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ATPM 11.02
February 2005


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Review: radioSHARK

by Chris Lawson,


Developer: Griffin Technology

Price: $70

Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2.8, USB port

Recommended: G4

Trial: None

I’m a sucker for good industrial design, and Griffin’s products are typically top-notch in this area. The radioSHARK, a USB-powered AM/FM radio tuner with time-shifting and scheduled recording capabilities, is no exception. This shark fin-shaped slab of glossy white plastic looks great with its blue LED-illuminated “airwave” motif and polished chrome base.


Unfortunately, function follows form here. It isn’t that the device’s appearance particularly impedes its function. Nor did Griffin “pull an Apple” and build a radio-reception device with the antenna inside a metal shell (TiBook, anyone?). Rather, the radioSHARK’s reception simply doesn’t stack up, for whatever reason, even with the USB extension cable-cum-antenna in place. I know it might be anathema to the designers, but adding a telescoping FM antenna like that found on most boom boxes would be a welcome improvement.

AM reception, unfortunately, is even worse. My house is less than five miles line-of-sight from the transmitter of a major AM station, and the radioSHARK barely picks it up. Every other radio in the house picks it up with no static at all. This makes the device essentially useless for AM radio.

There is a combination antenna/headphone jack just above the USB cable on the back of the device. Strangely, the manual bears no mention of this whatsoever, though it is now mentioned on the radioSHARK support page. Plugging a pair of headphones into this jack, as Griffin suggests, does indeed improve FM reception, but does nothing for AM. Memo to Griffin: re-work the AM antenna design entirely, and include an external FM antenna with the device. I’ve had Walkmans that got better reception without any antenna at all.

Its software, like its radio reception, leaves something to be desired. Griffin’s interpretation of the Mac OS X brushed-metal look—perhaps they’re trying for the high-end audio gear appearance?—is reminiscent of an ugly WinAMP skin from the late 1990s. The window widgets and buttons are non-standard and visually jarring, and the Presets and Preferences windows are standard Mac OS X brushed metal, making the aesthetic deficiencies of the main window even more glaringly obvious.

The interface itself is simple enough, but there are some puzzling omissions. There’s no capability to skip to the previous preset (you can skip forward through the preset list using the tab key), nor is there any way to jump immediately to a given preset, as there is on most digitally tuned radios. A means of manual frequency entry (perhaps a “Go To Station” menu item) would also be welcome, as would a “New Preset” shortcut. There is no integrated Help, though a brief printed manual is included in the box and duplicated in PDF form on the software CD.

To be fair, this version of the software (1.0.3) is a drastic improvement over the original; be sure to run Check for Update in the application menu to get the latest version, if you haven’t already. One eminently useful feature added by the newer software releases is LED control; you can now choose to leave the radioSHARK in “night-light” mode, where it will light up a bedroom quite nicely, or you can turn the internal LED off so that you can actually sleep.

The software works fairly well aside from the aforementioned quibbles. The time-shifting features are invaluable, and after one afternoon, I was already addicted. Like TiVo, the radioSHARK will change the way you listen to radio. Scheduled recording is also a great feature, and works wonderfully as long as your computer is already on and awake. The software cannot boot your computer for you, nor can it wake the machine from sleep. People who are in the habit of putting the computer to sleep when they’re away will need to break this habit if they want to record anything while they’re away.

You can choose to record—either on impulse or scheduled ahead of time—in AIFF or AAC format, and if you select AAC, you can choose bitrate and quality. Time-shifting eats about 10 MB of disk space for each minute in the time-shift buffer, while AAC recording consumes about one-tenth of that (about 1 MB/minute). A quick time-shifting tip: if you want to dump the time-shifting buffer, just turn it off (Command-T) and immediately turn it back on. Hopefully a “dump buffer” option will be forthcoming in a later software release.

Unlike TiVo, the radioSHARK software lacks a “recommended viewing” feature, nor can it display (or even get) a station’s programming schedule. This is due in large part to the lack of a centralized repository of programming information, an invaluable resource that radioSHARK’s television-based counterparts such as EyeTV have available to them. (A subscription-based service called RadioTime supports the radioSHARK, but was not tested for this review.) The radioSHARK also lacks the ability to record one program while listening to another; it can only record the active station.

