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Airwaves: March 18, 2011

Radio StreamS

I’ve written in the past regarding how much I like I Heart Radio, an app for the iPod Touch and the iPhone (as well as your computer and cell phones running Android) that brings radio stations from across the country to your hands.

The problem is, as good as it is, I Heart Radio is limited to one station owner ... Clear Channel. Same situation with Radio.Com, a similar app that features mainly CBS-owned and operated stations along with AOL Radio and Yahoo Music.

What’s needed is an app that can receive any radio station from any owner. Something like StreamS HiFi Radio that not only can receive thousands of stations and internet-only streams, if one isn’t listed you can add it yourself. An added benefit: the app was designed by Greg Ogonowski, one of the best radio engineers in the business. This means StreamS HiFi Radio can actually make your favorite internet station really shine.

In my informal listening tests, StreamS did indeed impress. Compared with other apps, StreamS had a better high end and was the decided winner among those I forced to compare.

There are also some neat features I was not expecting, such as a Stream Map, that gives a graphical listing of the last cumulative 200 listeners ... you can see what others are tuned to throughout the world.

Not that everything was perfect. For reasons unknown, the audio from KFI (640 AM) would stop playing after a few minutes; Ogonowski said that it probably had something to do with the station’s server. And Saul Levine’s stations including Go Country and K-Mozart didn’t work; that is due to a change in streaming providers and will probably be fixed by the time you read this. And strangely, public radio stations KUSC (91.1 FM) or KCRW (89.9 FM) didn’t show in the search results. Other than these irritants, I found no issues.

It worked so well that I was able to listen to KSSK from Honolulu, Hawaii as I drove through much of the South Bay last weekend with only a rare hiccup due to a loss of cell coverage. As soon as coverage returned, the audio returned. Even in my truck, the sound was phenomenal. In fact, I can see using this app as a way to hear my favorite AM stations in high fidelity compared with the lo-fi sound that comes from my regular AM radio.

At home I compared The Sound (100.3 FM) on StreamS with the regular analog FM signal and the digital HD signal. Overall fidelity was comparable in all three, but StreamS matched the wide dynamic range and the amazing quietness of the HD signal ... no background FM hiss. Results of other station comparisons were similar, including such stations as KLOS (95.5 FM), K-Earth (101.1 FM) and The Wave (94.7 FM).

I could see this app (and those similar) creating an entirely new way to listen to radio, much like cable and satellite did for television. Instead of the few stations you like you could find hundreds, theoretically. But more important, assuming you have good cell coverage in the car, good wi-wi at home, and a way to connect the Touch or iPhone to a decent stereo, you could have better reception of even local stations, especially those that are of lower power such as KGIL (1260 AM).

One thing that would be nice is a listing by location of local stations in full rather than by group owner, but considering that the focus is the entire internet of radio, I can understand why such a listing was left out. Get it for $5 at the iTunes app store.


Copyright © 2011 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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