By Todd Bernhard on Tue, 01/24/2012
I admit, I'm a bit of a Radio Shack groupie. I'm always there, checking out what's new. I had seen the Livio Radio "Bluetooth Internet Radio Car Kit" but didn't pay much attention. After all, I already have a Garmin GPS that acts as a Bluetooth speakerphone. But the folks at Livio Radio lent me a review unit to try out. So I gave it a shot.
Well, let me tell you, this is more than a Bluetooth headset. It takes the BT audio from your iOS device and broadcasts it onto an unused FM radio channel. Unlike some lesser models I've tried, it auto scans for an available frequency. The audio doesn't have to be phone calls, either. That's where the "Internet Radio" portion of the name comes in. You can stream Pandora, Grooveshark, iTunes and other apps. Livio even has their own app, optimized for operation in the car, that offers 45,000 AM, FM and Internet Radio stations.
The Livio Radio is pretty smart. I never had to enter a PIN #... it automatically sensed my iPhone 4S, when I ran Settings -> General -> Bluetooth and selected the Livio. The iPhone even told me there was a free app I could download, and it took me to it on the App Store.
I like the gooseneck design, but it depends on the placement of your car's cigarette lighter outlet. In my case, I had that GPS unit taking up the port. But the good news is they provide a USB port to plug your iPhone charging cable or other devices in.
At first, the volume seemed too low, and I had to crank my car's stereo volume all the way up. But then I read the manual! It turns out the knob that controls the frequency also controls the volume if you push it in first. I might have preferred separate buttons for volume, but once you set it, you're probably more likely to use your car's stereo to fine tune the volume. After that, the sound was quite good (Aerosmith, BTW.)
There is a line-in so you can connect your MP3 player independent of Bluetooth as well as a line-out so, if your stereo supports a line-in, you don't have to deal with the FM broadcast issue.
If you need either a Bluetooth speakerphone for the car, or a way to stream audio to your car stereo, the Livio Radio fits the bill nicely, but if you need BOTH capabilities, then look no further.