The story opens with the description of the perfectly average middle class life of Jim and Irene Westcott. Jim and Irene have been happily married for nine years and are parents to two young children. They live in an apartment building at Sutton place, and are lovers of classical music, often attending concerts and more importantly, listening to the radio.
One day, their old radio stops working and Jim promises to buy a new one. The next day the new radio arrives. Irene, very proud of the decor of her living room, is displeased with the appearance of the new 'large gumwood cabinet' that does not seem to fit in anywhere. What is more it has many dials and it lights up when it is plugged in. Nevertheless, she finds a place for it and starts listening.
The appearance of the new radio turns out not to be the only annoyance. As Irene sits down to listen to a concert one night, she notices that there are various sounds interfering with the music. She attempts to fix the problem by manipulating the dials but instead of improving the sound of music, Irene finds herself listening to conversations going on in her neighbors' apartments.
At first Irene is horrified because she thinks that her neighbors can hear her too, so she asks Jim for the radio to be either taken away or fixed. However, she soon becomes intrigued and finds herself invading the privacy of her neighbors more and more often. Her husband Jim notices this, and it bothers him how Irene's manners have changed as a result of it.
Eventually Irene grows depressed from all the terrible stuff going on at her neighbors' apartments. What is more, she starts comparing her domestic life to those of her neighbors, which consequently brings in doubts about her relationship with Jim. Eventually, Jim orders the radio to be repaired. The repair is successful, but it costs much more than Jim thought it would. As a result, he gets into a fight with Irene, as he bought the radio to bring her pleasure, but it instead it became the source of their marital discontent.