A desktop 'net radio with a few niggles
I'm partial to the concept of a dedicated internet radio. These days the trend is towards using your Smart device to store/stream music in conjunction with a Bluetooth speaker, but taking your phone/tablet out of the equation can sometimes be liberating. However, the £220 Encore, from new-to-the-UK American brand Grace Digital, suffers from such a painfully overwrought control experience from its top-panel buttons and supplied handset that you'll be downloading the free app for your smartphone as soon as you can.
Do that, and searching for radio stations (via its onboard Wi-Fi connection, the Encore can give you access to literally thousands) becomes easier. And, once you're bored of listening to Czech heavy metal, US talks shows or BBC Radio 4, you can bring your own music into the mix – there's USB and UPnP media playback offered, plus stereo analogue inputs (and outputs) for hooking up external sources. There is no Bluetooth, though, which might annoy.
The sound quality of the Grace Digital Encore, delivered by the stereo front-facing drivers and a down-firing (and rear-ported) bass unit, is authentically punchy. Bass is a strong point, giving body to whatever source you're listening to. With Muse's beautifully-produced track Madness, this speaker wrestled with the synthetic basslines, finding the necessary depth. On the negative side, higher-frequency presentation is a little thin and shrill, although it easily goes loud enough to suit a bedroom, kitchen or den.
There are nice touches to the Encore, including location-based weather info and clock radio functionality, and the cabinet design and build is impressive – it's quite a sizeable unit in comparison to much of the competition, but in no way ugly. Yet the user experience is far from slick.
Grace Digital Encore, £220, gracedigital.com
HCC VERDICT: 3.5/5
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