We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Gale, winner of the blog contest from Gordon West’s post Fun With Radio Waves!

We would like to thank everyone for sharing their stories with us, we really enjoyed reading them!

Posted in Blog. Tags: . 2 Comments »

Pros and Cons of WiFi and Internet Radio

We’ve received a lot of emails and several comments about the confusion surrounding “internet radio”. What is it? How does it work? How do I pick the right radio? So we put together some of the pros and cons and then a few additional considerations. In this post, we aren’t recommending a particular radio over another but rather giving you some points to consider when making your decision so you can pick the right product for you.

First, let’s establish that there is a pre-requisite to using WiFi Internet radio –

  • You need to have a broadband connection. Most internet radios will work on WiFi or with a direct Ethernet connection (that network jack on the back of the radio that provides a connection to the router).

Let’s jump into the benefits for you as a listener –

  • First, a Crystal clear signal – no static, no fade.
    • Need your radio fix but you get terrible AM reception at your office or in your apartment complex?
    • Tired of listening to the whine of static on your favorite radio talk show or having it fade out right when something important is being discussed? WiFi Internet radio to the rescue.
  • The second benefit – stations from literally anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re 3 miles away or 3,000 miles away.
    • If you have recently relocated and you now live in Los Angeles but your favorite station is in Boston, WiFi Internet Radio might allow you to receive it.
    • Or let’s say your transplant was even further – you moved to the U.S. from Italy. You can listen to Italian Parliament right on your radio.
    • Maybe your local station stopped carrying your favorite host and now you can’t receive their show anymore – I can almost guarantee there is a station on WiFi Internet radio that is broadcasting that show.
    • If you just can’t get enough of the Beatles, you can choose from several Beatles stations that play all Beatles all the time.
  • Third, you can avoid entering personal information through a form to access the stream or trying to translate international web pages that have the stream you want to hear. They’re already on the radio and are easily accessible so you don’t have to get additional spam from strange countries because you want to hear their music.
  • Another benefit – no subscription fees. Yes, you’ll still have to pay your high speed internet bill but you don’t have to pay a subscription fee to listen to your favorite station.

We’re often asked if there are any drawbacks, and as with anything, there are a few.

  • First, there is a slight delay broadcasting the signal. So if you’re listening to a game on your AM radio and have it going on a WiFi Internet radio at the same time you’ll hear the basket being made on your AM radio a few seconds before you hear it on the Internet radio. Some people consider this a drawback.
  • Another inconvenience is some programming that is broadcast over regular radio is not broadcast on the internet due to licensing issues – primarily these are specific sporting events like MLB games, NFL and NBA. Every now and then, if you know the local stations that have the rights, there are exceptions but if you buy it with that intent, you will be disappointed.
  • This one is a blessing and a curse. There are currently several thousand stations on internet radio, with more being added every day. This means there is an endless supply of radio stations from around the world to listen to. It also means if you don’t know what you want to hear, you could spend a lot of time trying to find what you want. The best solution, to prevent overload, is to get a radio that has memory presets and use them. So with the touch of a couple buttons you can go right to your favorite station.
  • Buffering (the slow or intermittent load of stations) – depends on the signal from the station that is streaming. It is also dependent on your own network. If your child, grandchild (or your spouse…) is in the other room playing online video games you may experience more buffering.
  • Not portable – for some people this is a deal breaker. It just depends on what you need. If you like to take your radio with you, then this might not be the right product for you.
  • The radio is dependent on your internet connection, so if the internet is down, so is your radio.

When selecting a WiFi Internet Radio, take into consideration some of the same things you would consider for any radio like size, audio jacks, clock, alarms, etc.

Some additional benefits with an Internet radio are: if you like to listen to services like Pandora, Live365, MP3.com or Aupeo many of these radios will work with subscription based programs. You can also use it to stream MP3 and WMA audio files from your Windows computer. If you have special subscriptions for MLB baseball, Rhapsody, or others that require a graphical interface, you’ll want to find a radio that has a flash based interactive screen like Squeezebox (not available through C. Crane).

One last thing, there are some changes taking place in the industry where stations are only allowing their stream to be on certain devices. If you’re not sure about our radio and you want to see if your station is available, we have a Find Station tool on one of our sister websites at http://www.woodenradio.com/FindStation/Index.aspx.

For more on what you might hear on internet radio, check out our video.

*The company, product and service names used in this newsletter are for identification purposes only. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

What Do You Have To Say About Radio?

Over the past few weeks, we have been receiving lots of feedback about the radio programming that you love and some that you’re not too crazy about.

Everyone has their likes and dislikes about radio and we want to know more…so we’re taking an informal poll with results to be posted next week!

