What else can we stream? How about radio?

June 2, 2022

Sure, I have subscriptions to services like Spotify but I prefer a knowledgeable DJ to talk to me about the artist or the music. So, mostly I listen to radio. I live in an area surrounded by hills that block most radio stations. Not that that’s a big deal cuz the radio around here nowadays is pretty…let’s just say I’m not terribly happy with what’s available. Realize that I was raised on WEBN and The Jelly Pudding Show with Michael Xanadu. I still remember he bookended the show with Steve Miller’s Song for Our Ancestors (with that fog horn) and a piece from Procol Harum which, as I recall, was Repent Walpurgis (I could be wrong about which Procol Harum song it was…write and let me know if you recall it better than I).

Living in the San Francisco bay area now, there are loads of old radio references and stories, particularly KSAN which was the west coast’s version of WEBN. But all that good radio has mostly died out in the area. So, I stream radio stations from around the country that remind me of the eclectic mix that WEBN played. Mostly they are terrestrial radio stations (i.e. radio stations that actually broadcast on the FM dial) but there are FAR more that just broadcast over the Internet.

If you have a local radio station you enjoy, chances are they have an Internet stream. Go to the station’s website and look for Listen Now or Live and most likely there’s a stream hiding behind that word. Click on that link and the station should start playing in your browser and if that browser is on your phone you can listen to them anywhere, not just on your radio! That’s all well and good if you want to always go to their website to listen. But that can be a bit cumbersome, not to mention that if you have several stations you like, you’ve got to keep them all available in your browser. Some (most?) radio stations have their own app so you’re not tied to a browser. But, again, if you like several stations you’ve got to install several station’s apps. What to do? Get yourself a radio streaming app that can manage multiple stations/streams! Note that some streaming apps will only let you select from a list of stations they provide while others will let you add your own streams. Here are a few Android apps:

Audials Play – will let you select from a catalog of streams and add your own (https://go.ttot.link/Audials),
RadioDroid 2 – will only let you add from their catalog from radio-browser.info (https://go.ttot.link/RadioDroid),
TuneIn – will only let you add from their catalog (https://go.ttot.link/TuneIn) but note there’s a Pro version, as well
XiiaLive – will let you add from their catalog as well as search for songs or artists and can add your own streams (https://go.ttot.link/XiiaLive although I prefer the Pro version which is https://go.ttot.link/XiiaLivePro).
Of course there are far more out there, these are just a few that I use.
Now you’ve got a radio stream player, how do you find a good stream? A number of the “streamers” also have a catalog of stations (all of the apps I listed do) but if you’re as picky as I am, there’s a good chance you won’t be satisfied with what they present to you so you’ll go on a hunt to find your perfect station’s (or stations’) stream(s).

Let’s take an aside for a moment. I’ve been referencing “streams.” What are streams? They’re just web addresses (technically they’re called URLs – they’re what you type into your browser’s address bar when you want to visit a website like timesgazette.com). They’re not unlike the web addresses (i.e. URLs) I introduced in the IPTV column. The full URL likely starts with http:// or https:// although for convenience, you can leave that part out but, trust me, it’s there. If you enter the URL for the “stream” into an app or browser that’s capable of decoding the stream, you’ll get music!

OK, back to the previous question: how do you find a stream? Personally, I go to the web page at radio-browser.info (yes, that’s a web site). Type that into your browser and have a good look at the page; it’ll give you an idea of the service that site provides. If you go to radio-browser.info/tags you’ll see a list of genres (rock, pop, news, etc). Scroll through that list and, if you see a genre you think you might like, click on it and you’ll get a list of stations with a lot of information about each station like its name and a list of “tags” associated with it. Click on the name of the station and you’ll see the Details page. There you should see its URL! Plug that into your streaming app and you’re set. Note that some of those URLs are for the streaming equivalent of a playlist. Often ending in “m3u” or “pls” it’s a list of URLs in a particular format. Why? If there’s an interruption to the stream from one of the URLs, the streaming app will move on to the next URL in the list and continue playing, providing a mostly uninterrupted stream of music. Many browsers won’t play those playlists but will, instead, download them. That’s why I say plug them in to your streaming app.

I mentioned “tags”. What are tags? They’re words that describe the station. Like “oldies” or “eclectic” or “album oriented rock”. You can search the stations using the search box in the upper right of any of those pages but, unfortunately, it uses a rather arcane search language. So, to help, here’s a search I often use which includes English language stations, eclectic, and adult album alternative: https://go.ttot.link/TonysSearch

Hopefully you’ve found a few stations you like and you’ve put them into your new favorite Internet radio streaming app. How do you get that stream to play on your TV? Many of the radio streaming apps will let you cast the radio stream to a Chromecast so you cast it, just like we talked about last week! I use RadioDroid 2 almost exclusively because the cast icon is prominently displayed in the app AND it uses radio-browser.info as its source for your searches.

What are some of the stations in my list? I’ll take that up in next week’s column along with some information about some devices that will allow you to stream your Internet radio WITHOUT (!) having to use your phone/tablet/computer.

That’s it for this week. Note that my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at tony@TonysTakeOnTech.com and don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L – it should be updated shortly after this column appears online.