
At 12.36″ x 6.26″ x 3.5″ the IS9181 is a bit larger than the other radios we’ve explored here but still an attractive radio that would grace any desk or tabletop. The full color LCD screen is approx. 1.5″ x 1.75″ and is clear, bright, and easy to read. The LCD is positioned in the front of the radio with mesh covered speakers on either side. The control panel is on top of the unit. On the rear panel is the port for the AC adapter, Auxiliary Line IN and RCA Audio Out Jacks. The IS9181 comes with a tiny remote control, an AC adapter and an Auxiliary Audio Cable for connecting an MP3 player or other external music device for playback through the IS9181’s excellent speakers. You will also receive a Quick Start Guide which will walk you through the setup process and explain the controls. A very nice User’s Manual will explain the rest of the functions and options available on the IS9181. The only thing missing from the design is a headphone jack. This is not an issue for me but might be a problem for anyone who prefers private listening.
The IS9181 will operate on AC power and, optionally, on 6 AA Alkaline or rechargeable batteries. When running on batteries, the radio will work as it does on AC power except for the following:
- A battery icon will appear on the LCD.
- The maximum speaker volume when on batteries is limited to 25 which is still very loud.
- If the IS9181 goes into Standby when on batteries, the screen will go black to conserve power.
- Your clock settings will not be maintained when on battery power.
- The alarm clock will not function on battery power. The radio must be on AC power for the alarm to work.
Setting up the connection with your wireless router is pretty simple using either the control wheel on top of the radio or the navigational buttons on the remote control. You will need to select the characters for your security code by scrolling through the letters and numbers that appear on the LCD.
Clock and Alarm
When setting the clock you will select between setting the time manually or via the Internet. If you select Manual, you can set the time yourself but if the power goes off, you will have to reset the clock when power resumes. Selecting the Internet option means the radio will connect to a time server on the Internet and automatically set the time for you.
The alarm can be set to wake you with either the standard Buzzer alert, your favorite Internet radio station or FM radio station. When the alarm goes off, you can activate the 10 minute snooze function by pressing one of 3 buttons on the front of the control panel. You will also see the option on the screen to turn the alarm off if you prefer.
The alarm options are easy to select and set up and the alarm sounded exactly at the time designated. I hope a future version of the radio will include some kind of battery backup for clock and alarm functions when on battery power.
You can always listen to a weather forecast on the radio when the news is broadcast on the hour or half hour, but why wait? The IS9181 includes a Weather option. Just enter your Zip code and the radio will display the AccuWeather forecast for your location. Better still, it will give you a five day forecast without interrupting your current radio station’s broadcast. The full color LCD will display the forecast complete with color images. Turn the dial or use the remote to scroll through the forecast for each day. Some of the other radios would connect to the NOAA weather service broadcasts but the Weather button on the IS9181 takes that a step further. The Weather button gets a Gold Star for being a great feature and one that you’ll use every day.
Favorites and More
Listen to 11,000 Internet radio stations. Search by Genre, Location, Language and more. Save the ones you like to the Favorites list. If you don’t find the station you want, you can go to Vtech’s web site and use their Station Finder utility. You can find your stations online and save them to the “My Stations” list. You can edit this list online. These stations will also appear on the “My Stations” list on your IS9181. You can also save those stations to your Favorites list which can only be edited on your radio.
Sometimes it’s hard to search for a particular station. Is it News, NewsTalk or something else? If you don’t know how it’s been categorized, you probably will have to search a bit to find it. I have a couple of Talk stations that I couldn’t find when searching on the IS9181 but I had no trouble finding them with the Station Finder. I saved them to My Stations and they magically appeared on the IS9181. I give Vtech another Gold Star for the Station Finder. It’s a great idea and a real time saver.
Using the Auxiliary Line In, I connected my MP3 player and then a portable CD player to the IS9181. The sound quality is spectacular. Music played through the speakers of the IS9181 is sweet, clear and perfect. With 2 speakers and a sub woofer, you will notice immediately that this radio emits sound that will not disappoint.
Directions for Music Sharing between your computer and the IS9181 is covered in the excellent manual but my firewall prevented the computer from finding the radio. Since I’ve had this issue with every radio, it’s clear that the problem lies with my Trend Micro Security software. Some day I may pursue this and try to get the sharing to work but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
The Vtech IS9181 WiFi Radio has all the best features that we found in the other Internet radios with some special features that are all its own. True, you can’t access your Facebook account from the IS9181 , nor does it automatically connect to Pandora and other music services but with 11,000 radio stations from which to choose, you don’t really need those other services. That also means that it’s easier for the average user to setup and use without worrying about passwords and account IDs. Additional stations can always be added through the Station Finder application online. The only thing that is missing from the IS9181 is a headphone jack but the sound quality and features of the radio more than compensate for this minor deficiency. It is a worthy addition to our group of Internet radios and is available from Vtech for an affordable $124.95 and free shipping. Walmart lists the Vtech IS9181 for $135.54 with free shipping to your local Walmart store. If you have an Amazon gift certificate burning a hole in our pocket, you can also find the IS9181 on Amazon for $135.54 with free Super Saver Shipping.Vtech IS9181 Features
- Stream music across the 802.11 b/g WiFi network with “Best-in-Class” range. Broadband Internet service and a home WiFi network router are required
- Listen to Internet radio from the available 11,000 stations with no monthly fee
- Access Internet radio stations from Vtech’s user-friendly online site or on the device itself
- Play music from any audio device (i.e. CD player, MP3 player, etc)
- Connect to any stereo system or powered speakers to access streaming Internet radio or music files stored on a PC or Mac
- Built-in FM radio tuner for local FM broadcast service. Preset your favorite stations
- Hi-Fidelity built-in 3W tuned stereo speakers and a 10W subwoofer with class D amplifier for each speaker that can fill any room with dynamic sound
- Digital alarm clock radio-wake up to your favorite Internet or FM radio station or the internal buzzer.
- Automatic clock set and adjustment via the Internet.
- Battery-operated option allows you to take the device outside the home or office.
- Convenient remote-browse, select and control your music from across the room using the remote control
- Access local weather and 5-day forecast
- Large full color display
- Product dimensions: 6.3″ x 12.4″ x 3.5″
- Giftbox weight: 4 lbs