Below are some questions that we are curious about and we’d like to hear your input:

What is your favorite station and why?
Who is your favorite host and why?
Why do you listen to the radio? (i.e., to get local news updates, sports games, entertainment, listening to music, etc.)?
What is your favorite format (examples: news, talk, music, sports, etc.)?
What do you love most about radio?
What do you dislike about radio?
What do you see as the future of radio?

Also if there is something else about radio that you would like to share with us that is not asked above, please feel free to comment on it.

Just a reminder, we have a contest going on through the end of this week. We would like you to share with us what is the furthest radio signal you’ve been able to receive. Check out Gordon West’s blog post for more information .

Before You Give Up Listening To Radio – by Ken Hoffman, Columnist, Hoston Chronicle

Frankly, I had about given up on listening to the radio.

My favorite local sports talk show had turned into non-stop commercials for a weight loss clinic, with the host swearing, “I’ve lost 80 pounds in the past two weeks on the Speedy Diet Program, without exercise, and I’m eating hot fudge sundaes for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It’s unbelievable! The chicks won’t leave me alone on the beach!”

Yeah, right, and then the Speedy Diet Program folks get busted for insanely false advertising, and Mr. Ripped Talk Host puts the 80 pounds back on – plus 20 more for the pain and suffering he caused listeners.

My local news station had turned into a lunatic fringe political soap box. My favorite rock station flipped formats to some crazy language that only cab drivers understand.

It got so bad that I was using my clock radio as a … clock!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I – gasp – started reading myself to sleep at night instead of listening to nationally syndicated kooks talking about Martians in Michigan. Nothing ever topped Larry King’s latenight show for putting me beddy-bye. C’mon, Larry, tell us that story about eating ice cream with Sandy Koufax again, for the 100th time, this week.

Just when I hit rock bottom and started ordering books on tape … I got a CC WiFi Internet Radio and put it on the night stand next to my bed.

Radio … I’m back, baby!

With this Internet radio, I’m not a prisoner of local radio’s Noah’s Ark strategy:  two talk stations, two sports stations, two rock stations, two country stations, two rap stations, two etc.

Now, I have the freedom to choose between, oh, about FIFTEEN THOUSAND STATIONS!

From across my hometown and around the world.

I’m a sports talk fan. I have two sports talk stations in my town, but I’m tired of hearing if the local baseball team has enough bullpen pitching. We’re in last place. Who cares? On this team, the “closer,” is the guy who turns out the lights after fans leave in the seventh inning.

With my CC WiFi Internet Radio, I get (ready for this?) – 1,012 sports talk stations spanning the globe. Last July, I listened to a London sports station talking about Andy Murray’s chances of winning Wimbledon. During the Olympics, you should have heard the stations in Jamaica bragging on Usain Bolt.

Whenever something happens, anywhere in the world, I tune to that city’s news/talk station and get the straight scoop from people who know what they’re talking about. There are 1,029 news stations and 661 news talk stations on Internet radio.

I listened to the news station in New Orleans during Hurricane Isaac. I heard real stories about the storm from local reporters, not some clueless New York hack sent by the network.

“Local officials say you should stay out of standing water because there may be snakes in there, plus you could be injured by an electrical shock. It’s very dangerous. This is news ace Geraldo Crackerjack, reporting from the middle of a flooded street!”

Smart, real smart.

I like classic rock. I’m a Beatles freak. Love the music from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Instead of listening to my local rock stations play the same 20 songs over and over, (Stairway to Heaven again?) I hit “Genre” on my Internet radio, and choose from, take a deep breath …

408 classic rock stations.

206 stations playing ‘60s music.

309 stations playing ‘70s hits.

959 stations playing the oldies.

I can even narrow down where I want to hear my ‘60s hits from – I usually go to London or Liverpool stations.  There are nine stations that play nothing but Beatles songs 24 hours a day.

You want some fun? Tune in a reggae station from Montego Bay, mon.

You want even more fun? Tune in a Pittsburgh sports station the night after the Steelers lose. Better make sure your smoke detector works. Those Steeler fans take their football pretty serious.

The sound from my Internet radio is clearer than my old clock radio. There’s a sports station in my city that I enjoy. But the weak signal and static made it unbearable to listen to, and I can practically see the station’s antenna from my house.

On my Internet radio, the station comes in crystal clear.

My local ESPN radio affiliate pre-empts the Scott Van Pelt Show for a local afternoon bozo. Local advertising makes the station more money that carrying the network. Now I click on ESPN on my Internet radio and get Van Pelt.

My Internet radio is a full service receiver. It’s got a night light, clock, alarm and full rich sound. I use it just like my old clock radio. When I go to bed, the radio sits on a night stand about two feet from my head. I imagine this is how most people use their WiFi Internet Radio.

Yet it comes with a remote control.

How lazy do the C. Crane people think I am?

