In 2017 the concept of an internet radio is not at all new. In fact, it might even be antiquated to some of you. In the age of SONOS, Google Cast, and Wi-Fi speakers, the idea of a device designed strictly with connected radio services in mind makes sense. We love our music and we love having it where we want, and listening when we want.
Whereas some of us had gotten into products like the Logitech Squeezebox some years back, others are just beginning to understand how cool it is to have a connected radio. Not just Bluetooth speakers that pair to your phone, but something that stands alone.
The Mondo+ is one such device. Designed by Grace Digital, it’s a small, even portable (optional $40 battery) radio that offers up AM/FM radio, internet radio, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and more. Not only that, but it’s created to work with other units with multi-room music and 2-way speaker conversations. Further, it includes Chromecast capability and even works with Google Assistant.
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Similar to the aforementioned Squeezebox Radio, the Mondo+ includes an LCD screen (3.5-inches) with shortcut buttons and and a rubber scroll wheel. The housing is made of a glossy plastic but it doesn’t come across as solidly built as the Squeezebox.
Ports include USB and 3.5mm input as well as RCA stereo out. An Ethernet port is not standard but you can buy one from Grace Digital for $20. If you have music on a flash drive, plug it into the back and listen to files in MP3, AAC, AAC +, FLAC, LPCM,ALAC,WMA,WMA9,Ogg Vorbis format. Other supported protocols include SHOUTcast, WMA streaming, HTTPS, and RTSP/SDP.
If you plan to connect to your network and other speakers like Google Home, you’ll want to spring for the Ethernet accessory. We ran into the occasional dropped connection when using a 2.4GHz connection in an office suite. A 5GHz connection was much better, but the wired route is always a safe bet.
As a bedroom unit the Mondo+ works exceedingly well. Put next to the bed, we appreciate the clock, 7-day alarm clock, and USB port. We rarely listen to music all that loud at night so the speaker worked great for catching up on a book or down-tempo playlist.
We also found the Mondo+ to be a solid companion to have in an office environment. Whether it was listening to local radio stations or using it as a loudspeaker for videos, it sounds good and fills small rooms.
Get into a larger environment or where you want music to be your main focus and the Mondo+ falls short. At loud volumes it sounds distorted, especially when you have thumping bass or music with a lot of layers.
The equalizer is nice to have, particularly if you spend a lot of time in one type of audio setting. We like a lot of podcasts and audiobooks so we’re partial to the “flat” option. Other settings include vocal, classic, jazz, and rock.
The Mondo+ comes with built-in support for a variety of radio sources but that’s just the beginning. If your preferred streaming service isn’t included, you can always tap into the Chromecast feature and leverage myriad apps, websites, and services.
The 3.5-inch display is a nice touch, and it’s certainly something we appreciate having. Too often we hear a song playing on a speaker and have to scramble for the phone to figure out what it’s called or to identify the artist. It’s nice to look over and see the details we want without much effort.
Navigation is a touch wonky, if not slow, using the dial and press button. To that end, the remote control helps get you set up and moving about. However, entering text is a nuisance when setting up a wireless network or searching for a radio station. Our advice: stick to the app as much as possible.
If you don’t own a Google Home or one of the growing line of smart speakers, this is an excellent way to get started. We’ve come to enjoy having the ability to tap into the next-level Google smarts with this speaker.
When compared to other speakers like the SONOS PLAY:1, the Mondo+ wins hands down, if on paper. As it comes to overall sound, total home integration, and app functionality, it skews more in favor of the other, established brand. That’s not for a lack of trying, though, as Grace Digital has put together one hell of a package.
If you haven’t already purchased a connected speaker system, we can recommend the Mondo+ just as easily as any other models. It’s not perfect, and there are some quirks here and there, but we’re on board.
At $200 we found the Mondo+ to be a great unit to add to your house. Students with limited space or those who want to punch up their home office should give this one a look. Toss in the optional battery and you’ll like having this on the porch or back deck.