The Sangean WFR-20 WiFi internet radio player resembles a classic tabletop radio from the 1970s in terms of size. However, it has fewer knobs than those old timers (only one knob, in fact), and plays MP3 and AAC radio streams with the voice of a full-sized hi-fi stereo music system.
Wide and robust stereo sound characterize this unit, with thousands of Internet radio stations programmed into it via the reciva.com Internet stream portal, and small yet full-function remote control. This average sized yet big sounding music system is fully self-contained, with an integrated audio amplifier, stereo speakers, permanently attached Wi-Fi antenna, and an intuitive user interface (once you get used to all functions being controlled by a single knob). It offers an easy-to-read, white-violet back lit liquid crystal display (LCD), whose surprisingly high contrast appearance approaches those 20th century LED display screens many of us grew up reading.
This receiver has been on the market for upwards of a decade now, and is no longer manufactured as of this writing unfortunately. So if you can find this on eBay or amazon for a good price, buy it. The supporting website (reciva.com) however, since it provides aggregation infrastructure to many models of radios besides this one, will likely remain operational for the foreseeable future. It’s so reliable that we’ve never experienced a radio outage on the WFR-20. We’ve interacted with the personnel that manage Reciva station lists to request the addition of new stream URLs to their lists, and found them cordial, pleasant to deal with, and immediately responsive. They added our suggestions within hours of asking them.
Benefits, Features, Advantages, and Pros of the Sangean WFR 20 Internet Radio
Usual size and weight for a clock radio.
The WFR-20 is about the average size for a clock radio. It measures approximately 11.5 inches long, and 4.5 inches tall, including its scratch-free feet. It weighs five pounds, one ounce. Perhaps a bit heaver than typical radios, probably due to the rugged plastic case and large magnets in the speaker system. But for this little extra weight, you get plenty of volume that easily qualifies as “high fidelity” stereo sound.
Multi-Function Control Knob
All radio functions can be set up and managed with this front panel knob. Some of what can be changed is volume, bass, treble, sleep timer, snooze, and station search and selection.
The remote is about the right size for comfortable fitting into most small to average sized hands, and features ten buttons including: Home, Sleep, On / Off, Add to Favorites, up-down-left-right arrow keys, Volume up-down, skip back, play-pause, and skip-forward.
External Wi-Fi Antenna
The external antenna, though non removable, adjusts over a wide range of positions to ensure reliable wireless network connections. The wireless radio inside seems reasonably sensitive and powerful, so that if there’s a decently strong Wi-Fi network in range, this device will probably be able to connect to it with ease.
All Connections on Radio Back
Back panel ports and plugs include the power supply, Ethernet, line in, and sub woofer / earphone output plugs. These include an Ethernet port, AUX in, line out, headphone out, and the 120-volt AC (35 watt) power connection.
Ported Stereo Speakers
Resembling a little boom box, the WFR-20 features two full-range dynamic speakers on the left and right front of its case. The tuned port hole is located on the back.
Local and Remote Control
The unit has a jog wheel menu system and several buttons for navigating through and changing settings, using the built-in LCD white-on-black screen. However, most of the functions may also be controlled by the remote control, pictured below, and basic streaming functionality can be controlled also, from your Internet-connected computer on the Sangean Internet Portal Site (by Reciva).
Plenty of Volume
Pretty full bass, although the WFR-20 lacks the really deep low-frequency response that we’ve heard in other music centers such as the Denon S-32 and the Logitech Squeezebox Boom. Still though this player offers 5 watts of total audio power. 2.5 watts per channel, as fed to the built-in speakers. Typical power amount for a tabletop radio. Exceptional sound for speech records, and relatively accurate sound for well-recorded high fidelity music recordings and streams, given the radio’s compact size.
Reliable Portal Site
In the near decade that we’ve owned this Wi-Fi media player, Internet radio stations have always played, on demand. Or if they did not, it was a station problem, and not with the Reciva stream database portal.
Wi-Fi and Ethernet Support
You can connect to any 802-11 b/g wireless network, or via an Ethernet network cable, to any in-range access point.
Bass and Treble Settings
You can adjust bass and treble levels via the control knob and on-screen menus system, or from the remote control.
4-Alarm Clock Radio
You can set up to four alarms and for each one, configure not only the time of day it sounds, but what day(s) of the week it sounds, and what sound (buzzer, AUX input, or station stream) it plays. The display shows a small analog clock face in the upper right hand corner when one or more alarms are set. The beep style buzzer starts off rather quietly, but gradually increases in volume until you hear it and respond. No startling wake-ups here.
Via the menu, you can set how long you’d like the radio to play the current station / AUX input before silencing. Sleep timer is set in 15 minute increments and can range anywhere from zero time to three hours and fifteen minutes.
Automatic Clock Setting
The built-in clock sets itself to internet time when the radio is plugged in and connected to a network with internet access. Happens in seconds of pressing the power-on button when valid Wi-Fi network login information has been entered previously and the radio is in range of that network.
Adjustable Display Format and Brightness
Display brightness, fonts, and time formats can be adjusted via the extensive Settings menu.
Stations Play Without Logging Into Portal Site
By working the jogging control, previous, next, and play buttons, you can move around the internet station and podcast lists from the radio itself. You don’t need a computer to enjoy the bulk of the radio’s functionality. But you do need a web browser to set up the radio prior to first play.
Many Audio Stream Formats Supported
You can play MP3, WAV, WMA, and AAC formatted audio streams. However, we haven’t been able to find any AAC+ streams that this receiver plays.
