Almost all my music needs at home are satisfied by either my iTunes collection or, increasingly in recent months, my Rdio subscription, but sometimes I want to listen to the radio. TuneIn Radio, the excellent iOS app, runs for free in your desktop browser but you may prefer to use a dedicated app.
For the last few years I’ve been using Radium, by CatPig Studios ($9.99 on the Mac App Store). It’s a lightweight radio app for Macs that lives in your menu bar and with a simple interface lets you search for, play and save internet radio stations. It recently got an update to version 3, which also saw CatPig stop selling it from their site and make it a Mac App Store exclusive.
They put it on sale for the first few weeks to make up for Apple’s lack of support for discounted upgrades so I grabbed it to check out the new features.
The interface has had a makeover from a rather plain blue-and-white to, well, blue-and-black, but the overall feel is much slicker. For most of the time it’s just a search bar and results/favourites list, with everything else hidden behind a gear icon.
There you’ll find options to output to any Airplay receivers in the vicinity, view album art which doubles as a mini-controller, save tracks you like to a wish-list, or pop out a graphic equaliser, plus there’s support for your existing digital radio subscriptions, including K-PIG, JazzRadio.com, Live 365 and SiriusXM Canada and USA.
Also new is the selection of icons next to stations in the list; once you save a station to your favourites you can change these to whatever you like. And of course you can tweet what you’re listening to, ‘Love’ it on Last.fm, or visit the station’s own website.
I’ve got two stations in Radium right now – BBC Radio 6 and AM 1710 Antioch – so I really don’t need much in the way of organising or sharing. All I want is a simple, reliable radio streaming app that looks good and stays out of the way until I need it, and Radium really nails that so there’s not much more to say other than to highly recommend it.
Except… there’s this one thing…
Okay, so this really makes barely any difference to the utility of the app but it bugs the heck out of me and that’s the change of icon design. I’m going to talk about this for a fair bit now, better get the popcorn out, or skip to the end…
Still here? Okay, here’s the current and old icon side by side:
One of those is a lovingly crafted old radio; its menubar icon is also a radio. The other is a chocolate heart and its menubar icon is also a heart.
Radium 3’s icon is the chocolate heart. Now, it’s a delicious looking chocolate I have to say. I imagine biting slowly into it and discovering a delicious chocolate goo, with perhaps a touch of Cointreau running through it… Anyway, it doesn’t strike me as a music app. I mean, why, right?
I haven’t really followed any of the marketing for Radium 3, I just saw there was an update, was confused by the icon, checked it was the same Radium, shrugged and bought it. Looking through the actual Mac App Store listing in detail, I found this:
So I guess that’s why it’s a chocolate now. Or did the icon come first and the slogan a result of that?
Either way, to me it feels like it’s an attempt to detach from the ‘old school’ definition of radio by making the icon less referential of the technology of yesteryear, where Radium 2’s icon was firmly rooted, and push something more conceptual and abstract.
But chocolate for my ears? Well, that’s just unhygienic, who even puts chocolate in their ears while listening to music? Why would you do that? Or even encourage it? Wouldn’t it have to be melted and therefore hot? It’s very confusing.
I’m being ridiculous to make a point; I’m very curious how they came to this decision as the permanent representation of the app for the future because it’s so far away from anything I’d choose, and I have an annoying need to understand whyyy. I think I know why, I just don’t understand it. Or… agree with it. I talked to CatPig about it over Twitter but they prefer to insult people who don’t “get it”. Rude, unprofessional, immature… yep, they’re all those things, but their app is good and that’s what I’m recommending, not their lack of inter-personal skills.
Heart icon, I heart you not
The new icon design extends to the menubar, where Radium is also a heart. I tuck most of my menubar icons away with Bartender, and when I’m up there I don’t want to have to think about which is which, which is usually fine because they’re all pretty descriptive.
Look, there’s Alfred’s bowler hat and Hazel’s feather duster, both apt for those apps; TextExpander uses its ‘balloon’ icon and also has the decency to offer a choice; Droplr, Airfoil, Fantastical and Dropbox are also pretty self-explanatory. In fact most everything up there is.
It’s really just Skitch and Radium letting the side down, and what do they both have in common?
So does anyone know an easy way to hack the menubar icon out of Radium 2 and apply it to Radium 3? Because until then some irritably logical perfectionist side of me won’t be happy.
Radium 3, the app, is excellent. The icon concept is… different, and the devs really believe in it, but if you’re not as fussed as me about that sort of detail (and I suspect I’m outnumbered 😉 ) and you’re looking for internet radio on your Mac, this is the one to look at first.
P.S. – a word about Antioch
Just another quick mention for AM 1710 Antioch again – it’s a fantastic little station run by this one guy who’s got loads of recordings of radio dramas and comedies going way back to the 30s – including Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello, Superman, The Whistler, The Lone Ranger and more, and often featuring the actual adverts for cigarettes and Kraft cheese products.
They play on an automated system that tries to match for the date so you’re usually listening to something that originally aired that day many decades ago. I love it and recommend it for a historical and entertaining listen.