The Complete Guide to Internet Radio

On Air sign at an internet radio station

Radio has come so far in the last couple of decades. The days of tinny, crackly FM signal are long gone. Nowadays, listeners can enjoy so much more choice, as well as a more reliable reception. Not only is DAB radio now the standard, but the worldwide web has opened up a whole new world of internet radio for listeners to explore.

How Does Internet Radio Work?

As the name suggests, you'll need a broadband connection to tune in to internet radio. Stations sent out a stream of their broadcasts online, and listeners can tune in from anywhere in the world. Many digital stations also stream live on the web too.

In the early days of internet radio, you could only listen via your computer. Now, though, many DAB radios also come with WiFi connectivity, so they can tune in to online stations as well. These models usually also include an ethernet port, so you can plug in directly for a more reliable connection.

Accessing these stations is simpler than you might think. If you're on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, then just go to the station's website, where there should be a live stream that you can access. For BBC stations, there's also the new BBC Sounds app, which has replaced the old iPlayer Radio app.

If you want to listen on your radio, then this is also easy to do. Most DAB/Internet radios will have a "mode" button. Press this, then choose the internet radio mode. From there, you will have a number of ways to find stations. You can search by name, genre, or even country.

What Are The Benefits of Internet Radio?

  • So many stations to choose from

By far the biggest benefit of internet radio is the sheer amount of choice available. Both FM and DAB are held back by the technology they use. Only a relatively narrow band of overall radio frequencies are allotted to these broadcast. In practise, that means most areas are only served by around 30 DAB radio stations, and about half that for FM.

With internet radio, though, that’s not a problem. There’s no limit to the number of stations that can broadcast online, and you won't be restricted to local stations. As a result, there’s an enormous amount to choose from. Estimates vary, but there are currently around 30,000 internet radio stations broadcasting from across the world. These include a large number of major broadcasters, such as the BBC. However, there are also plenty of niche stations to choose from, many of which broadcast without advertising. Whether you’re into German techno or authentic Jamaican reggae, there are sure to be multiple stations that suit your tastes to a tee.

  • More reliable signal

Another major benefit of internet radio is that it’s not affected by poor radio signal. While DAB radio coverage is higher than ever, it’s still not perfect. Some people find that certain rooms in their home are unable to get a decent DAB signal. That’s obviously a problem if, for example, you want a clock radio but get poor signal in your bedroom. Fortunately, internet radio offers a way around this.

  • Often come with extra features like multi-room

Finally, internet radios tend to be a bit more expensive than their DAB/FM-only counterparts. However, they usually offer more than just online listening. Virtually all of them will also act as multi-room speakers. That means you can connect them up to each other and soundtrack your entire home.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Internet Radio?

Of course, like any technology, internet radio isn't without its disadvantages. Most significantly, it relies on a steady WiFi signal in order to function properly. If there are areas in your home where the signal won't stretch, then you'll naturally have trouble tuning in. Nowadays you can purchase WiFi boosters and whole home routers to work around this problem, but it's still something to consider.

Internet radio can also eat into your data allowance. That's fine when you're at home, where you'll probably have unlimited usage on your home broadband. But if you listen on your mobile while on the go, this could be more of an issue. You could connect to public WiFi, but this may not provide the strong connection you need to stream.

How Much Can I Expect To Spend On An Internet Radio?

WiFi-enabled models tend to be more expensive than their DAB-only counterparts. That's understandable- they offer so much more content, so the price goes up accordingly. While there are some cheap models available, you're better off spending your money wisely and investing in a set with good sound performance, too. That's because internet stations broadcast in much higher quality than DAB stations. They can afford to, since there's technically no limit on their sound quality- it just depends on your broadband connection. For that reason, we'd recommend spending at least £250-£300 on an internet radio if you want to get the best value for money.

Do I Need An Internet Radio to Tune In To Online Stations?

Not necessarily. As we mentioned earlier, you can easily access internet radio from your phone or laptop. Since these devices usually come with Bluetooth, you can stream internet radio from them to any Bluetooth speaker. Many DAB radios now come with Bluetooth as well, so many of these will technically work for internet listening, too- provided you tune in on another device first. For convenience, though, a DAB radio with WiFi connectivity is probably your best bet.

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