Editors' note: Portions of this evaluation have been taken from our review of the Livio Radio Bluetooth Internet Radio Car Kit, which features identical hardware, but a different bundled smartphone app.
The Grooveshark Bluetooth Car Kit by Livio primarily acts as a bridge between your media player or smartphone and your car's stereo. After the unit is connected to your vehicle's 12-volt power, it can receive audio via Bluetooth A2DP streaming or its analog input and then output that audio through your car's speakers via its internal FM transmitter or analog audio output. However, the Grooveshark Kit also has a variety of functions and custom controls that enable it to take control of the Grooveshark app with which it shares a name on a paired smartphone. Three months of the Grooveshark Anywhere service is included with the purchase. The Grooveshark Kit can also take control of the Livio Car Internet Radio application. Roll in hands-free calling functionality and the Kit is looking like a full-featured little device.
The Kit is packaged in two parts. The first is a flexible gooseneck that terminates on one end in a 12-volt power adapter with a toggling power button and at the other end in a locking connector that snaps into the back of the second part of the Kit, the transmitter. The transmitter itself has about the same footprint as a business card and is what the user primarily interacts with.
The left third of the unit's face is home to a control knob surrounded by a bank of universal buttons for controlling the AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile) functions of Play, Pause, and Stop. Pressing the control knob like a button toggles between volume mode, in which you can adjust the unit's audio output volume, and tuning mode, in which you can manually tune to an FM frequency for it to broadcast on. Pressing and holding the control knob for 3 seconds triggers an autoscan that automatically finds and tunes to an empty FM frequency. To the right is a three-digit LCD that is surrounded by a second bank of buttons for skipping forward and back and answering and ending calls, plus four buttons unique to the Grooveshark app for Radio, Favorite, Shuffle, and Add to Catalog. We'll discuss those functions shortly.
The edges of the Grooveshark Kit haven't been neglected, as one edge is home to a full-size 5-volt, 1-amp USB port for charging your connected device while on the other you'll find a pair of 3.5mm analog connections, one for input and one for output.
Grooveshark app for Android
Grooveshark is an Internet music-streaming service and the Grooveshark app for Android is its gateway into your phone. You won't find the Grooveshark app in the Google Play Store for some reason, so you'll want to download it from Grooveshark's mobile site. Once it's downloaded, you can use the app to search for music to stream, build automatically generating Pandora-esque radio stations on the fly, and manually build playlists. The app will monitor your Bluetooth connection for a connected Grooveshark Kit and respond to its commands.
The Play, Pause, Stop, Skip, and Shuffle buttons behave about like you'd expect them to -- for the most part these are standard AVRCP controls. However, the proprietary Grooveshark buttons are interesting. Tapping the plus-shaped Add button saves the currently playing song to your catalog of songs for easy retrieval. Tapping the Add button for a song that's already in the catalog will remove it. Similarly, the heart-shaped Favorite button saves the currently playing song to your list of favorite songs or removes the song from your favorites if it's already present. If you designate a song as a favorite, it is automatically added to the catalog as well. The Radio button starts and stops playback of a user-preset Internet radio stations. These stations are genre-specific with categories including '80s, Bluegrass, Dubstep, Jazz, Metal, Oldies, and Reggae. Users can also create their own custom stations by seeding an song title or artist's name (for example, Talib Kweli Radio) which can then be set as the default for the Radio button.
The core desktop Grooveshark experience is free, but to get the mobile-streaming feature that is required for the app to work, you'll need to step up to the paid Grooveshark Anywhere level of service. The Kit ships with a code for three months of free access to the service, but after that you'll have to sign up for a $9-per-month or $90-per-year subscription to keep listening on the go.