Tech Rap: Exploring the Internet Radio Highway
Posted on September 20 2019
By Peter Skiera
The most popular source our models feature is Internet radio, yet many listeners are not aware of the wide variety of station content available to them, nor are they familiar with the methods to find stations. In this month’s blog, I will explore some great music and news stations, some odd stations, and provide a few easy tips on how to search the extensive station data base using your Como Audio music system. Strap yourself in and together we will take a spin down the information superhighway…you never know who we might pick up or what our final destination will be.
No longer are your broadcast music choices limited to what you can receive with an AM/FM radio. Internet radio is not limited to what it can receive from an antenna. This means you can hear Celtic music from Ireland, Jazz from France, and Reggae from Jamaica. Why you can even listen to some HD Radio stations (more on that further down). Below is some suggested listening beginning with music stations first.
Do you enjoy the retro programs on MeTV like I do? If so, you might also enjoy the MeTV Internet radio station (“You never know what you’ll hear next”) that spotlights music from that same era (Tom Jones, The Mamas & The Papas, Tina Turner, The Beach Boys, Roberta Flack, Herb Alpert, etc.). MeTV FM will transport you back in time just like their classic TV shows. You will actually find two different MeTV Internet stations (96.7 & 87.7) in our data base, but the 87.7 station has slightly better sound quality at 128 kbps, AAC: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “METV”, then select “OK” on the right and select this station.
Cable television’s popular MeTV channel has their own music station on Internet radio.
Audiophile Jazz, etc.
These are a series of six “audiophile” Internet stations in different genres from Greece: Classical, Baroque, Jazz, Rock, Lounge, and Xtreme Live (mainly soundtrack music). Presumably they are called “audiophile” stations because each station streams at 320 kbps. We know of a reviewer for a magazine who uses the Classical station to judge sound quality on the equipment he reviews: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “Audiophile”, then select “OK” on the right and select your preferred genre from the list.
Harvard University’s WHRB (96 kbps, MP3) features traditional jazz in the morning, classical in the afternoon and evening, plus blues, opera, and more classical on weekends. They invented the “musical orgy”- a music marathon devoted to a particular composer or theme broadcast during exam times: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “WHRB”, select “OK” on the right, then select the station.
Radio Swiss Jazz
This is one of the most-listened to stations amongst all of our customers. It is also our “go-to” station when we demonstrate our models at industry trade shows because of the excellent selections and sound quality (97 kbps, AAC). You will hear a harmonious mix of legends like Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Art Pepper, alongside more mainstream contemporary artists. If you have never been big on jazz, this station out of Switzerland just might win you over: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “RADIO SWIS”, then select “OK” on the right, and select this station from the list.
BIRN (Berklee Internet Radio Network)
While attending a live jazz concert by The Spring Quartet featuring Esperanza Spalding and Jack DeJohnette at Boston’s Berklee Performing Arts Center a couple of months ago, I became acquainted with the College’s Internet radio station, BIRN Global. The College actually operates four Internet stations, but I only listen to the BIRN Global station since they play a lot of jazz music. All their stations stream at 320 kbps, so the sound quality is very good: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “BIRN”, then select “OK” on the right and select BIRN Global from the list.
On a recent Delta Airlines flight back to Boston, the Delta Magazine had a very interesting article on the University of Washington’s Internet radio station KEXP (128 kbps, MP3). Yes, I admit I actually read those in-flight magazines. KEXP is commercial-free and listener supported, but you will not hear NPR. This station is all about music. They describe their mission as “…using sound and ideas creatively to engage the intelligence, curiosity, and imagination of [our] listeners.” If that does not pique your interest, I do not know what will. Their DJs are given the freedom to play just about whatever music they want. Personally, this is not my cup of tea, but if you enjoy hearing a mixture of rock genres (much of which you probably have never heard before) all within the same hour, then take this station for a spin. They also broadcast live band performances from their studio in Seattle, WA. To find KEXP on your Como Audio music system: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “KEXP”, then select “OK” on the right.
It used to be if you wanted to listen to news from another country, you had to own a shortwave radio and be quite adept at positioning its antenna. Thanks to Internet radio, receiving news stations from hundreds or even thousands of miles away is much easier. There is no antenna to fiddle with and the sound does not suffer from weak signals or annoying pops and crackle noises. Here are some standout news stations.
When I was a youngster, my parents owned a modest, one-room summer cottage in southern Rhode Island. The close proximity to New York allowed me to receive some great New York AM radio stations like WNEW (The Imaginary Ballroom, Sinatra Saturday, Tony Bennet Time, etc.), and legendary news powerhouse AM 1010 WINS (“You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world”). I loved hearing the teletype machine in the background as they reported the news. So much so that when I got into radio myself and read the news at night on Rhode Island news/talk station WPRO-AM, I played the sound of our newsroom’s dot matrix printer in the background. Sadly, WNEW-AM is long gone, but I am pleased to tell you that WINS, this country’s oldest full-time all-news station, is still going strong today, and they still play the sound of the old teletype machine! Experience it for yourself: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “WINS”, select “OK” on the right, and then select 1010 WINS from the list.