Ken Hoffman

Columnist, Houston Chronicle

Fun with Radio Waves – By Gordon West, WB6NOA

Radio waves are invisible and travel at the speed of light.  We are surrounded by harmless radio waves, sent out from TRANSMITTERS aboard satellites as well as those tall antenna towers you see on the horizon.  Because radio waves rapidly decrease in intensity with the square of the distance traveled, we are safe from this energy comprised of electric and magnetic fields. 

Radio waves oscillate at specific FREQUENCIES authorized by the Federal Communications Commission.  Groups of broadcast frequencies are called RADIO BANDS.  These bands are coordinated internationally because, sometimes, radio waves may skip around the world! 

To keep us safe around nearby transmitted radio waves, federal laws impose strict guidelines regarding certain radio transmissions you could be near:
    Microwave ovens
    Cellular phones and cordless phones
    Computer wireless routers
    Motion-activated alarms on automatic doors
   
Radio RECEIVERS only pick up radio waves – they don’t transmit the waves, so snuggle up to your favorite receiver and enjoy!  Even these receivers need the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) certification, so you are safe! 

The AM (amplitude modulation) broadcast band extends from 540 kHz to 1700 kHz, the medium wave band.  AM broadcast radio range, during the day, is typically as far as 100 miles.   These GROUND waves have the ability to propagate up over hills and mountains, and through forests. The more powerful the AM broadcast station, the farther the ground wave will travel.

 Receivers, with multiple built-in AM antennas may help extend this ground wave range out to about 150 miles from powerful AM broadcast stations. 

At nighttime, AM broadcast station signals will also bounce off the ionosphere and “skip” back down into your little AM radio receiver from up to 1000 miles away.  This extended nighttime range on AM (medium frequency) broadcast band is very dependable after dark.  Seasons may change reception.   At night, take your portable AM radio away from electrical noise in the house and away from nearby power lines, and then slowly tune around to enjoy long-range nighttime reception. 

Shortwave broadcasters are assigned frequencies in the shorter wavelength bands above the AM broadcast band.  These higher frequencies, from 3 MHz to 30 MHz, are where a shortwave receiver may pull in broadcasting stations, day or night, from thousands of miles away.  The radio waves are all coming in via skywave, refracting off multiple layers of the ionosphere.

The ionosphere acts like a giant prism, refracting back to Earth all radio signals above 11,000 kHz during the day and below 10,000 kHz at night.

Shortwave skywave reception on broadcast frequency BELOW 10,000 kHz is best AT NIGHT.  Shortwave skywave reception, on frequencies ABOVE 11,000 kHz is STRONGEST during the DAY. 

    Tune around the following frequencies for skywave excitement:
    Around 15,400 kHz, daytime
    Around 13,700 kHz, daytime
    Around 11,800 kHz, daytime
    Around 9,500  kHz, nights
    Around 6060 kHz, nights

Tune higher, then tune lower, from these suggested frequencies, to enjoy refracted skywaves from the ionosphere. 

Can you actually see the ionosphere?  Yes, up in Canada and Alaska they are seen as Aurora Borealis or “Northern Lights”. 
Sure, they are visible in Australia, too, looking south.

Radios may include the FM broadcast band as well.  You will extend the telescopic whip antenna, as you did for shortwave, for best reception.

You can USUALLY pick up FM stereo stations from up to 50 miles away from their transmitters.  Watch the weather maps for extended range FM reception!  A weather phenomenon called tropospheric ducting, resulting from temperature inversions, may carry FM broadcast signals, plus scanner radio signals, hundreds of miles farther than under “normal” atmospheric conditions.  Your local weather will be hot, with little wind, and the barometer will indicate you are under a high pressure ridge. 

These atmospheric conditions may trap warm air within a boundary, called a duct.  Scanner signals and FM broadcast signals may travel within this duct up to many hundreds of miles away for distant reception.  This is usually a summertime occurrence, and is usually associated with a slow moving high pressure cell.  See how far away YOU can pick up a scanner or FM signal!

You can enhance radio reception by adding an accessory outside antenna system. 

Enjoy the sounds from the ionosphere for AM broadcast and shortwave skywave signals.  Take advantage of local high pressure weather systems for much greater range on FM music radio frequencies and portable/fixed scanner channels.  Let’s see who can pick up the most distant stations.

Share your story by commenting below on the furthest signal you’ve been able to reach with your radio. The winning comment will receive a special prize. Please have your stories posted by September 21, 2012.

This content was written by Gordon West, WB6NOA, a licensed Ham Operator for more than 50 years and founder of Gordon West Radio School offering amateur radio training classes. He has been named Instructor of the Year by the ARRL and received the 2006 Amateur Radio of the Year award. He’s also a writer, author and co-host of Twit TV’s Hamnation. Click here to learn more about Gordon West Radio School.