I would be more willing to forgive some of the shortcomings of the software if I didn’t wonder this: why spend so much time creating—and then implementing!—custom window themes when they end up being nothing more than an ugly knockoff of brushed metal? That time could have been spent making the software much more capable, and, as a nice side benefit, it would have been far more attractive and conformant to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.

The bottom line, though, is this: the radioSHARK is a really useful product despite its problems. If Griffin heeds critics’ suggestions and makes some thoughtful changes to the software and hardware, this is going to be killer. If they don’t, it will forever remain a quirky niche product, and one of the greater “might-have-beens” of the Mac hardware market.

Reader Comments (28)

Chris Lawson (ATPM Staff) · April 15, 2005 - 22:21 EST #1
Reason #592 that the software for this device is useless:
Daylight Savings Time.

I just realised that the scheduled recordings have all been starting and finishing an hour later than they should have been. The schedule seems to have jumped an hour ahead of the computer's clock in the changeover to DST.

RadioSHARK users beware!

Al Boyd · July 10, 2005 - 10:09 EST #2
Appreciate your review very much. Sounds like the iDea is a lot better than the iTem.
I wonder if a Vertical Dipole antenna could be wired to a plug to set up in that headphone socket you mentioned.
A wire from the common earth of the plug could drop to the floor (and even better to an ground stake or metal rain pipe) and a wire to the centre pin of the plug could be taken upwards (to a curtain rail or further?); the longer the better for AM radio.
Does putting a plug into that socket effect output to the 'puter?
If someone has a R-Shark and tries this, I'll keep an eye out for their response.
Al Boyd.
Jim Johnson · July 21, 2005 - 16:49 EST #3
RadioShark has been a disappointment because the reception of local FM stations are so poor they are useless for recording. Every radio, no matter how cheap, in this house can pick up the stations well even my grandaughter's $5 Barbee radio.

I returned it to Griffin with hopes that I could get a better radio. Received it today. Same old problem.
Al Boyd · July 25, 2005 - 22:14 EST #4
G'day again,
I e-mailed the techs at Griffin and here's their reply:-
The Radio Shark should pick up most large stations in the area. In cases where stations are faint please follow these simple steps to increase reception.

1. Use the extension cable provided. It's important to move the Radio Shark out of any interference that may be caused by computer monitors.
2. Put the Radio Shark on a shelf. Having the Radio Shark's antenna higher will increase the reception range.


Jay - Griffin Tech Support
Al Boyd · July 25, 2005 - 22:23 EST #5
And I received this from another division in response to a queery as to whether the headphone socket could be used for an antenna also:-

We are continually looking into ways to improve our products. We hope to add this functionality in later editions of the RS.

Griffin Technology
Technical Support
Kyle Jones · October 30, 2005 - 23:39 EST #6
Daylight Savings Time bit again. This time (October) all the recording times slid backwards by one hour.

The com.griffintechnology.radiosharkevents.plist file in ~/Library/Preferences contains the event schedule. Look for lines like
<date>2005-11-01T00:00:00Z</date> and roll the time forward or backward an hour as needed. The timezone is Zulu (GMT/UTC) which compicates things slightly. Just remember to make the times an hour later in the fall and an hour earlier in the spring.

Better yet, remember to kill off the server process so that it isn't running when DST starts/ends which should prevent the stupid software from rewriting the events file.
Hans · November 13, 2005 - 19:35 EST #7
The problems I have are as follows:

1.) The software doesn't automatically rename a file if the file being saved is from a repeating scheduled recording. Therefore, "File" will not automatically be renamed "File_1" or something else. It asks you if you want to erase the original in the folder you are saving to. This prevents the next recording from taking place unless you are home to rename the file manually.

2.) When you specify the directory that you want a scheduled recording to go to, and you use "Browse", after you specify the folder you want to save to, the directory is still just listed in Radio Shark software as "Browse" rather than listing the actual directory you have specified.

These are MAJOR drawbacks in the hands-off organizing of files.

Also, the AM reception is HORRIBLE, no matter what you do with an antenna. This is unavoidable. AM recording is rendered useless.
DBB · November 13, 2005 - 22:50 EST #8
Hi All,

My radio room here is all about RF reception, and I have tried to find a way to induce my inverted "L" antenna (nearly perfect for AM reception) into the Shark (so far, only using non-contact connection ideas).

