/ UX

Listening to the radio: why user experience matters

One of the aims of Adblock Radio is to be as minimalistic and user-friendly as possible. I try to offer an interesting product with the least amount of knobs and arcane features. Finding the good tradeoff is a challenging task.

Listening to the radio is not an expert's field, unlike flying the Space Shuttle, playing the piano like a boss or operating a nuclear power plant. There is no prestige at doing it. So it should be simple, dead simple. In the last years I have used two Sony portable radios: first, ICF-M260 and more recently the XDR-S40DBP. Both are built for more or less the same purpose: listening to the radio at home. The only major difference is that the XDR can receive DAB streams, the digital version of FM broadcasts, while the ICF sticks with the analog FM/AM streams.

Sony ICF M260

Sony XDR-S40DBP

The ICF is a truly excellent product, easy to use on a daily basis and with very good receiving quality. I bought two or three of them across the years, as I lost them sometimes. However, despite being (even) more expensive, the newer XDR is considerably inferior. Here are the things that made the ICF outstanding in my opinion:

  • changing station on ICF is easy and fast: you need to press at least three buttons on the XDR, while on the ICF it's only one. When you change station, you get the new sound almost instantaneously with the ICF, while the XDR takes almost one solid second to tune to FM stations, and even two seconds with DAB broadcasts (which deters you from changing station at all).
  • startup time is instantaneous: ICF is instant-on, while the XDR needs between 1 and 2 seconds.
  • autonomy is so high you don't think about it: cells in ICF last weeks or months! In XDR, only days or even hours.

Dear Sony, I understand a chip that can receive digital streams cannot be as fast and simple as a FM tuner. But please be honest, what did your designers have in mind when building the XDR? The ICF, even if older, is better. I stick with it.

The killer feature above is the ease to change station. On Adblock Radio, it will be one-click and stay like this as long as possible. I hope you will enjoy it!