By Kevin Byrnes
From time to time, some club members have asked me for advice on how to find and “tune in” to streaming audio or Internet radio stations. To listen to Internet radio stations you need to download and install an audio player (if you don’t have one already or you may need to upgrade your player). Unfortunately, there is no single player that will play all radio station streams due to the many competing technologies available. Most of the music stations linked from the Internet Radio Search site listed below are MP3 streams (which is my personal favorite for reasons to be discussed later). Some player options include:
· Windows Media Player (with its own internal radio network),
· RealOne Player (http://www.realaudio.com)
The other streams are playable through RealOne Player. The link for the free player is near the bottom of the page, you don't need to buy the "Plus" version advertised on their site.
When you install an audio player, the installation program typically asks if you want it to automatically recognize all types of audio file formats. Some careful selections must be set here to “associate” the streaming audio formats you expect to connect to with the audio player you want to automatically open when the audio stream is detected by your computer. You may have to return to the program and “tweak” the preference settings to achieve the automatic playback results you are expecting.
Finding Internet Radio Stations
Once you have a player installed on your computer, you can use any number of Internet Radio Directories to find a station that fits your listening tastes. Remember that there can be vast variations in broadcast quality and continuity of the various stations you tune in. Internet broadcasting is still in it's infancy, and there's still a lot of bugs to work out. But don’t despair….there's an internet radio station you'll want to listen to out there! For those just wanting to listen to beach music from Myrtle Beach, for a limited time you can tune in to 94.9 The Surf for free at http://www.949thesurf.com/listenlive.html/ . However, for those wanting greater variety in their listening selections, some Internet station directory options include:
· http://www.warpradio.com/adv.asp (includes 94.9 The Surf)
· http://www.internetradiosearch.com (links to streaming mp3 stations)
· http://www.winamp.com (links to streaming mp3 stations)
The WinAmp program site also has a directory of Internet radio stations compatible with the WinAmp player at: http://www.winamp.com. Scroll down to the WinAmp Radio Directory and select from the music themes (e.g. Oldies, Blues, Jazz, etc.).
You also need to be aware of the bandwidth and hardware needed on your end of the broadcast; if you are on a 56K dial-up modem line, it's not going to be as good as if you have DSL or cable. If you want to test using a broadcast that you know is of good quality, a good test site (in terms of quality, continuity, and content-wise) right now is Radio Paradise (http://www.radioparadise.com). Try their broadcast and see what happens--if it comes in fine, then you know you don't have any problems on your end.
Other options for Internet radio broadcasts include the options provided by the major Internet browser services (e.g. Netscape, MSN, AT&T). Each of these have a limited free and broader, subscription-supported list of “stations.” See the links below for specifics:
One of the newest trends in Internet radio are “private” broadcasts by individuals using peer-to-peer broadcast software. A couple of “directories” of such “networks” are:
For the adventurous Internet radio listener, there are a number of ways to “capture” or record the audio stream, in much the same way my brother and I recorded live radio broadcasts on my father’s reel-to-reel tape recorder as kids. Of course, the tools have changed quite a bit over the last 40 years!
Earlier, I recommended using the WinAmp (version 2.91) audio player program. The reason for this is that WinAmp has a very large user base of computer hobbyists that have contributed free “plug-in” programs to expand the capabilities of this free program. In this instance, the key “plug-in” is a program called Streamripper for WinAmp that allows you to record the streaming mp3 file played by an Internet radio station and capture not only the sound file, but the artist’s name and the song title as well. The quality of these recordings is highly dependent on several factors, including:
· the reliability of the Internet connection of both the broadcaster and the “listener”,
· the sound quality of the transmission (i.e. mono or stereo & the sample rate of the audio file),
· the “capacity” of the listening computer to process the continuous audio stream and save the file.
For the radio listener wanting to schedule the recording of an Internet radio broadcast, a new class of software is entering the marketplace, borrowing from the example set by the VCRs and TIVO digital video recorders used for recording television broadcasts. One example of this software is “Replay Radio 3.0”, found on the Internet (where else?) at http://www.replay-radio.com/?src=LookSmart.
Another more generic recording option is to capture the sound wave as it passes through the listening computer’s sound card. Literally dozens of programs are available (many as freeware or shareware) to accomplish this. Many of these options can be found cataloged at: http://www.mp3machine.com/win/RECORDING/. My personal favorite recording utility is a $7.00 program called “RIP Vinyl” which allows the user to record and automatically convert the sound wave to a smaller mp3 file. After recording a series of tracks, the user opens the folder where the “captured” files are stored and edits the uniquely numbered track titles to add artist and song names (if known). When converting your own LP or tape collection to digital format, these artist names and song titles are readily available. Identifying tracks recorded off the Internet can be more challenging!
Buying Downloaded Music
The initial commercial success of Apple’s music download site (for Apple computers only) to support the popular I-Pod portable mp3 music player has rejuvenated the recording industry’s hope that “music pirates” can be converted to music customers again by providing convenient and affordable alternatives to purchasing the conventional music CD which has been experiencing declining sales over the last few years with the growing popularity of music sharing on the Internet. For a review of some of the leading options, go to:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,1189569,00.asp. While Apple Computers has announced that some time this fall they will offer PC users a compatible interface to the popular Apple music site, other options for purchasing digital music by the track or the whole CD exist, including: