Where to Find Live Radio on the Internet

When radio stations started streaming audio, I stayed old school. Computers aren’t radios, I told everyone. And I need my bandwidth. Love that buffering, too, and the stadium echo effect you get when the bitrate drops. Real Audio, Winamp, Windows Player, not to mention Quicktime . . . it’s like having a different radio for every station you want to hear. Streaming audio? If ah can’t hear it on a radio, ah ain’t a-listenin.

It became a kick, though, to give it a try at ten at night my time and find 4KQ in Brisbane, Australia, where tomorrow’s lunchtime show is under way, where sets of American songs are back-announced with delightful Aussie accents. A Shetland pony loose on the motorway? You don’t hear traffic reports like that just anywhere.

The west coast CBC Radio One feeds available on the Net have also come to the rescue more than once, when I missed something I heard off-the-air, that I wanted to save.

Streaming audio and I have negotiated a truce. Okay – but if I start turning geek, and get stuck in front of the computer, out comes the portable device with the knobs, the dial that goes from 54 to 160, and the little red pointer, the original IPOD.

But I didn’t know turning geek could be so much fun.

In the process, I’ve found these directories of over the air stations that stream their audio to be the most helpful.

Mike’s Radio World

Mike’s is the easier to use of the two most complete North American directories. The pages are uncluttered, and the fonts are easy to read. Stations are sorted by format, and also by location; alphabetically by call letters within states or provinces, or station names within foreign countries. Mike’s is the best site for finding stations from a particular city. All the Montreal stations, for example, are on the Quebec list, in smaller, but still easy-to-read text, with their formats, bitrates, and the required media players.

This site works better for listeners who are more familiar with call letters than logos. No logos, however, means cleaner, easier-to-read, pages.

Tuner Virtuel (Com-FM)

The home page is a little hard to figure out at first — there’s TV, webcams, and artist pages as well as audio, a lot of options, and the fonts are smaller — but you only have to find the search links once. At one time, it was my site of choice for streaming radio. Browsing, however, has become time-consuming and almost impossible. You can still search Canada, then Quebec, and come to a link to all the Quebec stations by call letters; but searching past page one takes the user to the beginning of listings for all Canada. Finding all the Montreal stations now means turning each page of the over 600 Canadian listings.

If you’re used to finding stations by their logos, Tuner-Virtuel will be more user-friendly. At the beginning of each listing is the station’s logo. It’s also the only site that allows users to search by entering a station name or call sign. So you don’t have to work through all the California stations to get to KROQ.

RadioFeeds UK

Here are all the streaming stations in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. There are separate directories for each player – Real Audio, Windows Media, streaming MP3 (Shoutcast), and Ogg / QuickTime / AAC – AACPlus. So there’s some duplication. This, along with the indicators of stations streaming in stereo, are two indications of the attention to detail on this site.

Follow the links to shorter lists of stations in Ireland, and UK college / community stations.

Australian Radio Stations Online

Australian stations are known equally by names and call letters. This site lists them alphabetically by call signs — a number for each province or territory followed by two letters for AM, three for FM — followed by location, format, and player required. It also flags stations whose streams are temporarily off-line. No bitrates, though; so dial-up users will click on streams that are too fast. Classic Hits 6TZ in Perth works, though. Halfway around the world, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and they’re still playing Stevie Nicks. “Edge Of Seventeen,” when it’s come from that distance, actually sounds okay.

Amazing, Innit?

When streaming audio started in 1994, I was hearing radio in foreign countries the hard way – by going there. Twelve years later, you can take a virtual worldwide radio tour from home in an evening. It’s amazing, even to this old school dude, what you can hear on just dialup. We’re in the middle of changes equaled, in the one-hundred-plus years of radio transmission, only by the upgrade from dots and dashes to voice and music.

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