I have tried some loops, running some wires around other wires, etc. etc., using casual interface ideas. Of course, I could have hard-wired my antenna into the RadioShark, but this thread is about "how do I make my RadioShark work on AM with a long wire?"

For example, Griffin could have said "connect your AM antenna >.< here"

Good product, needs some tweaking.

JimG · December 3, 2005 - 14:01 EST #9
Review of RadioShark for Mac Rev2.0 Software Upgrade

I just upgraded to the new rev 2.0 software, and boy am I mad!

First, it wiped out ALL of my saved settings for repeated recordings! I had thought that the upgrade would simply read in my old settings, but no - they are completely gone. This is an unbelievably poor practice. I was going to say "choice", but it seems like the programmers simply did not even consider the possibility that someone might want to re-use the settings that they spent so much time getting right. There was no "do you want to wipe out your old settings" dialog box, for instance.

Second, the new interface for adding settngs is even worse than that in 1.0.5. The programmers chose to change the selected item when you hit enter, for instance. They need to spend some time reading "Tog on Interface" to understand some basics of how not to anger users.

Third, in 1.0.5, you used to be able to tell it to save to an iTunes folder. Inexplicably, this feature (which worked pretty well), has simply gone away!

Fourth, it used to be that you could tell it to record even when the app was not open. This was very nice for when you heard part of something on the radio (say on NPR), and want to listen to the whole thing; when you got home, you just fired up radioshark and when back to the time-shifted program. This feature is alos, inexplicably, gone.

Fifth, the new equilization window has to be one of the least intuitive human interfaces I have ever used. Nothing works like you would think.

Oh, and the new interface is ugly, and less intuitive. It is a COMPLETE change from the 1.0.* interface, which was at least tolerable, and very Mac-like. Where do they get these programmers/designers?

I will be removing this awful awful update and going back to the rev 1.0,5 software that I originally had. The only problem I had with that was that it botched the daylight savings time change.

This is awful, awful software, and I am truly shocked by the incompetence that it appears to demonstrate. This product has potential to be great, but they need to FIRE THE PROGRAMMERS (or at least those who spec the features and do the Quality Assurance).

This upgrade could kill this product. It is that bad!

Kevin Mellon · December 7, 2005 - 18:37 EST #10
Overall I like hte product, but I also have a DVR on my media computer. whenever the radio shark is plugged in and running, I cannot record TV.. Well, I can record TV, but the Audio is taken from the shark. So I get Football video, but Sports Talk radio audio.. BUmmer.. I want to find a work around, right now I am unplugging the radioshark and shutting down the background app when not in use. Needless to say, I can only set the time for either the RS or the DVR, which defeats the purpose of both.

Anyone else have similar issues?
Bryan · December 25, 2005 - 09:05 EST #11
Terrible product. Just got it (bought myself a little Christmas gift), and I'll be taking it back. Can't receive most FM stations, and there is absolutely no AM reception. And I live in LA, where every station is powerful enough to warm up a TV dinner. Also, on the stations that I can receive, all of them are in mono. No stereo FM. Junk product. Do not buy.
Erik Mueller-Harder · January 5, 2006 - 17:25 EST #12
This product is a wonderful idea that was terribly, terribly executed. I had such high hopes....


No matter where the radioSHARK is positioned, it picks up lots of local RF interference. As others have stated, every radio, walkman, and tuner in our house gets better reception.

We're serious FM listeners. Connecting our roof-top antenna with a cleanly-amplified signal to the headphone/antenna jack does improve the radioSHARK's reception somewhat; however, local RF interference from each Mac that I've tried the radioSHARK with has pretty much obliterated the radio station's signal.

There's no way to control whether a station is received as mono or stereo. The ability to receive a station's signal in mono would result in half-size audio files and a cleaner signal with less multipath interference for weaker stations -- and there's really no advantage to stereo for news or sports broadcasts. But all stations -- even weak fringe stations -- come in as stereo. No mono FM.

Human Interface

Again, as others have stated, the 1.x interface was bad and the 2.x interface is worse. Very unintuitive for this long-time Mac user and audiophile.


