Internet Radio

We’re interested in operating Internet Radio (AKA audio streaming) so we have delved into understanding the basics along with the streaming lingo.  The purpose for operating an Internet Radio is two-fold. One is to provide Tech Talk Tuesday’s and Thursday’s for MAD Webkeeper participants. Second is to give local Virginia Bands and Musicians a place to play their music and promote their public venues of engagement. There are three basic aspects of getting your streaming sound from point A to point B.

Simple Internet Radio Topology

Simple Internet Radio Topology

Radio Listeners

The listeners has many ways of listening to live audio streams like desktop computers, TV/entertainment systems, mobile devices and Internet radio table tops like Sonos and a variety of other manufacturers. Every method of receiving the stream either has an audio/media player (encoder) embedded or one has to install an application of choice in order to listen the audio stream. An audio stream is delivered in bits (1’s and 0’s) to the player and the rate (speed) of bits determines the sound quality. A kilobit is 1024 bits for CD quality music the recommended bit rate is 192 kbps (kilobits per second), for voice (talk radio) 64 kbps is sufficient.  Hence this rules out dial-up speeds of 56 kbps (not broadband) for listening to streaming audio. Today entry level mobile devices and home DSL can handle download speeds for listening to quality streaming audio, giving AM/FM competition.

Internet Cloud

The next mechanism is a serving software package to disseminate the (encoded) streaming media to the world. Most preferably this server software should reside on a web server in a Network Operating Center (NOC) with dedicated bandwidth to support many listeners both in throughput and total monthly data transfer. One of the most common software applications for serving up streaming audio is called SHOUTcast. There are others out there but for our needs we have chosen SHOUTcast. This need can be free or more than $500 a month pending on method of hosting which will be a separate post.

Radio Studio

The third need is to locally broadcast an audio stream (encoded) to the running SHOUTcast server so SHOUTcast can have audio content to broadcast to the world of listeners. Let’s call this local broadcast environment the Radio Studio for prosperity sake. The Radio Studio needs encoding audio software loaded on a compatible computer with microphone capability and broadband Internet access. Again there are plenty of choices for needed hardware and audio streaming software. At this time we’re undecided between Winamp and SAM Cast as our choice for audio encoding software. Most homes and businesses have a room, computer and broadband access to create a Radio Studio. What needs to be considered is the quality voice recording hardware for crisp clean live broadcasting and recording that can be also utilized to create podcasts. The cost for a Radio Studio can be quite modest or pricey more on this in future posts.

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