Tag Archives: Ocean Digital

A review of the Ocean Digital WR-23D WiFi, FM, DAB & DAB+, and Bluetooth Portable Radio

Readers might recall that last year, I reviewed the Ocean Digital WR-26 portable radio and was pretty impressed.

Although it turns out a number of SWLing Post readers were familiar with Ocean Digital and had purchased some of their radios, I hadn’t heard of them until an SWLing Post contributor encouraged the company to contact me.

I must say: all of my communications with Ocean Digital have been very positive and the company has also been very receptive to my frank feedback. All good things.

Ocean Digital reached out to me last month and asked if I would like to test their WR-23D portable radio. Why not? They dispatched on immediately from their Amazon stock here in the USA.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Ocean Digital sent this review sample to me at no cost and as soon as this review has been published (as in, right now), I’m sending it to one of our SWLing Post Patreon supporters I pick at random.

Initial impressions

The Ocean Digital WR-23D sports an ABS plastic body that feels very solid in the hand. Indeed, some shortwave portable manufacturers should take note–the ABS structure is so solid, there’s no give when I press into the middle of the speaker grill, for example. I feel like this radio would survive falling off of a table or shelf with no problems.

The backlit 2.4″ color display is very easy to read with crisp graphics, text, and ample contrast.

The top of the radio features a power button and three dedicated memory preset buttons. The volume control is also mounted on the top of the radio and protrudes out of the front slightly so your thumb can move it.

On the front of the radio, there are dedicated buttons for the Home screen, EQ/Local button, Favorites, and Sleep Timer.

In the center, there’s a circular navigation control and selection button.

On the back of the unit, you’ll find the telescoping whip antenna for FM, DAB/DAB+, an LED indicator for charging, a 3.5mm earphone jack, and (yes!) a USB-C charging port. I’m so happy to see a USB-C port rather than the older Micro USB variety.

Sound

The front-facing speaker delivers balanced audio. There has obviously been some attention given to the speaker enclosure because it produces a bit more bass than I would have anticipated. There are 12 EQ presets you can use to tailor the audio as well.  The WR-3D is not an audio powerhouse–in fact, the audio level stops short of allowing the speaker to splatter–do don’t expect a “boom box” response.

For listening to music or voice in your office, bedroom, or living room? Yeah, it’ll work a charm!

Portability

What I love about these Ocean Digital units is that they have a built-in rechargeable battery.

In my household, this is huge.

I often carry my WiFi radios around the house, moving from the kitchen, to my office, to outdoors near the wood shed (it’s the time of year I start splitting firewood again!).

I’ve found that not only does the battery power the WR-23D for many hours at a time, but the WiFi receiver in the unit is also robust enough that the radio can communicate with our router outside the house. With that said, the WiFi reception is not as good as it is with the recently reviewed CC WiFi 3 which actually sports an external WiFi RX antenna. Then again, the CCWiFi 3 doesn’t have a rechargeable battery either.

Internet Radio

The Ocean Digital WR-23D uses the Skytune radio station aggregator to search for Internet radio station streams.

In short: I like Skytune. It’s easy to search, they’ll add streams if they’re missing any, and it’s well-organized. Instead of reviewing the aggregator again, I’ll point you to the Ocean Digital WR-26 review for more detail as the navigation is identical other than the WR-23D has a nice color screen to display information.

Of course, I’m sure a number of readers have been put off by the whole idea of a dedicated Internet appliance for listening to radio in the wake of Reciva’s announced closure. For more on this topic, I’d strongly encourage you to read my thoughts in the CC WiFi 3 review (note that the CC WiFi 3 also uses the Skytune aggregator).

On Internet appliances like the WR-23D, one does worry about WiFi radio functionality failing if the station aggregator disappears. We recently posted a way you can hack some Grace Digital and C.Crane radios that use Reciva.

In the case of the WR-23D, WR-26, and CC WiFi 3 (basically all of the Skytune receivers I’ve reviewed) you can actually program your favorite radio stations manually. In fact, it’s very easy. You simply find the radio’s IP address on your network (the manual describes how to find this in the Configuration menu selection). Then, enter the radio’s IP address in a browser on a computer or device that is connected to the same WiFi network. You’ll get a window that looks like this where you can add your own streams, organize memories, and even perform basic control of the radio:

But, again, if the whole idea of an aggregator-tied device like the WR-23D is unappealing, I get it. You might simply pair your smartphone or tablet with a Bluetooth speaker and use a system like Radio Garden or TuneIn to cruise the world of online radio stations.

Bluetooth

Speaking of Bluetooth speaker, yes, the WR-23D is one of those, too! Simply select “Bluetooth” from the home menu and pair it with your favorite device. Couldn’t be easier!

FM radio

The WR-23D has a very capable FM radio. I had it scan my local FM dial and it automatically picked up all of the stations I would have expected. The radio has both auto and manual tuning.

In addition, the WR-23D displays RDS information on the screen. This is a feature I love especially when travelling as it helps me ID the station I’m tuned to.

DAB/DAB+

Unfortunately, we have no DAB/DAB+ stations in the US, so I was unable to test this functionality.

Summary

As I mentioned, I really appreciate the matte finish ABS chassis. I like to know that my portables can survive a fall.

I’ve been using the WR-23D here at SWLing Post HQ for about one month and only have a few minor/personal complaints. For example, I wish the headphone jack was on the side of the radio instead of the back. Also, I wish the telescoping whip antenna fit into a recess on the chassis rather than being fully mounted on the outside. I would like to see a fold out tilt stand on the back of the unit (I’ve actually used the antenna to prop this radio at an angle, but that’s not ideal).

