Windows XP or 2000, Mac 10.2 or higher
AM/FM radio. Sounds a little retro these days with XM and Sirius satellite
radio being all the rage. While satellite radio is undeniably cool, you still
can’t beat your local radio stations for community news, events, weather and
programming. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could somehow interface your PC or Mac
with a radio to listen and record shows like you can with a Tivo? Guess what?
You can with the radioSHARK from
Griffin Technology has long been in the business of creating unique Mac and
iPod accessories, such as the iTrip and
iTalk that I’ve reviewed in the past.
Their newest product the radioSHARK is a white plastic fin shaped module that
plugs into your USB port, giving your Mac or PC an AM/FM radio.
AM frequencies: 530 – 1710 kHz
FM frequencies: 87.5 – 107.9 MHz
Built-in AM/FM antenna
Earphone jack for external antenna or headphone listening
PC/Mac interface: USB
radioSHARK AM/FM radio
CD-Rom with PC and Mac application software
The white plastic and cool shape makes it easy to see that this is a Mac
inspired product. The radio stands 7.5 inches tall on a 2 inch wide chrome base
and has a 46 inch USB cable attached to the back of the ‘fin’. Above the USB
attachment point is a 3.5mm earphone jack. There are three curved lights on both
sides of the fin that glow blue whenever the radioSHARK is plugged in to your
computer it is powered on. The lights turn red when the module is in the process
of recording a signal.
Before you can begin surfing the AM/FM spectrum, you must first install the
application software on either your PC or Mac. After you do that and plug in the
radioSHARK, you’re good to go.
The radioSHARK application has a simple interface that is easy to use. Since
I have both a PC and a Mac (15in G4 PowerBook), I tested it on both computers.
The main window looks identical on both platforms, but there are some
differences between the two that I’ll point out as we go along.
Looks like a digital radio right? Let’s take a look at the different buttons
and their functions.
The Band button is just a toggle from AM to FM.
The Seek button gives you one way for tuning to desired stations.
Pressing it will jump to the next strongest station. Setting the station can
also be accomplished by dragging the small pointer along the frequency scale. On
the PC, if you drag the station pointer, you’ll continue to hear the currently
tuned station until you let go of the pointer. On the Mac, you’ll hear the
stations as you drag over them.
You’re allowed an unlimited number of station presets, that you can name
however you wish. Using the pull down menu under the digital frequency display,
will allow you to choose a preset, add a new one or remove one.
Below the Seek button is the Rec button. Pressing it while listening
to a station, will cause the software to begin recording content. Recording will
continue until you press the Rec button again, or you run out of disk space.
Recordings made this way will be saved with the name Instant Recording in the
scheduled event dialog box.
Pressing the Sched button will bring up the event scheduler window.
Clicking on the Add button will bring up a dialog box to setup a
scheduled recording event.
Make sure you don’t forget to fill in the Name field in the PC version of the
software. Otherwise it’s really hard to edit or even listen to the recorded show
because you won’t be able to easily click on the title to select it. You can
always go into the saved recordings directory and manually listen to or delete
files though. This is a very annoying bug and will hopefully be fixed in a
For the Windows version of the software, you can record in either WMA or WAV
format. For Mac, you have the choice of AAC or AIFF.
You can even set the radioSHARK to record the same time slot hourly, daily or
The radioSHARK application will need to be running (or in the system tray) in
order for timers to start the recordings. While content is being recorded,
you’ll notice a red REC in the digital window. At this point you’ll be
unable pretty much do anything with the application except clicking the Remove
button in the Event scheduler window. Doing so will just stop the recording and
will leave the file in the directory to which it was saved. It will also show up
in the recorded list window, but the time length will not match the actual
length of the program.
Just like a Tivo or a ReplayTV, you can listen to a recorded show while
you’re recording a new one. Pretty nifty!
Ok, on to the next button… The EQ button should bring up an
equalizer. But it doesn’t do anything… at least not in the Windows version. It
does in the Mac version though.
EQ in the Mac version
There are several EQ presets to choose from, or you can create your own and
The TS button brings up the Time Shift recording command drawer.
Here’s where the real Tivo-ish features come into play. Say you are listening to
the local news or a fave song, and your phone rings. You can just hit the Pause
button and take the call. When you’re finished you can click Pause again and
start listening right where you left off before the phone rang.
This works by using a buffer that you can customize. If you right click on
the application window, you can edit the preferences for the entire application.
The buffer settings are in this settings dialog.
It’s important to note that the buffer is circular. That means
that if you set the buffer to say 30 minutes, and you hit pause for 35 minutes,
the buffer will have over written 5 minutes of the front of the recording.
Here’s another area where the Windows and Mac versions of the radioSHARK
application software differ. In the Windows version, you don’t really know how
much of your time shift buffer that you’ve used. There is a little round ball
that goes from right to left while you have the audio paused. That in itself
seems strange to me. I would think the ball would go from left to right instead
of the other way around. In the Mac version, you are shown the time in which the
pause started, and the progress bar of how long it’s been recording.
Time shift recording in the Mac version
What about the reception of this USB radio? It’s not bad if you don’t have
your computer room / office in the basement of your house like I do. Strong
stations were not a problem, but weaker ones tended to sound like I had the
radio in a bucket of water. Taking the radio and PowerBooks combo upstairs
resulted in much better reception.
You can improve the reception by plugging in an antenna extension into the
earphone jack on the back of the radioSHARK. Even plugging in a pair of
earphones can help.
The radioSHARK is a cool hardware / software gadget. But the problem is that
the Windows version of the software pretty much sucks. It’s evident that the PC
version of the software was rushed and that the Mac version was the main focus
for this product. During my testing, the PC software crashed on me many many
times while I was either trying to record something, aborting a recording, or
even when I’d just click the X button to exit out of the application. The audio
would also stutter occasionally when I would open other applications or pop
other programs into the foreground. I did not experience these same problems
while testing with the Mac version.
If you’re a Mac user and would love to have the ability to listen to FM radio
through your computer, then this is probably a gadget you’ll want to take a
closer look at. PC users should probably wait until the next revision of the
software comes out though. As is, this product is frustrating on a PC.
Adds Tivo / VCR style functionality to an AM/FM USB radio
Windows version of the software is buggy and crashes often
Windows version of the software lacks an EQ and other small tweaks that the Mac