WiFi Radio: Dave experiences “aggregation aggravation”

The Sangean WFR-28 WiFi Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Dave Mackie, who writes:

I have a Sangean WFR-28 that just stopped working recently and through a bit of internet spelunking I happened across your site and explanation about Frontier Silicon as ‘aggregator’ for Sangean. A phone call to Sangean confirmed that Frontier Silicon was having a problem with the aggregation service.

First off, thanks for the three part series on internet radio; it gave me just enough of a hint that the problem with be something other than the radio despite the fact that other wifi things were working properly.

[After contacting Frontier Silicon, I received] this unhelpful reply:

Unfortunately, we are having some difficulties with the internet radio service provided to us by a third party, which causes products not to be able to tune to any internet radio stations.

We are working on addressing the issue, and should have it up and running, hopefully within the next 12 hours.

Apologies for any inconvenience.

On one hand we’re getting a service that’s ‘free’ in that we don’t send a check directly to Frontier or the 3rd Party

We press a button and the radio just works.

On the other hand, the radio can inexplicably just stop working and we have absolutely no way to fix it.

Again as you mentioned, perhaps ‘closed’ vs. ‘open’ aggregator could (should?) be more well-known and more of a factor when choosing a radio.

I’d like more preset buttons on my Sangean WFR-28, but way more than that, I want it to work!

Many thanks to Dave for sharing this experience with us–I imagine other readers may have caught this lapse in service as well. Fortunately, the problem Dave referred to was fixed within a 24 hour window.

I believe the “third party” Frontier Silicon relies on is vTuner. If I understand correctly, Frontier Silicon actually pulls all of the station linking information from vTuner’s database.

So you can see why aggregation aggravation could occur: there are no less than three companies involved when you “tune” your Sangean WiFi radio.

Sangean makes the radio which has software that links to Frontier Silicon’s portal. You log into Frontier Silicon’s portal to create a user account and manage your station favorites. But in the end, Frontier Silicon uses vTuner as a station database.

If any one of these links fail, the result may be a dead WiFi radio.

On the positive side, I listen to a Como Audio Solo radio most mornings. The Solo relies on the same aggregator chain as Sangean radios and I have never experienced an outage. I might be lucky, but I don’t think outages are all that common.

It would be great if there was a community-powered aggregator–something akin to a Wikipedia of Wifi radio–that would serve as a database for our Internet receivers. I could see a model where radio stations manage their own stream data and coordinates and listeners could even be approved to help manage link integrity. Sadly, I know of no such aggregator at present (readers, please correct me if I’m wrong about this).

Aggregators used by OEMs (like Sangean) are backed by a company (Frontier Silicon, vTuner, TuneIn, iHeartMedia, Reciva, etc.) that have a financial interest in serving up-to-date station information to its customers. In the end, it still takes a human to physically add, delete or alter station information.

Since there’s money involved, it’s in the aggregator’s best interest to take care of problems quickly and efficiently. In truth, I worry less about the time it takes to fix problems or add stations–I worry about the aggregator going out of business. This happened in the early days of WiFi radio when some smaller manufacturers chose to run their own aggregators. If their company closed shop, their products were essentially useless.

Post readers: Have you ever owned a Wifi radio that stopped working due to aggregator failure? Have I missed a point here? Please share your thoughts!

Click here to read our WiFi Radio Primer.

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27 thoughts on “WiFi Radio: Dave experiences “aggregation aggravation”

  1. James Spears

    My drift from SWL to internet radio started with Apple iTunes which is now becoming more difficult as of 2020, with iTunes disappearing with the latest “upgrade”. So aggregators and dedicated internet radios are becoming even more essential. I appreciate the comments about vTuner’s problems and how Sangean and Como Audio have dealt with it. However with a very old (2010) Pioneer LAN wired internet radio and a very good Pro-ject Stream Box still depending on vTuner, I can say that vTuner is doing very well considering. I found a support person at vTuner who went out of his way to help after Pioneer has done everything possible to disengage. (I have yet to find anyone at Pioneer who knows anything about their internet radios, and Pioneer’s web link to vTuner is obscure. vTuner’s stations are up to date from my experience, and in some ways better than the competition.

    Another thought: The old technology pre-wireless LAN wired radios are almost flawless. Fast station switching and access, and never a dropped signal. Many who blame aggregators or radio apps are in fact experiencing the continuing challenges of wireless.

