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Tech Rap: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet Radio Highway

Posted on November 08 2018


By Peter Skiera

 

This month marks 24 years since the first major concert (The Rolling Stones) was broadcast over the Internet and the first U.S. commercial radio station (WXYC) began officially broadcasting full time on the Internet. Today there are tens of thousands of radio stations throughout the world broadcasting on the Internet, many without commercials, for free. Who doesn’t like free? Through Internet radio you can tune in and listen to many of them, with much clearer sound than shortwave radio and without having to constantly adjust an antenna. In this month’s Tech Rap, I’ll explore Como Audio’s Internet radio tuner, perhaps the most popular feature of all the sources our models offer.

 

Now Serving…
Before we explore the methods available to search for stations, let’s briefly review how the stations are served up. Station aggregators organize and maintain tens of thousands of Internet radio station streams. There are many aggregators, but the top three used by the majority of Internet radio manufacturers are Reciva (based in the UK), TuneIn, and vTuner. In the case of Como Audio, our models use the latter, as we also did for many years at our previous company. vTuner, originally based in NY, has been in business for over twenty years, and longevity is very important in this business. Besides Como Audio, they’ve also partnered with brands like Pioneer, Onkyo, Teac, and Philips. Frankly, vTuner doesn’t have as many stations in their data base as TuneIn, but there’s a good reason for that: vTuner will not include stations in their data base that have a history of reliability problems, broadcast sporadically, or have other issues. Quality takes priority over quantity. However, stations can sometimes be overlooked. Should you be unable to find a particular station you want to listen to, further down I describe how to get a station added as well as how to report a problem with a station.

 

The Art Of The Search
Now that you know a bit more about the delivery of Internet stations, it’s time to examine the   three primary ways to search for stations on your Como Audio system. These options are found in the “Stations” menu. To get there in Internet radio mode, press and hold the remote’s round Play/Pause key, select “Station list,” then select “Stations,” From there you can search by “Genre,” “Location,” or by keying in a specific station’s name or call letters under “Station search.”


Select "Station list" in the menu in Internet radio mode, followed by "Stations."

 

What’s Your Genre?
"Genre" is the best way to search if you want to hear a particular type of music, and you’ll see this category after you select “Stations” as described above. Once selected, you’ll be presented with a list of more than 50 different formats. Perhaps you’re in the mood for Jazz, Celtic, or Reggae. You’ll also find non-music categories such as “Radio Drama” (Old Time Radio), “News/Talk,” “College”, and “Comedy.” Scroll through the list using the remote’s up and down arrow keys and press the Play/Pause key to select a genre. You’ll then need to select a country to further refine your search or select “All stations” to see the list of every station in the database that falls under that genre, regardless of location. In addition to the remote control you can also use the front panel’s center “Menu” knob to navigate and select, or use the free Como Control app. If you find a station you think you’ll listen to often, save it to a preset by pressing and holding one of the front-panel preset buttons while tuned to that station. After it's saved, just briefly press that preset button anytime you want to hear that station again regardless of what source you are listening to, even if your Como Audio model is in standby mode. We also have a “How To” video on our website under “Support” demonstrating how to use Internet radio.


The “Genre” search option lists many different music and talk formats to choose from.

 

Everywhere You Want To Be
Searching by a particular country is another method to find stations. Select the “Location” option in the “Stations” menu under “Station list” in Internet radio mode. Next, you’ll need to select a continent/region, followed by a country. There you’ll find countries as diverse as Iran, Papua New Guinea, and Zimbabwe. Use the remote’s up and down arrow keys to scroll through the list and select the country of your choice using the remote’s Play/Pause key. At that point you will be presented with a list of Internet radio stations available for that country. There is also an “Internet only” category for stations broadcasting exclusively on the Internet.


“Location” provides a list of continents/regions.

 

Search Me
If you know the name or call letters of a station you wish to listen to, select the third search option “Search stations,” also found in the “Stations” menu under “Station list” in Internet radio mode. When selected you will be directed to a word entry screen. Use the remote’s navigation keys (up, down, left, and right arrows) and Play/Pause key to enter the station’s name. If you make a mistake when entering the name, navigate (using the remote’s arrow keys) over to the three boxes on the right side and select the top Backspace (“BKSP”) box. Otherwise, select “OK” when you’re done. If the station name is located in the database it will be shown. Sometimes numerous stations with similar names will be shown. You can also use the “Search stations” method as a shortcut to look for a key word in a station’s name such as “Sinatra,” “Beatles,” or “NPR.” The results won’t be as complete as the other search options because not all stations include their format in their station’s name.


The entry screen to search by a specific station by name/call letters.

 

Keep Searching
There are a couple of other options to discover stations that deserve a mention. “Local Stations” found under “Station list” will automatically list stations found only within your area based on your Como Audio model’s IP (Internet Protocol) address. “HDi” (found only on North American models) also under “Station list” will show all HD Radio stations in the database, as some HD Radio stations also broadcast over the Internet. “Popular stations” lists the stations people are listening to most, and “New stations” list stations that have been recently added to the data base. For listeners residing in countries outside the USA that use DAB/DAB+, some DAB/DAB+ stations also  broadcast over the Internet.


“HDi”: HD Radio on the Internet (USA only)

 

If you’re an information junkie like I am, while you’re listening to an Internet station, press the “i” (information) key on the remote control. With each press you’ll see different information depending on what meta data the station provides. This can include the name of the song and/or artist, a description of the station, the genre, the station’s signal reliability, the bit and sampling rate, and the audio codec (i.e. AAC, MP3, or WMA).

