Grace Digital Mondo Wi-Fi Music Player and Internet Radio Review

After using the Grace Digital Mondo Wi-Fi Music Player and Internet Radio for a few months, I have come to one conclusion: Anyone looking for a portable radio today and does not choose an internet radio is wasting money.  There, that’s the review. I’m done.

Okay, not exactly; but seriously, the Grace Digital Mondo radio does so much that I can’t imagine not having it in my house. It is that useful. Before I go on a gush-fest, let me say that there are some really frustrating things about the radio that I will address later.

First, let’s go over the basics. The Mondo is an internet radio that will connect to Pandora, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, SiriusXM (with subscription), NOAA (weather), Live365, DAR.fm, NPR Service, and even podcasts. Oh, and let’s not forget literally thousands of stations simulcasting their signal on the internet. It’s also a clock radio with sleep timer and snooze bar, and you can set up to five alarms, making it a good choice for bedrooms. There is no Bluetooth or Apple AirPlay option, however.

The Mondo looks very similar to a Logitech Squeezebox internet radio, although I don’t think there is any shared DNA among them. The Mondo does use faster WiFi tech than Logitech and has direct USB and RCA audio connections. The USB port will also charge an iPhone, which is kinda cool. When you shut off the Mondo, it doesn’t really shut down. That’s good, because it allows an instant on response and keeps the WiFi connection open for quick station choices. Also, you can press any button and the radio will come back on.

An interesting feature of the Mondo is the local radio station setting. Use this and you have most of the stations in your area available to you. I say most, because the Mondo does not use FM/AM antennas. Local stations are via the internet. So if your favorite local station doesn’t broadcast on the internet, you are out of luck. Also, if you like a station that does broadcast over the internet but it’s not available on the Mondo, you can go online ask for the station and Grace Digital will make is available if possible. I tried this, and within a day my requested station became available.

Grace Digital has managed to make the Mondo look like a normal table-top radio. It comes in black or white, although the white version still has an all-black front. The Mondo sports a large(ish) color screen. It’s clear and easy to navigate with an oversized rotary knob on the front. Scrolling among all the choices is easy to understand and operate – until you use the search function. Is there anything more frustrating and un-user friendly than scrolling through a keyboard and pushing a button just to select a single letter, and having to repeat that for a complete search? Oh, the almost useless remote makes it even harder! There are four buttons around an OK button on the remote. To scroll right, press the down button, not the right button. You read that correctly, because if you press the right button, you mute the audio. Huh? It gets better: Press the Up button to scroll left, because if you press the left button, that moves you backward through the menu choices. Confused? Me, too.

There is a saving grace (pun intended) to the Mondo’s search hell. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, Grace Digital provides an excellent free app to operate the Mondo. Get this app and you can happily trash the remote. Searching in the app is as easy as it can be, because it relies on the iPhone’s native search function, meaning no scrolling and clicking on letters. The app does almost everything the scrolling wheel does, with the exception of WeatherBug, Aux In, and Settings. Hopefully, Grace Digital will include settings in future app upgrades. If you have an iPhone or iPad and decide to get the Mondo, you need the app.

You can save 10 radio presets with the Mondo. Again, it is much easier to set up presets in the app than is is on the radio itself.  Music services like Pandora Live 365, etc. are tuned to your account, so station preferences carry over to the Mondo seamlessly.

The Mondo works as a table-top radio or portable. It has slot on the back allowing for easy carrying room to room. If you want to go portable, you’ll have to pay extra for the privilige to purchase a rechargeable battery that only fits the Mondo. Is there some engineering reason that prevents the use of regular C or D batteries instead of some proprietary design? It seems to me that you shouldn’t have to shell out 40 bucks (yes – $40) on a battery for a radio that already costs $180.

Audio quality on the Mondo will not win any awards, even with the included 5-band graphic equalizer. However, music sounds pretty good at normal volumes in a kitchen or bedroom. A major reason for music not sounding great is the embarrassingly low streaming rate of most internet stations. However, if you are a fan of talk radio, the Mondo is almost perfect. News/talk/sports stations don’t require higher streaming bit rates to sound good. Music does sound better using subscription-based services, such as a paid Pandora account, because the streaming quality is much higher. Even so, anything more than a small room will audibly tax the Mondo. Using the RCA jacks at the back of the unit will allow a connection to external speakers, which can improve audio substantially.