  2. Anthony

    FWIW, I received an answer from Frontier about adding back a couple of iHeart streams so I can receive them again on my Sangean WFR-28. I admit I had forgotten that I manually added those streams back when you could do it on Frontier’s(?) website before the whole Vtuner debacle. Here’s the response I received yesterday from them:


    Thank you for your feedback. We are not allowed to show iHeart radio stations. That is their policy. The previous radio guide could not add it in either.

    We are bringing back the personal radio portal on Aug 5th, where you can add your own stations if you know the streaming URL.

    Best regards,

    I hope this is true. I will once again love my Sangean WR28! So, we await and see.

  3. Macca

    I have a Kogan Wi-Fi Radio over 10 years old and recently lost my favourites in the menu. The manual that came with it stated “internet radio features can only be accessed by visiting the Frontier Internet Radio Portal. (http://www.wifiradio-frontier.com)”.
    After a software update and factory reset I lost my favourites. On the radio it now states for support go to smartradio.frountier-nuvola.net
    Frontier is now working with Amazon Alexa and Google Voice Assistant.
    It was nice to set my favourites now an AI is control for better or worse.

  4. Conness Thompson

    So glad I found this discussion! I just returned home from vacation to discover the problem described. I have a Sangean WFR-28 and could not get anything to work related to the directive to resave my presets. But happily I read one of the comments on the linked post about this issue, where someone suggested doing the factory reset. I did this and I’m back up and running.

  5. Peter Brewer

    My Sangean tuner lost all presets and wouldn’t let me create new presets. After mucking around I hit the ‘factory preset’ option and bingo! It connected to the new internet radio/podcasts lists and allowed me to set things up again. Since then UDOK hasn’t worked…but that might be just an extra set-up step I need to do. I hardly used UDOK anyway.

    1. Ed

      Thanks, Peter! After reading several posts, yours was the first that mentioned Factory Reset, and I was up and running in a few minutes after being offline all week with my Sangean. For others info, Factory reset can be found by going to Menu>>SystemSettings>>FactoryReset
      Thanks again, Peter!

  6. Ted Stone

    Arg. I have a couple of radios that depend on Frontier (and vTuner). Ironically, I just bought an Ocean Digital one which you can program with up to 99 URLs into the radio itself. It uses Skytune portal normally but it does have its own “web site” in the radio itself where you can enter your own stations without relying on the portal.

  7. Mike F

    Hi, I lost the silicon frontier web interface to browse and add the stations, because it’s tedious scrolling and scrolling in the radio. but saw on Sangean website there is a phone app called UDOK. UDOK connects to my WFR 28 and you can browse there and will connect to your radio and find and re-do your presets. i found the same stations and added them again. some stations have more description info that scrolls up.

  8. Edward

    So much for streaming internet. Put that “radio” in the e-waste bin and replace it with a genuine radio that picks up broadcast shortwave.

  9. Ken K. in NJ

    I haven’t experienced any outages with my WFR-28. However I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the ISangean app which is supposed to work as a remote control for it. The app doesn’t seem to work with any of my more “recent” devices (Samsung S8 phone, Galaxy Tab A, etc). I’ve only been able to get it to work with a much older Samsung tablet that I had hanging around the house, which leads me to believe that the app is no longer being maintained.

  10. Mark Fahey

    I have a whole tribe of internet radios (2x AE – the very first (AFAIK) internet radio device – were $1000 each in the day), a Logitech Squeezebox, a Grace Digital Mondo. All have the ability to custom add URLs of streams, and if you’re inclined all have alternative ways to hack them to allow them to work independently of the aggregator’s directory.

    Streaming radio is the main way I listen to radio now. The Mondo is my main “radio device” – it lives in the kitchen and plays NPR, BBC WS, Radio Australia and the iHeart commercial free stations pretty everyday.

    OK now I will put on my armour! BUT actually the main devices I use to listen to radio on the move and when driving is my iPad Pro (AirPods or speaker). When at home my Apple TV which routes radio into every room via AirPlay. All I need to do at home is say into the air in any room in my house “Hey Siri play BBC World Service” or “Hey Siri play ABC News Radio” etc and the stations play.

    I very rarely touch a device or select a station with a menu now – I just speak my choice into the air.

    OK now putting on even more armour! This is how radio works these days, and what its future looks like.

    Over the last weekend I participated in sessions discussing the future and priorities of the ABC (Australia). The ABC predicts broadcasting is in its final years – the uptake of ABC digital on demand and digital streaming of live serial delivered content (such as news and sport) is now a tsunami. It was interesting to hear that the average age accessing their serial broadcast delivered television (ABC1 Channel) is now a 70 year old. However the ABC content reach is rapidly expanding in all age groups to never before or imagined highs – but it is being accessed by the massive IP delivery the ABC has been rolling out since 2008.

