Owners of Como Audio Table Radios Could Be In for a Rude Awakening

In case you haven’t heard, Como Audio, the company that made a name for itself building high-quality table radios incorporating traditional FM radio and internet radio, closed its doors earlier this year. The company faltered when, amid the worldwide supply-chain shortage, chipmakers stopped producing chipsets needed to manufacture its radios.

“We estimated it would take at least two years to be back in production with a product that may not be as good as the one we were making before. It was too much,” explained Tom DeVesto, the longtime audio-industry entrepreneur who launched Como Audio in 2016 after co-founding two other successful audio brands with hi-fi pioneer/legend Henry Kloss: Tivoli Audio (2000) and Cambridge SoundWorks (1988). (Kloss is best known for co-founding Acoustic Research in 1954 with Edgar Villchur and for launching Advent speakers in 1967 — both iconic brands in the annals of home audio.)

I learned of the news through an email newsletter I received in November from former general manager and vice president of product development for Como Audio, Peter Skiera, who runs a website called Recommended Stations with the tagline “Stop Searching. Start Listening.” The purpose of the message was to warn owners of Como Audio radios — including the popular Solo and Duetto models — that the My Favorites and My Added Stations internet-radio features available through the Como Control App would disappear early next year if action was not taken.

I’m a big fan of the brand and its radios, which I have recommended many times over the years, so I reached out to DeVesto to learn more. He confirmed the demise of Como Audio (as noted in his comments above) and explained that the loss of internet-radio functionality through the app was the result of a decision made by Frontier Silicon, the company behind the internet radio portal used in Como Audio radios. He was quick to point out that the six station presets found on Como radios would remain functional but that “other stations will have to be individually searched for and played.”

Because Skiera has closely followed these developments, DeVesto said his former VP could best explain the situation, so I asked Skiera to provide an overview of the changes that are coming and what Como Audio owners need to do to preserve the utility of their radios.

In the email exchange below, Skiera provides a detailed explanation of what’s going on and an overview of the services he provides.

Sound & Vision: Can you provide an overview of the changes owners of Como Audio radios are in for and explain why things are changing?
Skiera: Frontier has stated they are no longer willing to cover the costs of maintaining and updating their web-based Nuvola Smart Radio Internet station portal, which has been free since its inception (which I believe was more than 10 years ago). In addition to the portal, My Favorites and My Added stations are also affected. Users will have to pay Frontier 4.99 Euro per year (currently about $5.41 USD) to be able to continue to use the portal and those features. A subscription is valid for up to 10 devices per user.

The new fee-based portal is scheduled to launch March 1st of 2024. Users who don't pay the fee will be unable to access the portal, and Frontier will disable My Favorites and My Added Stations from their radios as of March 1st. It’s important to note that the new portal is contingent upon the level of interest by users. If Frontier determines the level of subscribers isn't enough to cover the costs, they will unilaterally shut down the portal and remove those two features for all users, presumably in whichever region(s) that don't have enough subscribers (U.S.A., U.K., E.U., etc.). None of this has anything to do with Como Audio. To be perfectly clear, this change applies to all brands/models using the applicable Frontier Wi-Fi modules that support these features, which literally amounts to millions of devices around the world, not just Como Audio models. I also want to make clear that I am not a representative nor an employee of Frontier.

S&V: What can owners of Como Audio radios do to preserve the utility of internet-radio functionality so they can continue to enjoy their radios as they have done since purchase?
Skiera: Users will still be able to tune Internet radio stations from their radios (which draw from the station directory of 70,000+ free stations) and use their presets as normal, regardless of whether they pay the new fee or not. Again, this change only impacts use of the web-based Internet radio portal, My Favorites, and My Added Stations and doesn't alter the user's ability to tune stations on their radio or use the presets. If a user doesn't use the My Favorites or My Added Stations features then they'll likely notice no change.

My Favorites allows a virtually unlimited number of Internet stations to be stored in one's radio beyond the set number of presets, while My Added Stations allows a user to access an Internet station's custom streaming URL on their radio, which they manually added via the portal. The portal itself, via a computer, allows for searching and playing stations and podcasts, removing any stored Favorites, organizing Favorites into custom folders, adding custom station streams that aren't in the station directory, and contacting the station aggregator directly with questions/issues.

Users can sign up with Frontier for the new portal and to preserve the other features by using this link. Frontier will contact them several weeks prior to the launch of the new portal to request payment of the fee, assuming the company decides the new service will proceed. Como Audio models impacted include Solo, Duetto, Amico, and Musica, both U.S. and E.U. ("Global") versions.”

S&V Talk about the services you are offering to owners of Como Audio radios and what they entail.
Skiera: My Patreon campaign has two levels. The basic level costs just $1 per month and entitles the member to my monthly Recommended Station, a standout station hand-picked from tens of thousands of Internet radios stations, as well as my monthly Hitchhiker Station, an oddball station you never knew existed. Manually searching through 70,000+ stations can be daunting. My recommendations reveal entertaining and interesting stations most users would not otherwise have discovered on their own. These are in-depth articles often including interviews with someone involved with programming the station.

I fancy myself as the Roger Ebert of Internet radio. This month's Recommended Station plays classical music from way, way back. Moreover, members will have exclusive access to articles that are extensions of articles on my website, RecommendedStations.com. For example, a Q&A with songwriter Jerry Buckner that is not on my website is currently on Patreon. There are other posts on Patreon not found on my website such as excellent holiday radio stations.

The next tier is designed specifically for Como Audio customers anywhere in the world and costs $3 per month. There are currently over 300 members. In addition to the above benefits, Elite supporters also enjoy unlimited personal tech support, regardless of how many music systems they own. What's more, Elite members gain access to important Como Audio news like the Frontier portal change, the status of the Como Control apps, etc. I also post monthly Como Audio Tips for Elite supporters to explain features they may not be aware of or may not understand how to use, such as advice about how to use Bluetooth headphones or speakers with their music system and how to make the clock read-out appear larger. December's Tip is how to improve FM reception. My service is the only resource for one-on-one tech support and to keep abreast of all things Como Audio since the company closed in March of this year.

As the former general manager and VP of product development since the company began in February 2016, I'm uniquely positioned to offer this service. During my six-plus years with Como Audio, I managed every one of our products from whiteboard concept through post production, participated in listening tests to help voice the models, coordinated certifications, directly assisted customers, wrote all of the user manuals and all of the quality control documents for our contract manufacturers, issued Engineering Change Orders (ECOs), authored all of the articles for Como Audio's blog, recorded "how-to" videos, assisted with repairs, ordered parts, educated all of our distributors on our models and features, trained our staff on our products, and much more.

There is currently a free trial and members can quit at any time. Visit Patreon campaign for more information.

Billy's picture

The golden days of the internet are long over. The money men have taken over, as usual, and spoiled it. There can really be little cost for something like this, just a cash grab.