This is where the Instant FM Music system from ADS Tech comes in. The device itself is a little USB radio tuner that, when used in conjunction with the Snaptune software that comes with it, provides users with a whole range of radio listening options including time-shifting, song identification and scheduled recording.
So if your favourite radio shows are on at some obscure hour or if your daily commute involves being out of radio reception, you can just record it and copy the file to your MP3 player to listen to at your leisure.
In the box you get the USB Tuner, a short USB extension cable, a retractable antenna, a carry pouch and the installation CD and manual. Installation is very straightforward, you plug in the USB tuner and let Windows do its new hardware thing, you then install Snaptune and after a few configuration steps you're good to go. All of this is covered well in the set-up guide.
The Snaptune interface is quite intuitive. One neat trick is that you can enter a postcode in the options and the software will recommend a set of station presets. Of course you can also manually go through the frequencies and create your own presets. Incidentally you also have the option to listen to and record web radio stations as well. If you are listening to and recording web radio you should bear in mind that it can be quite a strain on your internet connection if you don't have good bandwidth and a high data cap.
This particular hack really enjoys a particular radio presenter tag team named Merrick and Rosso, who do a breakfast show for an Australian radio station, Nova969. Unfortunately six to nine in the morning in Oz is seven till ten at night here in Blightey, not the most useful time for listening to the radio, but now Snaptune just records it for aural consumption the next morning.
Recording is pretty straightforward, you simply select the channel you want and hit the record button. You then select the recording schedule and give it a name. You can also view your current collection to make sure none of them overlap. If your bandwidth supports it you can record from multiple web radios at the same time, but you can only record from a single radio transmission at any one time.
One of the few problems I encountered was that I found it difficult to get a consistently good signal, although this may well be because I had it connected to a laptop, moving around a fair bit. When installing the device I would recommend moving the antenna about as much possible to make sure you get the best reception possible.
If the transmission you're tuned into supports it, you can also get information about the song currently playing as well the option to buy the track or the CD via Amazon. Also if the recording contains playlist information you can skip between songs in the playlist. Once you've recorded something you also have the option of saving the recording to an MP3 file or sending it to iTunes to sync it with your iPod.
If you prefer the variety of radio, as opposed to recycling your existing music collection, but often find yourself out of reception or your favourite shows are on at odd times then you the Instant FM is worth forking over your hard earned earth money for. It has a good range of options and it's pretty easy to use.
The whole package is available now directly from the ADS Tech website for £40, which is a bit more expensive than I would have liked to see, but not massively expensive given that there are no future subscription costs or anything afterwards. ?
Instant FM Music