    Perhaps yet another layer of armour is needed for this!!
    On the whole weekend shortwave was not mentioned once – not even raised by participants or ABC staff.

    Like it or not content delivery is changing rapidly. The internet radio devices that we are discussing in this article are only transitional devices – (kind of like GPS’s suction-cupped on car windscreens were before replaced by GPS’s in that multifunction computer device called the smartphone).

    Radio and TV is surging ahead at a really blinding pace – but the devices that people are increasing accessing this content on are not called (or look like) radios or television sets – they are more capable sheets of glass hanging on your wall or in your hand that presents all types of media.

  11. David Moisan

    I have a Samsung Blu-Ray player that uses the vTuner aggregator.

    Samsung has pulled out of the Blu-Ray business and will not sell any more players.

    So far, no problems. But stay tuned.

  12. Gary

    I’ve owned a Logitech Squeezbox Boom and Squeezbox Radio for many years. Although they both still work, I’ve noticed the number of local stations available in the directory to be greatly reduced over the years. For example, even the powerhouses KNX 1070 and KFI 640 in L.A. are no longer available. More and more stations seem to be moving to proprietary iOS and Android apps or websites (KNX on radio.com and KFI on iHeartRadio).

    1. Mike S

      Yes, this is true. Two of the local AM news stations in Metro NY vanished from TuneIn and, therefore, from the Squeezebox ecosystem. It was possible, using the mysqueezebox web site, to manually enter URL’s for these stations from alternate stream sources. I rarely use the device anymore so I am not current on what is left to listen to; like many I do most streaming listening on smartphones, tablets, and PC.

  13. Ivan Cholakov

    I created my own directory and sideloaded it into the Sangean. it worked great. The video is on youtube.

  14. Jason

    Ridiculous. These radios should have a long-term fallback plan. Even if it was a complete and utter pain to somehow manually upload a station list, it should be an option, buried in the manual somewhere. Otherwise, these radios will have an expected expiry date of less than a decade (typical lifespan of silicon valley-type online services). No more collecting old radios and keeping them running.

  15. Neil Goldstein

    Are there any of these radios that allow you to program in a station’s stream directly without using an aggregator?

    I would think it would be a nice feature to be able to put some of the stations in that way. I know my Chumby, at my work desk has this ability. I’ve seen too many products that were rendered useless as the services they relied on went away. Which sparks another question: Are these Sangean devices firmware upgradeable so that a new aggregator (or, no aggegator) can be configured in that event?

    1. Ted Stone

      Neil, ironically I just bought an Ocean Digital radio which relies on Skytune portal. But it does have its own web site in the radio itself that you can browse to with your browser and set up to 99 custom URLs to stations into the radio itself. This it the first I have seen that allows this. Cheers, Ted.

  16. Philip

    After posting my comment, above, I turned on the SVP and found only “Net connect error” where the aggregator should be. So it now does not work at all as an Internet radio. RIP, SVP.

  17. Mike S

    This phenomenon has long been behind my reluctance regarding the investment of significant funds into an internet radio”device”. Your ability to listen is forever contingent on the ongoing support of the manufacturer and the functioning of the third-party content aggregator.

    That said – before realizing this I had, long ago, purchased one of the original Logitech Sqeezebox tabletop devices. It’s rather a nice product though quite dated in interface and capabilities by today’s standards. The whole product line is discontinued and unsupported for several years now. But the aggregator (TuneIn) is still up and running and, miraculously, honors the arrangements made for former Logitech customers. But if that would go away, unless one were to use the device using a home server (and heaven knows whether the software actually runs anymore on modern operating system) you have a nice doorstop.

  18. Philip

    My first wi-fi radio, about ten years ago, was a wonderful little thing called “SVP.” I never knew much about its origin except that it came from China. It was about 15 x 6 x2 cm, fit-in-your-pocket size, and even included a 45x55mm tv screen. It worked beautifully and, although its speaker was tiny, it easily connected to something larger and then produced wonderful sound.

    Sigh. The aggregator lost interest and the number of stations available through it diminished down to a small number of stations I didn’t want to listen to and a few podcasts that were never updated. I gave up on it. But, because of its small size, four or five newer and bigger Internet Radios later, it is still my favourite — or would be if its aggregator worked!


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