If you are a little tired of your local AM and FM radio stations – same old, boring tunes – why not try a phenomenon that has been gradually coming into its own and has now well and truly arrived – internet radio. Unlike conventional radio, internet radio sends its signals through the internet rather than from transmitters that are fixed in one place sending out radio waves. This allows it to be truly global.
With quality second to none, internet radio can hold its own with the best audio around – and sound quality is vitally important for audio. A leading digital radio commentator explains: “Internet radio has the big advantage that the streams can use modern audio codecs.” This is what gives the sound quality an edge over the sound generated by, for example, DAB digital radio, another player on the block, and one being heavily promoted, especially in the United Kingdom, by such big names as the BBC. (In the United States, digital radio is recognized as superior to FM – it cuts out annoying static, and is especially useful in car radios – many listeners are now also tuning in to satellite radio.)
With more than 10,000 stations sending out music, chat and news from all over the world, internet radio gives listeners an enormous choice of listening material, from classical music through reggae to 80s rock and everything between. There is a growing number of web sites providing portals through which you can access the station of your choice. Just one example is shoutcast.com, which gives access to 8000 internet radio stations.
Anyone with a broadband connection can access internet radio via their computer, or buy specially built receivers that look just like radios – well, that’s what they are, after all – at around $ 200. At the Consumer Electronics Show 2009, manufacturing giant Sony announced that by 2011, 90 per cent of all its products would have internet connectivity. If they put Wi-Fi in their audio products, it will cost only a little more to enable those products to receive internet radio. In fact, many mobile phones are already able to receive internet radio through Wi-Fi or 3G – Nokia’s ‘smart phone’ comes with a standard radio application.
Two classy looking internet radios are the Pure Evoke Flow and Roberts Stream 202.
The Evoke Flow, launched late last year, has a smooth glossy black finish and looks not unlike your average small FM radio, but there the similarity ends. Using fingertip search you can find radio stations worldwide by typing in the first three letters of their name, or you can locate any music genre you want. This radio is portable and will also give you traditional FM and DAB radio, and access the music collection you have stored on your computer.
Roberts Stream 202 is a compact model, operated by batteries as well as mains powered, so you can take it anywhere. Information on a small screen in the top of the radio allows you to browse radio stations easily – it offers Wi-Fi and DAB/FM radio as well. You just need a broadband connection and a modem and/or router to get started.
Afghanistan to Zambia – listening to the world.