Grace Digital regularly sends out firmware updates which tells me they are continually trying to improve their service. The radio lets you know when an update is ready. That’s reassuring.

Grace has a winner with the Mondo Wi-Fi Music Player and Internet Radio. Despite some annoying and head-scratching issues, I have come to really rely on this little gem. It’s become a staple in my busy life. As much as I dislike the propriety battery, I plan to buy one because I want to ditch the power cord. I guess the ultimate praise I can give the Mondo is that I have finally replaced my much beloved old Sony portable radio.

 

Product Information

Price:$179.99 US
Manufacturer:Grace Digital
Retailer:Grace Digital
Requirements:
  • Wifi
  • Internet
Pros:
  • Extremely useful
  • Great iPad app
  • Huge selection of station/music service choices
Cons:
  • Lousy remote
  • Search function not fun without iPad/iPhone app
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Reviews

{ 53 comments… add one }

  • Dmitriy August 13, 2012, 2:10 pm

    1. how about dlna/upnp support for home server streaming?

    2. what’s for voltage on power brick? 110 or 110-240 ?

  • thenikjones August 13, 2012, 2:48 pm

    Good review, but just to clarify – this device in only useful if you have access to WiFi? I would imagine a LOT of portable radios are bought by campers/caravanners and this won’t work for them (IF there is a signal for your mobile phone to act as a WiFI hotspot, you may as well use the phone as the radio)

  • Bill Henderson August 13, 2012, 2:49 pm

    Dmitriy,
    I’m not sure what you mean by dlna/upnp support. I am in the US.
    The voltage here is 110, with a small power brick on the plug itself.

    Bill

  • Bill Henderson August 13, 2012, 2:52 pm

    thenikjones,
    Yes, any internet radio requires wifi. It’s one of the drawbacks. You are correct about using the phone for internet radio out of doors. I do it all the time on the road with my iPhone. It is a battery hog, so I always have it charging when in use.

    I just love the fact that I can have the world at my fingertips while at home with this radio. I have been spoiled.

    Bill

  • thenikjones August 13, 2012, 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the reply Bill, I was hoping I had missed something…

  • Ian Lim August 13, 2012, 7:27 pm

    Hey Dimitriy it does support streaming via UPNP

    “UPnP Servers
    You can play content from your laptop, PC or other UPnP enabled storage device using the ‘UPnP
    servers’ menu option.”

  • Bill Henderson August 13, 2012, 8:03 pm

    Thanks, Ian!

  • LENNY August 13, 2012, 10:34 pm

    I HAVE USED THE MONDO INTERNET RADIO FOR SEVERAL MONTHS. IT WORKS WELL. THE ONLY NEGATIVE IS THE PRESETS. THEY NEED TO HAVE A BACKLIGHT FOR THE BUTTONS.

  • Bill Henderson August 13, 2012, 10:52 pm

    Lenny,
    The lack of backlit buttons didn’t bother me, since I use the radio in well-lighted areas. But I see your point. They would be nice if they were backlit.

    Bill

  • LENNY August 13, 2012, 11:22 pm

    I USE THE RADIO AS A CLOCK RADIO WITH A PILLOW SPEAKER AND NEED THE BACKLITE TO CHANGE PRESETS
    OTHERWISE RADIO IS WONDERFUL

  • Dmitriy August 14, 2012, 1:02 am

    oh, i just notice that ethernet card is optional and cost another $20. so it’s going more expensive at every step. i think logitech squezeebox radio will be more interesting.

  • Steven Wirts November 22, 2012, 9:23 am

    How efficient is the wifi dongle?
    Can i place the mondo in any room in my house?
    I have a router, of course, and a booster for those formerly “cold spots”.
    I ask because for $81 (with coupons) I purchased online from the best buy closeout section a Quatro Tangent wifi radio.
    It has nice sound, is loaded with stations, but only works in my kitchen across the room from my modem and router. And in two hallways. Won’t connect anywhere else.
    I’d like to connect the mondo to my B&O system in the living room.
    Don’t want to get the machine if it’s like the Tangent.