New York’s 1010 WINS…still going strong after more than five decades.
When one thinks “news”, one often thinks of CNN. Thanks to Internet radio, you can listen to audio from the CNN cable TV broadcast. I sometimes check them out when there is “breaking news”: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “CNN”, then select “OK” on the right and select CNN Audio from the list.
BBC World Service
What more can I say about the station that is the gold standard for unbiased international news and in-depth analysis? Based in London, the BBC World Service (56 kbps, MP3) has over 20 different streams each broadcasting in a different language. Select the stream of your choice from your Como Audio music system: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “BBC WORLD”, then select “OK” on the right and select from the list.
This is not a hard “news” station, but since commercial-free C-Span Radio (24 kbps, AAC) covers congressional hearings, political speeches, and public affairs around the clock it merits mention. To get to it on your Como Audio music system: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “C SPAN”, select “OK” on the right, and then select C-SPAN Radio from the list.
Voice of America
Broadcasting since 1942, the VOA (128 kbps, MP3) has a current estimated weekly audience of over 275 million listeners. Worried about politics influencing their stories? The VOA adheres to a “firewall” which they say “prohibits interference by any U.S. government official in the objective, independent reporting of news, thereby safeguarding the ability of our journalists to develop content that reflects the highest professional standards of journalism, free of political interference.” To tune the VOA on your Como Audio music system: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “VOA”, select “OK” on the right, and then select the “Global English” stream from the list.
There are some formats that would probably never be successful on commercial radio. Internet radio provides the perfect platform for niche stations. Here are a few oddities you might be curious to sample if you have an open mind.
Normally I would not recommend an Internet music station with less than very good sound quality, but in this case, I am making an exception. Listener-supported Radio Dismuke (24 kbps, MP3) is a Texas-based Internet station dedicated to the unique music of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Since this music is mono and is drawn from 78 RPM records, the low streaming quality does not have much of an impact on the quality. If anything, it contributes to the authentic sound. You will hear familiar names like Duke Ellington, but also groups like Boots and His Buddies, Mal Hallett and His Orchestra, and Gerald Adams and The Variety Singers. Dust off your Zoot suit, grab yourself a glass of giggle water, and get ready to dance the Charleston. They did not call it the “Roaring 20’s” for nothing: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “Radio Dismuke”, then select “OK” on the right and select this station.
Radio Dismuke: Odd name, cool music.
ATOS Theater Organ Radio
The title of this station gives them away. Before movie music soundtracks existed, a person used to play an organ live in the theater as the film was shown. ATOS TOR (128 kbps, MP3) plays nothing, and I mean nothing, but theater organ music. If you have a thing for organs, this station is for you: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “ATOS”, select “OK” on the right, then select this station from the list.
If you want to get away from it all, Chromaradio Nature Sounds (128 kbps, MP3) plays Earth’s greatest hits. No music, no news, no talk…just the soothing sounds of a rain forest, crashing ocean waves, or singing birds. I have the alarm on my Amico set to this station, so every morning I am gently wakened by Mother Nature. Maybe it is not quite a “weird” station, but it is different, and a nice way to begin the day: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “Chroma”, select “OK” on the right, then scroll down and select this station from the list.
Echos of Bluemars- Cryosleep
If you are like me and have trouble sleeping at night, tune to Bluemars-Cryosleep (128 kbps, MP3) and it will practically put you in a coma. This is the audio version of Ambien without the side effects. A word of warning- do not listen to this station at work or your boss will find you unresponsive: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “Bluemars”, select “OK” on the right, then select this station from the list.
The XFiles Network
You will not hear any music on this station, but if you are into UFOs and conspiracy theories, the X Files Network (128 kbps, MP3) will be music to your ears: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “X FILES”, select “OK” on the right, then select this station.
To quote from a George Romero film: “When hell is full, the dead will walk the earth.” When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, and you know it will, this is the station the ghouls will be listening (and dancing) to. Play it in the background during your Halloween party, but do not listen for too long or else your temperature will drop and your body will get stiff: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “Zombie”, select “OK” on the right, then select this station from the list.