I gave up and donated the unit to our school's French Club auction. Though in general I've liked most of Griffin's products, they need to start over again with this one.

An excellent idea. A huge disappointment.
Julian Smith · March 1, 2006 - 23:22 EST #13
I've just upgrade to v. 2 of the RS software and cannot believe how awful it is. Clumsy, unintuitive, and don't get me started on the way it handles stored favorites. As everyone seems to agree, the AM reception is non- existant except for loud and brilliantly clear static. It's hard to believe anyone would regard this as an improvement on previous versions. Great design, hopeless performance.
Kyle Jones · March 1, 2006 - 23:41 EST #14
Thanks for the warnings about the v2 software... I'll just bypass it. The features lost in v2 are quite important to me.

I'm mostly happy with my SHARK even though I've had some problems. The recurring problem is the Daylight Saving Time shift which mess up the recording schedule. I have a script to fix the events file this time if I forget to kill off the radioSHARKserv process this spring. The other problem is that the server will sometimes go insane and corrupt the file it has just recorded. I use bookmarked AAC files so it may be the conversion that's run when the recording end that causes this problem. It's easy to tell when this has happened because the program length is nowhere near a 30 minute boundary. Killing the server and letting it restart fixes this problem.

I sometimes have FM receptions problem but never have been able to pin down why they happen. But almost all the time things are fine.
Charlie Ford · March 18, 2006 - 16:28 EST #15
I too thought that the reception was terrible, as every station I tuned to sounded very static-y.

But it was really distortion in the audio output stage (I had the volume slider at ~85%) (or maybe it was overdriving the input of my wireless headphones).

I found that if I ran the radioSHARK volume slider down to below 60%, voila, most stations sounded clear and clean. I could get all the volume I needed via the OS master volume control and headphone volume control.
Chris Lawson (ATPM Staff) · March 18, 2006 - 18:14 EST #16
I keep the output at about 50% all the time, and I find this makes no difference -- FM reception is weak at best and AM reception is nonexistent.

Al Boyd · March 18, 2006 - 20:27 EST #17
G'day Gang,
Erik, you are a cruel, cruel man.

Now listen folks, please don't do what that sadist Erik did and allow your shark to infest other people's lives with disappointment and misery. Donating it to charity is no good. Giving it to a friend will lose you that friend.

Place the Shark on the roadway in the path of a dump-truck or better yet, a bull dozer or army tank; don't tell them what it is or they will refuse to run over it knowing it will screw their day up. At the very least, if it doesn't destroy the tank track it will hopefully be caught up in it and taken to a gunnery range for the tank and shark to be destroyed [thinks to self: might have to be a nuclear practice range]

If this thing can fend off radio signals so well, I wonder if it would be good for elephant repellent or bullet-proof vests? Have any of you seen any elephants close to your computers? Consider the possibilities: telemarketing, politicians and insurance sales-persons?

Gee, I wish I had bought one now (or been given one by an ex friend)

Nathanael Holt · May 9, 2006 - 16:42 EST #18
I use the Radio Shark as hardware in conjunction with Audio Hijack Pro, which has released software specifically aimed at the Shark. Together they are brilliant - I get slght hiss on the FM station I use most, but you can pass the recorded signal through a whole series of audio effects, so I use a De-ess to take out the hiss. AHP is solid and has heroic support.
Kyle Jones · May 9, 2006 - 19:52 EST #19
I finally had to switch to the v2 software, as the previously intermittent AAC corruption problem became a permanent one when I upgraded Mac OS to 10.4.6. After the move to v2 the SHARK is back to recording programs normally but as reported by someone else the new software does not read the radio schedule of the v1 software so you have to reenter all your events. I fart in the general direction of the lazy gits at Griffin who neither ported over the old events file nor published the format of the new file so *I* could port it. You want to know why frustrated software engineers reverse engineer other people's products? This is why.