  • Bill Henderson November 22, 2012, 10:17 am

    Steven,
    I’m not sure what you mean by “dongle.” There is nothing external connected to the Mondo. It’s just plugged into the wall.
    As for the wifi, all I can say is that the radio works well for me, but I don’t have any dead spots in my house, so I can’t help you there. That sounds like a great deal, though!

    I will say that the more I use the radio, the more I depend on it and the more I like it.

    Bill H.

  • Judy November 25, 2012, 11:59 pm

    I have wireless broadband. Is that the same as WiFi for an internet radio?

  • Bill Henderson November 26, 2012, 8:05 am

    Judy,
    Wireless Broadband (or Mobile Broadband) is not WiFi. WiFi involves a router from either DSL (telephone wiring) or cable (from the local cable system). If you have a mobile broadband router, then the Mondo should be able to work, but check with the manufacturer or provider.

    True WiFi is usually a set monthly fee, depending on service and speed.
    Please let me know if you need more info.

  • ArCan December 2, 2012, 9:56 am

    Hi!
    Could somebody inform me the ability to do customer link to Internet Radio?
    For example if I want to listen the station via direct link
    and don’t want to do it via Reciva Service?
    Thank you.

    P.S. I read the user manual but didn’t find anything about it…

  • Johanna Quartel December 8, 2012, 5:58 pm

    I have just purchased the Mondo, and am having many problems, it keeps dropping the station, buffering, and at times sounds as if it is skipping ahead in the stream, much like a damaged vinyl recording. It will not work in locations where neither my cell phone nor my laptop have any difficulties. I also does not work in a room directly above my wireless router–and I have a wood floor and subflooring. I used to have a Sanyo R227, which I loved–until it died after only a year and a half. What to do, what to do? Return it I suppose, and hope the next one is better? Or try the Squeezebox?

  • Bill Henderson December 8, 2012, 9:19 pm

    ArCan,
    I’m not sure what you mean by direct link.
    Bill H.

  • Bill Henderson December 8, 2012, 9:25 pm

    Johanna,
    First, I would try and completely reset the radio as if it just came out of the box. The manual will tell you how. If that doesn’t help, you should contact Grace with your specific issues. It may be a defective radio. It’s hard to tell based on your comments. I have had some of your issues and it has always been a wifi problem, rather than hardware. I hope this helps.

    Bill H.

  • ArCan December 9, 2012, 1:54 pm

    Hi Bill !
    I mean could I type link myself
    instead to use search or Reciva or other services?
    For example
    http://mfile.akamai.com/10623/live/reflector:31074.asx
    Thank you.

  • Bill Henderson December 9, 2012, 2:20 pm

    ArCan,
    I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you mean. I listened to your link, but I didn’t understand what you are trying to say.
    I assume you are in Europe. Unfortunately, the Grace radio in the USA does not use Reciva (that I can find), so that could be part of the problem understanding what you mean.

    Bill H.

  • ArCan December 14, 2012, 11:06 am

    Ghm…
    OK. Again…
    Do you have ability to input any link to Internet radio station yourself?
    If I know address like “http” or “mms” have I any ability to input it by my hand?

    Thank you.

  • Bill Henderson December 14, 2012, 2:43 pm

    ArCan,
    No, you cannot retrieve any station directly from the internet. I don’t think any internet radio works that way. If you cannot find a particular station, contact Grace through their website and request the station(s) you want. I did that as a test and the station was available the next day.

    Bill H.

  • Bill December 14, 2012, 3:39 pm

    Hi Bill H.

    FYI, the IS9181 Internet Radio from Vtech gives you an account on the web where you can search for stations and have them download to the radio. Also, you can add a station on the web page by url. This is the best feature of the radio.

    Regards,

  • Andy December 15, 2012, 11:13 am

    I think that the Mondo Grace WiFi radio is great,but when I try to hook an earphone,it stops..
    Does anyone knows why,and is there a suggestion?

  • Andy December 15, 2012, 11:14 am

    I hope someone has a solution !!