Cool to Lukewarm Operation
Only the area close to the knob on the front of the case becomes lukewarm. The rest of the unit stays cool. It remains cool to the touch even after hours of music listening. No doubt a testament to the high efficiency circuitry inside.
Plays Live365, Pandora, and Aupeo Content
Requires respective accounts on these services prior to playing.
Multiple Radios can Share Same Station Playlists
All WFR-20s linked to the same Reciva account receive the same favorites, podcasts, and playlists from the portal. You may also create separate Reciva accounts for each WFR-20 you own. This allows your husband or children to configure their radio according to their own tastes.
Though this radio has been on the market since 2008, Sangean still lists it on their available Internet radios web site. And while the WFR-20 is missing some key features of today’s Internet Radios, it sounds wonderful, is highly reliable, and will likely be supported for years to come by the Reciva portal. It’s fast becoming a classic Internet radio.
New copies of the WFR-20 sell for around $230 on amazon.com, and this player is widely available around the Internet.
Disadvantages, Cons, Problems, Limitations
Remote Control Easily Lost
The included remote is so thin that it often slips between couch cushions. So, you lose track of it easily. This remote has no find-remote feature.
No Stream Preset Buttons
Unlike an antique car radio, the WFR-20 has no station select push buttons. Instead, to play your favorites, you must be able to see the radio’s LCD screen. From there, choose each station from the scrolling three-line menu. This is a rather small window into the huge world of internet stations.
No iPod Docking
We find no place on this music system to plug in, control, or charge your iPod devices. No iPod docking or lightning connector. However, you can play the iPod through the auxiliary input port. This requires a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male stereo patch cord.
No AAC+ Stream Support
This radio does not currently play AAC+ (Advanced Audio Coding Plus) audio streams. Unfortunate since a growing number of the popular Internet radio stations encode with this low-bandwidth yet high-fidelity codec. However, this music system does play earlier versions of AAC streams. Thus, you can still enjoy among the best-sounding streams available today.
No AM / FM Radio
The WFR-20 does not include a built in AM / FM radio. It just plays internet streams. It also streams audio files from network enabled storage devices on your local network. Furthermore, it can act as an integrated amplifier for AUX audio sources via the AUX input on the back.
You cannot pair your Bluetooth speakers with the WFR-20. However, the radio does have an AUX out jack. This way, you can plug a cable between the radio and Bluetooth speakers that have an AUX input. So in this wired way, you can play the radio through a so-equipped BT speaker.
Entering Characters can Grow Cumbersome
The single-knob saves space on the radio front. Why? Because you need no other controls to access the radio’s every feature. But entering a Wi-Fi network password can take lots of time. Password entry requires turning this knob to find the right letters and numbers in a data entry menu. Then you press it to select each character. And finally, you press it once more to commit the password to memory.
No Recent Firmware Updates
It’s been at least three years since we received any new firmware. So it’s not clear if they’re still developing new functionality for this Wi-Fi radio.
Clock Does Not Sync to Internet Time Until you Turn the WFR-20 On
With the current firmware, just plugging in the radio does not set the clock. The displayed clock time starts off at 1:00 AM. However, the clock sets itself to correct time quickly upon radio activation.
No Dynamic App Support
This radio does NOT run downloadable apps (like those found on smartphones). Such apps are useful as they provide access to even more audio sources besides internet radio stations. Sound effects, and players for many of the major media outlets do not fully play on the WFR 20.
Add AAC+ Stream Support
Many Internet stations have migrated to Advanced Audio Coding stream format. This format has better audio frequency response at lower data rates. Fortunately though, most bigger stations still broadcast in the older format MP3 and first generation AAC. However, as this legacy support fades, this radio will grow less usable over time.
Add Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) Capability
This would reduce the need for manual network password entry. Handy because character entry with the single knob is a pain.
We’re pleased with the huge aural sensations and stereo performance of the Sangean WFR-20 Network Music System. Try listening with your eyes closed. Notice the speakers seem further apart than they actually are. This gives a more immersive listening experience. The instruments and voices seem to come from “phantom” speakers – places where no speakers exist.
We’re happy that Sangean and Reciva have apparently committed to long-term support of the WFR-20. Why? Because this radio sounds so good and seems built so well, that it’d be a shame to give it up. We see many reasons to buy the WFR-20, especially if you can procure it for less than $200. This is often possible on sites like eBay and Amazon. We like the WFR-20 so much that we own two. So overall, we rate it at 94 out of 100.
Firmware Version Tested
The comments in this review apply to the radios running the following firmware units:
- Service Pack: v257-a-865-a-289-a-003
- Serial firmware: 02
- Application: v600-a-311-a-416-003
- Helix: v023
- Kernel: v24090624+01
- Bootloader: v017-c-002
- Changing Wireless Network on the Sangean WFR-20 Wi-Fi Internet Radio
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- Logitech Squeezebox Boom WiFi Internet Radio and Network Music System Review
- Emerson Smart Set Clock Radio CKS1708 Review
- Customer Reviews of the Sangean WFR-20 Internet Radio on Amazon.com
- Reciva Portal Web Site
- Sangean WFR-20 Specs on CNET
- WFR-20 Official Product Page
- Where to buy the Sangean WFR-20 Wi-Fi Internet Radio
- 2019-04-21: Added tags.
- 2019-03-17: Added tags, subheadings, and key phrase targeting.
- 2018-02-24: Updated tags list and title.
- 2017-02-03: Updated tags list.
- 2016-01-16: Added appropriate tags.
- 2015-07-26: Originally published.