Matt’s Gadgets: Livio’s Carmen Brings Web Audio To Your Car

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If you’re looking for a cheap, easy way to bring Internet radio into your car — or any kind of recorded music, for that matter — the Carmen car audio player from Ferndale-based Livio Radio is a good solution.

Think of it as a tricked-out thumb drive that also has buried within it a directory of Internet radio streams and a small FM transmitter.

You hook the Carmen up to your computer and search for a radio stream. You press a single button to record — up to 2 gigabits worth. And then you take the Carmen to your car, plug it into a 12-volt power outlet, and find an empty FM frequency to transmit the content on.

There’s a manual, but the Carmen is so intuitive you really don’t need it. A guide offers you a directory of available video streams and takes you to them.

My only quibble was with the quality and power of the FM transmitter. I have a Ford vehicle with the radio antenna at the rear of the car and sometimes the quality of the FM transmission from the Carmen was spotty. I solved the problem by using the included cable to hook the Carmen up through the AUX input jack in my vehicle. Through the cable, sound quality was excellent.

I also used the Carmen to record a bunch of .mp3 files from my computer. It’s the 21st Century version of the old-fashioned road trip mix tape. Couldn’t be simpler.

Eventually, all cars will have Internet radios installed, and cheap, freely available Internet connectivity will be everywhere, either through WiMax or equivalent wireless broadband technologies, or unlimited 4G data plans on your mobile phone. Until that day comes, the Carmen is a fine, easy-to-use bridge technology.

And did I mention it’s cheap? The MSRP is $59.99, but I found it online for as little as $22.99. We’re talking stocking-stuffer territory here.

And as a bonus, you’re supporting a Michigan-based company. The manufacturer of the Carmen, Livio Radio, is an entrepreneurial startup based in Ferndale. Its founder, Jake Sigal, worked on products for XM Satellite Radio, and invented the original ION USB turntable that turns vinyl into .mp3s.  Sigal founded Livio Radio in his parents’ guest room with $10,000  in 2008. Its other major products include a very cool Internet tabletop radio and an Internet radio receiver that plugs into a home stereo.

Check out the company and its products at www.livioradio.com/carmen.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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