  • Andy December 15, 2012, 11:15 am

    Looks nice to talk about the product

  • Bill Henderson December 15, 2012, 11:43 am

    Bill,
    That’s good info!

    Thanks,
    Bill

  • Bill Henderson December 15, 2012, 11:49 am

    Andy,
    What earphone are you using? Did you try another earphone or headphone? That will tell you if the problem is with the earphone or the radio itself. If no other earphone or headphone works, I would either return it where you bought it for a replacement or contact Grace directly. This should not be happening.

  • Rodney James December 20, 2012, 1:11 am

    ArCan

    I have a model before the innovator. You can set up an account with GraceRadio (Free) and put your custom stream in your account and have it saved to your Radio. You can do this for podcasts and such as well.

  • Bill Henderson December 20, 2012, 7:47 am

    Rodney,
    See, this is why The Gadgeteer is such a great site. Even the reviewers can’t know everything about the products we review. It’s great input from readers that make it all so valuable.
    Thanks!
    Bill H.

  • Andy December 20, 2012, 9:05 am

    I contacted Grace for the earphone issue,after a long exchange of emails,they told me to return the device to the seller (Amazon),I told them that I already did it,and exchanged for another one,with the same problem..so I told them that I’m going to the competition..the reply was : SO BE IT !!!
    I’m waiting now for my Logitech squeeze box..
    a nice way to do business

  • Rodney James December 20, 2012, 9:45 am

    Thanks Bill

    Here is the site

    http://grace.reciva.com/

  • Ed December 21, 2012, 11:20 am

    Does anyone know if I can the radio to my stereo?

  • MarcW February 1, 2013, 6:18 pm

    I am considering purchasing the Mondo and would like clarification on the SEARCH capability. The manual says you can enter the “call sign” to find a radio station. Does that work as advertised? Seems that would be just as good as entering a URL – even better since it is shorter.

  • Johanna Quartel February 1, 2013, 8:33 pm

    Yes, you can do a search, but it’s pretty tedious. It’s much easier and quicker to got to grace.reciva.com, register the radio, and search for the stations oy want, and add them to the “my stations” list, where you can easily access them on the radio. For more information, you can download the user manual here: http://www.gracedigitalaudio.com/UG/GDI-IRC6000.UG.pdf
    By the way, the Reciva website is not limited to use for the Grace Mondo; I also used it with my now-defunct Sanyo R227 (without the “grace”). I simply added the Mondo, and I was good to go.

  • Bill Henderson February 1, 2013, 10:50 pm

    Marc,
    Johanna has it right (thanks Johanna!) If you have an iPad or iPhone, the Grace app is even better for finding and setting stations. It is extremely easy to use.
    Good luck!
    Bill H.

  • BoB August 27, 2013, 11:24 am

    can I run an ethernet cable from my router to the radio when not using wifi?

  • Pat Reysen October 20, 2013, 3:49 pm

    I have the Mondo. It has a fault in the earphone jack audio. Apparently, the ohms ratio has been ignored. I have tried to use a simple pillow speaker, have had to max out the volume to get any sound. A regular set of earbuds work fine, but try to sleep with that. I purchased the best replacement from CC Crane. Same results. Life with ear buds. What I would like to see is a software program for the users that allows for modification of the data base personally, instead of waiting 4-6 weeks for Grace to. I would like to add more scanners and other great servers, and eliminating costly membership sites. Anyone figured out how to yet?

  • jose fauda December 12, 2013, 7:21 am

    does anyone figure out how the battery pack is connected within the Mondo radio? I found a door screwed in the bottom that supposedly is to locate the battery pack but it has no connector to plug the battery in. I rcvd it yesterday… maybe some research is needed but manual doesn’t mention anything about it. Thnks.

  • Bill Henderson December 12, 2013, 8:07 am

    Jose,
    When I did the review, I didn’t have a battery. I bought one about 6 months later. I remember there being no difficulty connecting it. I’m going from memory here (the radio is in my kitchen), but there are a wire or two with connector(s). Make sure the wires are not tucked out of the way. The battery compartment is a bit large. If there are no wires, you will need to contact Grace.
    Bill H.

