Internet radio without a PC offers alternative reception

Somedays it seems broadcast radio's options range from bad to worse. But there is hope as thousands of radio stations are available on the internet and accessible via your computer or a special receiver.

Internet radio without a PC offers alternative reception
Somedays it seems broadcast radio's options range from bad to worse. But there is hope as thousands of radio stations are available on the internet and accessible via your computer or a special receiver.

Audio adapters are one way of accessing internet radio. Philips has a Wireless Music Adapter SLA5520 while Pinnacle has a SoundBridge HomeMusic.

These connect to the internet via a WLAN network or a cable. Connections to a sound system are made with a jack plug or a chinch cable. For about 70 euros (95 dollars), they can open your world to the digital ether or play music stored on a computer.

If you are looking for a stand-alone device, adapters with loudspeakers cost around 150 euros. Examples include the Noxon iRadio from Terratec or the Internetradio 1 from TechniSat. Some higher-end media centres or network-ready DVD recorders come with streaming functions for internet radio included.

"The classic connection via computer is still the most popular," says Sven Vaeth, head of the German Internet Radio Association (DIRV) in Stahnsdorf, in the state of Brandenburg. One click on the website of a radio station can send music streaming through a browser or media player. It's usually easy to download missing plug-ins. Even if the music isn't in a standard format, like an MP3, it can usually be played.

"Handling is incredibly important with stand-alone devices," says Vaeth. That's because listeners don't have all the buttons and commands they would have for organizing setting that they would normally have with a computer. That's why adapters are often set up with a browser interface via a network before use.

Computer media players and stand-alone devices usually have pre- configured playlists that can be updated. Vaeth says the lists are good for finding your way around internet radio.

It's hard to estimate how many internet radio stations there are. First there's the problem of defining internet radio. It can mean live broadcasts with or without a moderator, a pre-programmed music stream, a playlist based on personal preferences or even a podcast. Borders between categories are fluid. But that ensures there is something for everyone.

"A lot of projects seek out thematic or musical niches that can't be found in the mainstream," says Vaeth. Americans, Britons and Germans are the most active internet radio enthusiasts.

Statistics from Berlin-based BITKOM, an industry association, show that more and more people are listening to internet radio. While 15.1 million Europeans listened to internet radio in 2005, the number jumped to 20.4 million in 2006. The development is being aided by fast internet connections and affordable flat rates for data.

Being creatures of habit, listeners tend to pick and choose from the broad selection of internet music available. Most only tune in to about a half dozen stations, says Vaeth.

Anyone who doesn't want to go to the trouble of buying an adapter and receiver can turn to their PDA or smartphone, provided they are WLAN compatible. These devices also have built in browsers and media players, plus adapter jacks. That means people can use them as a stationary adapters or portable mini-radios in hotspots.

Shoppers should pay attention when buying an adapter or receiver. It's important that the device can use either the WPA or WPA2 encryption method. Otherwise any wireless network will rely on an unsecured WEP encryption system. Anyone with purchased music on their computer should ensure that copyright laws will not prevent them them from playing their music on other hardware.

A test by the Hanover-based magazine c't found that while all adapter manufacturers claim their devices support Microsoft's DRM copyright protection, only one was actually compatible with DRM 10, the most up-to-date version of the protection.

Testers recommend customers make sure when shopping that devices can be connected to multiple sound systems. It's also worthwhile to check if other connections, like USB, work. It doesn't hurt to pick out systems that are equipped with standard receivers too, advised the magazine.

"Anyone relying entirely on internet radio is a little ahead of their times, since only a few local radio broadcasters are available via internet."

DPA
Last Mod: 19 Ağustos 2007, 11:45
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