That brings me to the second problem with the new software which is the UI for scheduling recordings. The events listing into which you must enter the recording time re-sorts itself by recording time while you are editing events, so after you enter a start time the event might move out from under the cursor leaving you editing some other event! How could anyone think this was a good interface?
Robert Rodriguez · June 7, 2006 - 10:52 EST #20
Just got the Radio Shark and overall I like the product, though the slider tuning is a little clumsy, would like a direct frequency input option. Also would be nice if you could broadcast it on port 1703 without setting up a recording event. I've had some success on AM using a Select-A-Tenna, though I do get a bit of computer noise. For FM though, I can only get strong local stationsad
Andreas Wulf · July 21, 2006 - 14:10 EST #21
I got a radioSHARK today (bought it from an online retailer) and I have to say its TERRIBLE! The software is clumsy and lacks features (v2.0.1). I was expecting it to behave like Elgato's EyeTV software. The hardware is worse, the radioSHARK is mono only! I compared it to my phone's FM receiver and the phone (SE K608i) wins hands down in sound quality, and receives all stations unlike the radioSHARK which only picks up one FM station. The radioSHARK is a total waste of money, I'm hoping I can return it.
James Bond · October 19, 2006 - 15:20 EST #22
It works OK for me, on the Windows side (XP Pro) when you schedule an event for recording, there doesn't seem to be a way to remove that event or even edit it...selecting those buttons does nothing. I have even uninstalled the software and re-installed it (v. 1.052) but it kept the freaking events in tact. How frustrating is that??? Multiple Google searches has not helped me to find an answer...
ATPM Staff · October 19, 2006 - 15:41 EST #23
James - thanks for your comments, but note that this is a Macintosh forum and you're likely to not find an answer here, either, unless it's something that pertains to both platforms.
Kyle Jones · October 19, 2006 - 15:59 EST #24
Tis' the season...

It's getting close to the time when we shift from Savings Time back to Standard time. I wonder will the server software record everything an hour off once again, just like it has every time time has shifted since I bought a SHARK.
Ross O · January 25, 2007 - 23:26 EST #25
After an aborted Xmas purchase of the RadioShark because ClubMac didn't cancel the order when they ran out of stock, I ordered one of the new, black, sleek Sharks and have installed it and have been listening to my favorite station (KNRK). The antenna/headphone jack seems as simple as I expected. It has a little loop at the end that I'm sure would make it easier to pin to the wall , but we'll see. right now it just limply hangs behind the rest of my entertainment center.

I realize that some people have a huge problem with the interface, but really it's not that bad. But not having dealt with 1.0, perhaps that's the difference.

It's not the best UI, in fact I wish it would just fall straight in line with iTunes. (Not because iTunes is the hight of UI design, but because it's the most familiar music player for anyone who likes to listen to MP3s.)

It will be interesting to see how it deals with the DST issue, that does seem like a no-brainer bug that should have been fixed.

(Seven Nation Army on KRNK - Go Timbers!)

I really wish I could set up the RadioShark to be a stream that iTunes could pick up. Anyone have any ideas about how to do that? It would mostly bypass the RS software during live brooadcasts, only leaving out the ability to rewind.

Has anyone used their RS to try and win radio station contests? If there are somewhat predictable times for 'winner announcements' or 'secret word' broadcasts, then the Shark could be a big boon.

I do hope that suport for RDS might come along at some point, which would enable a huge number of really cool applications.

Anyway, as of day 1, I'm quite happy with the purchase (even in spite of the horrible plastic blister packaging), and look forward to many hours of listening.

(Depeche Mode - I Feel You on KNRK now.)
James Bond #2 · January 26, 2007 - 09:56 EST #26
OK, well I realized my mistake with editing event schedules. So that is fixed. It wasn't a very intuitive solution. So I have been using it for about 7 months now. It's pretty nice. Fortunately there is only 2 shows I like to record on one AM station. That's the only station I can pick I am very, very lucky in that regard. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else because of the poor reception. That's its only flaw as far as I'm concerned (granted that is a HUGE flaw!). Otherwise, it's pretty sweet. Give me a unit that picks up most local stations and I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
louis · June 6, 2007 - 09:11 EST #27
I was seeing horribly distorted sound quality from my RS until I deactivated the equalizer (which wasn't set much different than the standard profile). Maybe it's a bug.

I hope this helps others with similar issues.

Davi · June 23, 2007 - 10:34 EST #28
RadioSHark should be bundled with Audio Hijack Pro. Use that software instead!
It works really well together and has for two years. I'm still looking for a better attenna.

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