  • jose fauda December 12, 2013, 8:10 am

    ok. I agree

  • Amy January 3, 2014, 9:12 pm

    Has anyone had experience hooking up speakers to the Mondo? I would like extra stereo sound and not sure what to buy! ??

  • alison July 3, 2014, 4:22 pm

    Hi

    does anyone know if I can run my mondo through my personal wi-fi hotspot that I have on my iphone? Are they compatiable? . I have tried and the mondo only appears to find the connection but will not accept the Wi-Fi password even though it is correct. I have contacted my wireless provider and they assure me the problem is not the network. Any help would be appreciated, thanks

  • Bill Henderson July 3, 2014, 7:28 pm

    Alison,
    Interesting. I honestly do not know. Let me try it.

    Bill H.

  • Connie July 4, 2014, 10:42 am

    I am an NPR addict so just bought a Mondo radio to listen to stations. Set up was easy, but the stream keeps interrupting, then rebuffers; I may listen for 2-3 minutes then have 4-5 minutes of silence. Same thing happened when I tried to listen on my iPhone. However, no other wifi problems on desktop or other iPhone functions. Any ideas?

  • Bill Henderson July 4, 2014, 10:47 am

    If you are having the same problem on your iPhone, then it sound like a weak wifi signal. Have you done a an internet connection speed test on your computer and iPhone?

    Bill H.

  • Pat Reysen July 4, 2014, 1:29 pm

    The reception problem is due to your Wi-Fi modem/router. I have the exact same problem and have had a devil of a time trying to resolve the drop-out. I contacted Grace several times to no avail. To reduce the problem, I have gone through 6 different Wi-Fi modems. For some reason, my IP source seems to be the problem, especially on a DSL network. The strength of the incoming signal wavers and the modem responds respectively by trying to ‘catch-up’. I finally had to make the choice of either using the optional Wi-Fi connector offered and extensive routing of wiring, or other. I took the other. I found a used Wi-Fi range extender online and with that added strength of signals, pretty much eliminated the drop-outs.

    One other step you might try is to access your router’s setup page (192.168.0.1(?)) and change the radio settings ie: channel & authorized users password. If you are NOT comfortable with that, contact your service provider’s IT troubleshooter or the modem Mfg’s customer service hot line.

    Great radio, but I no longer deal with Grace as they deny their product has any faults. All they want the customer to do is either suck it up or send the product back in for ‘evaluation and repair’. Makes me think that they are only a middleman.

  • Betty Floyd August 22, 2014, 4:24 pm

    I have two mondo radios. Both worked well with my previous modem. One works well with new moden; the other refuses to accept password despite at least 20 attempts in different locations. What is the problem?

  • Betty Floyd August 22, 2014, 4:28 pm

    Another problem is getting either of my mondos to play through my stereo. I used to have a Sirius player that did play through the stereo but I plugged the two colored ends of the wire into the stereo and the single end into the Sirius player. I have tried wiring the mondos both ways and nothing plays.

  • Gerard October 13, 2014, 5:41 pm

    I have a start-up problem with my Grace Digital GDI-IRC6000 Internet Radio. When booting it and starting it up, it initially briefly displays the blue Grace Digital screen followed by the text “Starting…” in the centre of a black screen. The date and time are then added at the bottom of the screen, and then the “Starting…” text is replaced by the text “Loading…”. And it then freezes on me…! What to do? Is there a way to force it to restore the Factory Settings at initial start-up, like it is possible with the Logitec Squeezebox?

  • Bill Henderson October 15, 2014, 10:37 am

    Gerard,
    Since I have the Mondo, I can only speak about that. You can forse reset to factory settings by scrolling Settings icon. Then just scroll to the right spot for reset.

  • Johanna Quartel October 15, 2014, 10:54 am

    You will probably need to do the reset before getting to the menu, since you seem not even to be able to get that far. There are instructions here: http://www.manualslib.com/manual/513009/Grace-Digital-Mondo-Gdi-Irc6000.html?page=43#manual
    In fact, you can download the entire user manual form this site. Good luck.

    And by the way, using a smart phone with the Grace remote app gives 13 additional presets, for a total of 23.

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