A couple of weeks back a Facebook friend bemoaned that his new basement listening room’s FM reception was nil. He asked for suggestions to improve his situation and got the usual suggestions about installing a better antenna on his roof and running the wires to the basement. My suggestion was simpler – switch to Internet radio.
I live in the foothills outside of Boulder, Colorado, and my FM reception is abysmal. Multipath abounds as radio waves ping-pong back and forth from one wall of rock to another. When I first moved here there was no Internet radio option, so I installed an Magnum Dynalab ST-2 antenna on my roof, then a signal-booster before the long run to my main listening room (in addition to feeds to three other rooms.) I also used a Magnum DynaLab’s Signal Sleuth device in front of my tuner. After all that the best I could do, even with the most sensitive and selective tuner I used, was groady stereo or barely passable mono. My reaction to this state of affairs was a radical curtailing of radio listening.
This situation persisted for years. Even the addition of a Sony HD radio tuner didn’t improve the signal by much. Then I started hearing about Internet Radio. At first all Internet radio was pretty bad – the sampling rates being used were simply too low to support a full-fidelity signal. I quickly learned that any Internet Radio stream that was less than 64 KBPS MP3 wasn’t worth listening to. Anything below this rate is simply too phasey sounding with little or no inner detail – you only get a rough approximation of the music.
Fortunately, most of the stations that I want to listen to have bit rates of 128 KBPS MP3 or greater, which is not quite as good as a 44.1/16 music file, but still provides most of the music. Here are some of my favorite Internet Radio stations with a brief description of their programming.
KMHD – The genre is jazz and between the excellent sound and the knowledgeable DJs, you may find, as I often do, that you can leave KMHD playing for hours and not feel the urge to change the channel.
WCRB – This classical radio station features a fairly standard repertoire coupled with good sound. They also broadcast a lot of live concert recordings.
KGNU – This is Boulder, Colorado’s local community radio station. Although the politics are slightly to the left of Che Guevara, the eclectic mix of music has something to delight and/or enrage almost everyone. Saturday Morning’s “Old Grass, New Grass” is a must for bluegrass fans.
WMBR – Rock and Roll Cambridge, MA style. I used to listen to this station when I lived in Boston. It’s still one of the best alternative/punk/indy station’s you’ll hear. The “Late Riser’s Club” has been playing great rock and roll since 1977…
Florida’s 89.1 – WUFT-FM – This public radio station is only 112 KBPS at 44.1, but it’s perfect for catching up on all your fave NPR programs and news.