Recording an Internet radio stream

Internet radio transmissions are becoming more popular. A high-speed Internet connection will improve quality and reduce skipping, but even a humble dial-up connection lets you connect to a vast array of Internet radio services. In this column, we tackle recording an Internet radio stream.

Tune in

One form of Internet radio is the example of a local radio station that provides a live stream on its Web site. This can be ideal if you live in an area with limited AM or FM radio reception. ABC News and Triple J, for example, stream live at www.abc.net.au/streaming.

Then there are Internet-only radio services (some are transmitted live and others are prerecorded), which usually allow you to view the name of the track and artist currently playing and sometimes which tracks have been and are about to be played. Some services even take this a step farther, in that you can customise your listening by either directly selecting which styles or artists you wish to hear. To simplify this process, stations are usually grouped by musical genre.

Internet radio services commonly use a range of popular file formats. You can easily tell them apart by their file extensions, which include .asx (played in Windows Media Player), .ram (played in Real Player) and .mp3 (for streaming) (played in Winamp). As long as you install the latest version of the afore-mentioned software from this month's cover discs (for example, Winamp), you should be able to listen to most of the Internet radio services available. To ease confusion, most Internet radio Web sites tell you exactly which software you'll need, although some services may require you to download proprietary software before you can tune in.

The software mentioned provides links to recommended Internet radio services. You can also find stations to meet your preferred musical styles, via a simple online search.

Recording

OK, so you've tuned into an excellent station and you'd love to be able to record this music, talkback radio, book reading - whatever it may be.

If you have a reasonably new sound card, you may only need to follow Step 1 below and open a wave editing program such as Cool Edit (visit www.syntrillium.com for more details) to record your radio stream.

For anyone with an older sound card, we will step you through a different but simple approach to recording streaming radio, with the easy-to-use Opcode direct2disk (OpD2d) 1.1 software. This free software is included on this month's cover CD, and allows you to record the Internet radio stream to a WAV format on your hard disk.

Advanced users might be interested in Total Recorder, a feature-rich program for recording all kinds of audio sources; it is available from www.highcriteria.com. Its drawback is the $US12 registration fee if you wish to record more than 40 seconds of audio.

Step by step

1. Before you begin, double-click the speaker icon in your task tray, and go to Options-Properties. Select the Recording radio button and, scrolling down, make sure that an option worded like What U Hear, Stereo Mix or Sum (depending on your sound card, you may have to opt for some version of ‘mix') is ticked, and click OK. In the Recording Control window, ticking the Select option under the corresponding slider will tell your sound card to record anything going through it - such as your Internet radio stream.

2. Install OpD2d and, following the prompts, open the application; you'll see how easy it is to use. For balloon help at any time, click the ? button. To exit the program, press . Click the top field's … button to browse to a location on your hard disk where you wish to save the .wav file. Type in a name for your file, remembering to enter the .wav extension.

3. Next, use the drop-down box in the middle field to choose your recording measurement - either megabytes (MB) or minutes - and before recording enter a value for that amount. Clicking the middle field's … button allows you to select the quality at which to make the recording. Make sure you check your hard disk space, because WAV files at CD quality (44.1KHz at 16-bit in stereo/two channels) take up about 10GB per minute.

4. Prior to recording, close as many applications as possible to ease your CPU load. Ensure that your Internet radio stream is still playing and at a reasonable volume. When you're ready, click the Record button in OpD2d and you should receive a live status of your recording progress.

When you want to finish recording, simply click Stop. You should now be able to play your WAV file by opening it in Winamp.

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