ROK Classic Radio
As an old time radio stream, I would not categorized this an odd station, but since it does not fit in my Music and News categories, I am sticking it here. There are plenty of choices in the “Old Time Radio” genre, but I find myself usually tuning this station out of London. I especially like Boston Blackie and the Jack Benny program (although some of the dialogue involving Rochester is definitely not politically correct). The spoken advertisements are also nifty. The streaming quality is low at 32 kbps, MP3 (audience clapping sounds like hard rainfall), but after all, these are old radio recordings. There are other OTR stations streaming at higher quality, but some of the program selections are not as good. As a former broadcaster myself, I was always fascinated by the amount of work that went into these old radio shows…the writing, sound effects, the live orchestra, and all broadcast live before an audience. To re-live the golden age of radio: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “ROK”, select “OK” on the right, then scroll way down and select “ROK Classic Radio- Old Time Golden” from the list.
Listen to classic radio programs from 80 years ago on ROK Classic Radio- Old Time Golden.
This is not a genre I would listen to all day like I would music, but it is interesting to be able to eaves drop on fire, police, rail, and airport communications. I decided to check out Boston’s Logan Airport Tower but did not recognize it in the list. After doing some research, I found out I needed to know the airport’s ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) code, which is KBOS for Boston Logan. I found multiple KBOS ATC (Air Traffic Control) streams, selected one, and was soon hearing the tower communicating with pilots real-time. I then switched to Dublin Ireland’s Airport Tower and listened in on their communication (I liked their accent). Since this is not high-fidelity music the streaming quality is understandably low, averaging around 16 kbps: Station list > Stations > Genre > Scanner (found under the “News” genre).
As I have mentioned more than once, I worked in the New England AM/FM radio broadcasting market for several years. That is why I was intrigued when I came across Internet station JingleMad Radio (128 kbps, MP3) out of the UK. As its name implies, this station is entirely dedicated to radio station jingles. All jingles, all the time: Station list > Stations > Search stations > type in “JINGLE”, select “OK” on the right, then select this station from the list.
It seems like a week does not pass without someone emailing me asking whether our models support HD radio. Our products do not include an HD Radio tuner, however, our North American models include a menu option called “HDi” (HD Internet). This menu option lists some HD Radio stations that also broadcast over the Internet, including HD2 and HD3 multicast stations. The majority of these are NPR public radio stations. I would be remiss if I did not mention the HD2 station from my alma mater, Emerson College in Boston. Standing Room Only (128 kbps, MP3) is the premier source for the best of Broadway soundtracks. When I was a student there, this station was a weekend show, but it has since taken on a life of its own. Rumor has it that retired TV movie critic Gene Shalit is a regular listener. To access the HD Radio category: Station list > HDi.
WERS HD2: Just one of the HD radio stations you will find under “HDi” in the Station list menu.
GO PLAY ON THE HIGHWAY!
Your Como Audio music system has access to tens of thousands of free Internet radio stations, so why not go exploring? Several search methods are at your disposal. Just press and hold the remote’s Play/Pause key while in Internet radio mode, select Station list, then Stations, and then choose either Location or Genre.
Location allows you to search by country, including such diverse places as Iran (check out “Radio Mahoor- Traditional”), Kosovo (give “Radio C” a listen), and French Guiana (“Fun Radio Guyane” is indeed fun). With a few clicks of the remote you can tune different stations all over the globe without ever leaving your favorite chair.
The Stations menu includes numerous Internet radio station search options.
Another helpful search option is Genre. If you know the kind of music you wish to listen to, or you just want to browse through the over 140 genre and sub-genre options, get there by pressing and holding the remote’s Play/Pause key in Internet radio mode, selecting Station list > Stations > Genre. Some of the diverse genres you will encounter include Musicals, Old Time Radio, JPop, Gothic rock, and Salsa (found under “World- Traditional”).
There are still more options in the Stations menu like “Popular stations” that lists the most-listened to stations (in no particular order), while “New stations” lists new radio stations recently added to the data base. “Local” lists stations in your vicinity based on your network’s WAN IP address. As an aside, when you are tuned to an Internet station you can briefly press the center Menu knob in to expand the station logo (press in again to return to the normal display information).
“MY FAVORITES” ARE YOUR FAVORITES
Should you discover many great stations and find yourself running out of available presets, have no fear. “My Favorites” lets you store an almost unlimited number of Internet radio stations. This feature requires registration through our portal (which is free). In many cases, the portal will also allow you to add missing stations directly to your Como Audio music system. For details, refer to my August blog. If you have a favorite station you would like to let me know about, be it music, news, or odd, feel free to email me (email address below). I hope these station suggestions and search tips inspire you to find even more ways to enjoy the music.
Peter Skiera joined Como Audio as Vice President of Product Development in 2016 and previously worked for Tivoli Audio, Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W loudspeakers/Rotel, and also spent nearly seven years in the radio broadcast industry in New England. He makes his home in southern MA and can be reached directly at email@example.com