When Internet radio first began, about all a listener could do with it was, well, listen. And the listening experience wasn't very good. The sound was awful . . . when it worked at all. Having the audio stream abruptly terminate, or take endless time to re-buffer, was a common occurrence.
Today, most Internet broadcasters use much better technology to send their streams into cyberspace. As well, more listeners are equipped with broadband Internet connections, good sound cards, stereo system-quality speakers and sophisticated media player software.
The listening problem has been overcome.
Now, what about the ability for a listener to capture those audio streams and save them to play back at will? The technology to do that was slower in coming, but it's finally here. With the right program installed, you can now capture those live audio streams from your favorite Web radio broadcasters and save them to your hard drive to enjoy as often as you like.
There are now several shareware and even freeware programs available for recording streaming audio. Their names include Voice Activation Interface, WMA/MP3 Recorder, Audio Record Wizard, Advanced MP3-WMA Recorder, Silent Bob, #1 Sound Recorder, Ace-High MP3 Recorder, 1st Easy Recorder, Visual Sound Recorder, Audiolib MP3 Recorder, Audio Playback Recorder, Loop Recorder, Replay Radio, FairStars Recorder, Boombox Internet Radio Player, and Easy Radio.
As you might guess, these programs vary greatly in both ease of use and in the features they sport. Some can convert an audio capture into a large number of different music file formats, while others can only handle one or two. Some, but definitely not all, will automatically remove noise and hiss from the audio. Similarly, some will remove gaps caused by buffering or network congestion.
One of the first, and still one of the best, audio capture programs is called Total Recorder. It can record PC audio from almost any source, including streamed audio, CDs, the computer microphone and other input lines.
You can download a free evaluation copy of Total Recorder, but it will insert a bit of noise about every 60 seconds throughout the recording. To be able to record audio without the noise, you must purchase a license for the software.
The recording software that I find really exciting is the kind that not only will capture an audio stream, but will also save it as separate audio files . . . automatically. The most obvious use for this is to break up a music stream into individual song mp3 files. The best audio capture software that I know of, that includes this mp3 splitting feature, is called Radio2MP3.
Internet radio has finally come into its own. The sound is great and so is the diversity of programming. Being able to record all those wonderful radio streams is the icing on an aurally delicious cake.
Stefan Smith is a radio and music junkie who writes on these and other subjects for the Solid Gold Info Writers Consortium. Recently, he has written an extensive review of new software that anyone can use to capture music audio streams from Internet radio broadcasts and break them up into individual mp3 song files-a legal way to download virtually free music. Read the review at: http://www.solid-gold.info/radio2mp3.html