 

My Favs
With over 40,000 Internet radio stations, you may find you need more presets than those provided. If so, consider “My Favorites.” This feature allows you to store an almost unlimited number of Internet radio stations. Simply briefly press the remote’s Play/Pause key while listening to an Internet station you wish to save to “Favorites” and it will be stored. To access stations in “My Favorites” in Internet radio mode, press and hold the remote’s Play/Pause key, select “Station list,” then select “My Favorites” and “Stations.” If you save a station to “Favorites” in error or decide you no longer want a station as a Favorite, highlight the station you wish to delete in the Favorites list and press and hold the remote’s Play/Pause key to remove it.

 

The Portal Is Your Friend
If there’s a station you're unable to find using these various search methods, you can request an Internet station be added. To do so you’ll need to register on our free (there’s that word again) portal using your computer and entering the access code from your Como Audio model. To get your code in Internet radio mode, press and hold the remote’s round Play/Pause key, go to Station list > Help > Get access code > Access code. Once you are logged in to the portal click on “My Added stations” to be taken to the request form. You’ll need to know the new station’s location, URL, genre, and the audio codec it uses. This information is sent directly to our station aggregator in New York. If the station can be added you will find it under “My Added stations” under the “Station list” menu in Internet radio mode. It can take several days for a new station to be added. Some stations cannot be added for various reasons. A few examples include stations that don’t have a reliable signal, only broadcast sporadically instead of 24/7, or use an audio codec not supported. If you subscribe to a station stream that requires a user name and/or password log in, such stations are not supported because there isn’t a way to  log in like you would on a computer. Also, some companies that own multiple radio stations will collect them under their own dedicated app and not allow them to be included in other aggregate data bases. iHeart Radio is one example. However, you can download the free iHeart radio app on your smart device  and stream those stations to your Como Audio system wirelessly via Bluetooth. Alternately, you can connect an Alexa device wirelessly via Bluetooth or with an audio cable to the Auxiliary input, access iHeart stations by voice command, and have them play through your Como Audio model. If you have a Google Chromecast for Audio dongle, that’s another way to connect to your Como Audio model and wirelessly access iHeart stations. The portal will also allow you to report a problem with a station, such as a station that once played fine before but no longer plays. Generally, this is due to  the station changing its URL and/or audio codec and not informing station aggregators of the change. Before you report a problem, try rebooting your router (using its reboot button or by unplugging it and plugging it back in). Even if other devices connected to your network are operating fine, often times a simple router reboot cures a station gremlin.


Inside the portal, click on “My Added stations” in the left column to be taken to the request form to add a new station.

 

The portal is more than just a place to request new stations or report a problem. If you're fortunate enough to own multiple Como Audio models, the portal will allow you to quickly and easily duplicate your entire “My Favorites” list of stations across all of your Como Audio models. You can also categorize stations listed in “My Favorites” by creating custom folders. All you need do in the portal is click on the plus icon (+) in the blue oval next to the heart in front of the station name. For instance, I have folders in “My Favorites” named “Relax” and “CJazz” (short for “Contemporary Jazz”). If you have several members of your household who have saved stations under “My Favorites” then you might prefer to organize them by creating folders like “Peter’s stations,” “Zoey’s stations,” etc.


Click on the plus icon in the blue oval next to the heart to create a custom folder name for a station in “My Favorites.”

 

As with the other sources our models offer, if you own multiple Como Audio models, you can group them together using the Como Control app and hear Internet radio throughout your home without any audio delay. The app will allow you to search for stations and control the volume of the units individually or the system as a whole. For a tutorial, check out our “How-to” video on whole-house audio.

As I wrote in September’s Tech Rap, I love FM radio, but exploring the wide variety of radio stations on the Internet  is undeniably fun. For example, Massachusetts used to have an immensely popular “beautiful music” station called WJIB-FM (not to be confused with Cambridge’s low-power WJIB 101.3 FM) that went off the air about 30 years ago. One day, just for giggles, I entered “WJIB” in “Search stations” and much to my surprise and delight, WJIB-FM came up! I saved it as a preset and have been a regular listener ever since . “Beautiful Music 101” is another fine example of this format, found oddly under the “New Age” genre. I also stumbled upon “Girls Rock Radio,” an Internet-only station that plays songs by female rockers. I was very pleased to find WICN-FM, a mostly Jazz station out of Worcester, MA that is too far away for me to pick up on FM. And then there’s “Linn Jazz,” a superb-sounding traditional Jazz station. With the holiday season right around the corner, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight a few selections for your consideration. “Soma FM Jolly Ol’ Soul” is a refreshing departure from the festive warhorses repeated ad nauseam on most stations this time of year. For something more adventurous, transport your ears to Japan with “J-Pop Christmas”, streaming Japanese Christmas music. Try out “A-1 Christmas Classical” if you’re a classical enthusiast. For holiday music with an edge, “Delta Radio Heavy X-Mas” says it all. To see a complete list, go to Station list > Stations > Genre > Holiday > All stations.

 

Surf’s Up
Now that you’ve got your toes wet, put your flippers on, zip up your wet suit, wax your board, and start surfing the web for great Internet radio stations on your Como Audio music system. It’s akin to hitchhiking on the highway…you never know who you’ll meet or where you’ll end up!


Legendary beautiful music (easy listening) station WJIB-FM lives on thanks to Internet radio.

 

Peter Skiera makes his home  in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development in 2016. Peter can be reached directly at pskiera@comoaudio.com

 

 

 

 

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