If you’re looking for a truly portable WiFi radio and Bluetooth speaker with a proper FM and DAB/DAB+ receiver the Ocean Digital WR-23D is a solid choice.   Amazon’s current price is $79.99 US with shipping and free returns–I feel like this is a value for all this radio has to offer.

I can say this: the SWLing Post Patron who wins this WR-23D will really enjoy it! I have.

Click here to check out the Ocean Digital WR-23D at Amazon.com (SWLing Post affiliate link!)

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A review of the Ocean Digital WR-26 FM, DAB, Internet and Bluetooth radio

A few weeks ago, I was contacted out of the blue by a company I’d never heard of: Ocean Digital. They asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their radios.

I almost deleted their message out of habit because (no kidding) I get at least one or two messages like this from retailers and manufacturers per week–often more. I checked out their website and could quickly see that they specialize in a variety of digital WiFi radios with Bluetooth, FM, and DAB. A quick search on Amazon and I could see a number of Ocean Digital models. I replied back and the company representative mentioned that it was one of my trusted friends and SWLing Post contributor who recommended that they reach out to me. So I read through their catalog of radios and selected their most affordable model: the WR-26. Ocean Digital sent a sample WR-26 at no cost to me.

I picked the WR-26 because, in terms of features, it packs a lot for a $75-80 US radio. I also love the portable size and built-in rechargeable battery.

WIth that said, it’s also a very simple radio. There was no need to reference the owner’s manual for basic operation.

Look & Feel

The WR-26 is compact, lightweight and sports an internal rechargeable battery pack with a Micro USB connection.

It has a front-facing internal speaker, and on top a small backlit display and eight function buttons:

  • On/Off
  • Home
  • Favorites
  • Left/Right arrows (for selecting and backing out of menu items)
  • Up/Down arrows (for tuning, and stepping through selections)
  • OK button for making selections

On the back of the radio, there’s a telescoping antenna, Micro USB charging port, and a headphones jack.

Overall, I really like the clean and simple design. If I could change one thing, I would move the telescoping antenna to the top of the radio and make it recessed to better protect it when packed in a travel bag, for example. But in the end, this is a very minor criticism.

Audio

The WR-26’s built-in speaker provides well-balanced audio. In fact, readers who own late-model compact shortwave portables (like the XHDATA D-808) will recognize the audio characteristics of this small internal speaker that I assume uses an acoustic chamber to provide a better bass response. I’m always pleased to find compact radios that implement this type of speaker.

One interesting note: when you tune to an audio source–a stream or FM station for example–the volume fades in slowly after making the selection.

FM Radio/DAB

The WR-26 has a built-in FM tuner that functions quite well. It received all of my local radio stations and even a few further afield. The first time you turn on the FM radio, it will ask if you want to scan the band. If you initiate a scan, it will search for signals and auto store found stations in memory locations that you can shuffle through with the up/down arrows.

The WR-26 also displays RDS information on the screen–very nice!

To manually tune the WR-26, press and hold the ‘OK’ button until ‘Tuning’ appears on the bottom right corner of the display. Then use the left /right arrow buttons to adjust the frequency. Press and hold the OK when done to exit manual tuning.

I did not test DAB reception. I’m located in North America where there are no DAB stations on the air to test this functionality.

Bluetooth

Not much to say about Bluetooth other than it works. You can wirelessly connect your smart phone, tablet, or PC to the WR-26 and use it as an external speaker. If you’ve ever used a bluetooth device, you’ll find pairing a straight-forward, easy process.

WiFi Radio

Ocean Digital radios use an Internet radio station aggregator (click here to learn about aggregators) called Skytune. I don’t know if Skytune manages their own database of Internet radio stations, or if they rely on a larger, more established aggregator in the background. I suspect the latter.

To use WiFi radio, you must first connect to your local WiFi network. I connected to my smart phone’s personal hotspot without any problems. If you have a long WiFi password, you’ll need a little patience to enter it the first time. Entering the password requires scrolling through a long list of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.

Like most WiFi radios, you can tune the station of your choice by selecting the WiFi radio function, then searching stations by location/region, popularity, genre, etc. Once you’ve selected a station, the radio connects and if you wish to save it to your favorites list, simple press and hold the heart button.

On devices like this, I always worry about WiFi radio functionality failing if the station aggregator disappears. In the case of the WR-26, you can actually program your favorite radio stations manually. You simply find the radio’s IP address on your network (the manual describes how to find this in the Configuration menu selection) then enter the radio’s IP address in a browser on a computer or device that is connected to the same WiFi network.

I took the screenshot above by connecting my laptop to my phone’s personal hotspot and directing it to the radio’s IP address.

I like this functionality because it means I can even connect to streaming sources not found in the Skytune directory like more obscure internet stations, LiveATC and scanner feeds.

I’ve reviewed a lot of WiFi radios and I find the WR-26 to be rather easy to use. So far, I’ve found all of the stations I normally listen to via their aggregator.

Summary

All-in-all, I really like the WR-26. For the price, it’s a very capable little WiFi radio and a good value.

What I really love is the portability of the WR-26. After charging the battery with a standard USB charger, you can listen to FM, DAB, Bluetooth or WiFi radio for hours. The audio is respectable and volume can be increased to be almost room-filling.

The WR-26 is small enough that you could actually pack it and take it on travels. If your phone has a personal hotspot, you’ll be able to use all of the WiFi radio functionality on the road. Since I’ve no experience with Ocean Digital devices, I always question product longevity so we’ll have to see how that plays out. It’s comforting, though, knowing that a trusted friend in the radio industry made the recommendation–he’s never lead me astray!

Click here to check out Ocean Digital’s website.

Click here to purchase the WR-26 and here to check out their other products on Amazon (these affiliate links support the SWLing Post).

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