March 05 2011
When Armour Home Electronics of Bishop’s Stortford, which, for me, is one of the UK’s most interesting and ambitious consumer tech companies, announced that it was introducing an internet radio without any buttons or dials at all – “the world’s easiest-to-use internet radio”, as they called it – I wasn’t unsceptical.
Internet radios are temperamental beasts; wonderful, but only really suitable for the technologically tolerant who can cope with their little tantrums and sullen silences. Internet radio also embodies what Marxists would call an internal contradiction: people like me delight in saying they can receive 11,000 radio stations but forget that nobody actually wants such a wide choice. Indeed, for me, and probably you, listening to more than one or two stations feels promiscuous and unsettling.
Armour’s Q2 radio is, however, exactly as advertised. It’s an incredibly satisfying-to-handle, rubbery 4in cube, and you pre-programme it, using PC or Mac, with any four of those 11,000 stations. You then turn it on with its one control (a switch), change channel by physically rotating it and putting it down, turn the volume up and down by tilting it backwards or forwards, and turn it off again by placing it front-first on its speaker.
The Q2 is not just a pretty interface, either. The sound quality, for a little box with just one loudspeaker, is absolutely exceptional, too. It’s room filling, almost, if you select a channel webcasting in 320Kbps hi-fi quality.
The Q2 is just a delightful little radio to have around the house, like a cheerful puppy. It’s as much trouble-free fun in the bathroom as in the kitchen or on the balcony. It has a long battery life on one charge. It comes in several designs – I like this flouncy one but it also comes in a range of other colours, including sober black if you’re un homme sérieux.
So, go on, you say, is this at last an internet radio suitable for my 84-year-old mother-in-law? No, not really. The set-up is slightly tricky. And even with that mastered, home networking is still a massive hoo-ha, so you have to get used to glitches and those inexplicable sulky silences. That’s internet life for you. But the Q2 is a wonderful and exceptionally innovative device all the same.