September 4, 2009

The Arrival of "Real" Internet Radio on a radio...

Radio future has arrived, (from Ben Fong Torres - SFGate.com) in the form of Internet, or online, or Wi-Fi radio. For years, naysayers - many of them connected to commercial radio - swore that people wouldn't do their listening online. After all, it required being at their computers. And the first Internet stations were slapdash, basement-hobbyist or rabid-music-freaks' audio versions of blogging.

No more. Internet radio is not only on PCs (and there's nothing wrong with that); it's on cell phones and radiolike tuners (actually little computers that connect with networks). Compact portable models are being perfected, and Wi-Fi radio is on its way into automobiles.

On the programming side, virtually all commercial broadcasters, having come to their business senses, have online versions of their stations (albeit still saddled with long breaks for advertising and other messages).

The majors, including Clear Channel and CBS, offer virtual players and phone apps to guide listeners to any of their myriad stations. Meantime, services that let listeners create their own custom stations, like Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm, and Rhapsody, are everywhere, offering potent alternatives to mainstream radio.

For me, the real joy comes in being able to pull in virtually any station I've ever dreamt of being able to hear. "Morning Becomes Eclectic" on KCRW in Santa Monica; WWOZ, the legendary blues and gospel station out of New Orleans; K-Earth, an L.A. oldies ...
The ability to pull in such stations is one reason radio has hit a turning point, says Bob Crane, who sells Wi-Fi radios, including one built by his own company... Internet radio gives people "access to the stations they've always wanted to listen to," he says. "Where we've seen the biggest impact is with people from overseas. When they get their hometown stations, they fall on the floor." Even though those stations have been available on their computers, says Crane, listening on a radio is different from computer speakers.

With a device like C. Crane's CC Wi-Fi Internet radio ($160), a listener has a tuner that can go into any room that's reached by Wi-Fi. It employs the Reciva Internet radio aggregator to access some 16,000 stations around the world. If that's not enough, one can also play any music that's stored in his or her computer.

The CC Wi-Fi is compact; the sound is OK, but even Crane admits that it's "just a good radio, a lower-cost entry level Wi-Fi radio that is simple to use." Fortunately, he also sells other models (along with a wide variety of other radios - AM/FM, shortwave, weather and even HD - and loads of electronic goodies) at www.ccrane. com. He raves about the $300 Squeezebox Boom from Logitech. It's twice as big, sounds at least twice as good, and even includes an alarm clock.

With high-end setups (like Sonos' multiroom system) priced at $1,000, Internet radio, like satellite radio, won't sweep the nation overnight. But C. Crane already offers one unit at under $100, and there are others to be found - online, of course. Read more

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait until because I want to listen to V-103 and 106 KMEL since they are the only real quality urban contemporaries left in the larger markets. I'll also add WDKX Rochester since it's still black-owned and offers variety as well for a smaller market urban.


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