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Help with listening to radio stations over the internet

How to listen to stations online

You need to have several pieces of software installed on your PC. You don't need a particularly high-specification machine, but a good, fast internet connection with a reliable ISP (internet service provider) helps. This is because radio works best on the internet when it is continually streamed to your PC. Any breakages or interruptions between the data coming from the radio station's streaming server to your computer means that the PC must buffer up data to try to minimise sound break-up. A good connection over a modem (if you're using a dial-up connection) or wired (or wireless) broadband router will help to reduce any problems.

                         If you know you already have the necessary software, just click on a radio station link to start listening! This will either launch a web page containing an embedded player or Windows Media Player, RealPlayer or WinAmp.

Frequently asked questions and issues:

Will it cost me anything to listen to radio stations over the internet?

The only cost you should incur will be the telephone companies' call charge (if you're on pay-as-you-go dial-up) or any charge your ISP makes for using its service (if you're on dial-up or broadband). None of the stations listed on our site require you to pay to listen. Few sites charge a subscription.

What software do I need?

You'll need to be connected to the internet to listen to radio stations through your computer. Most station streams require Adobe Flash player, where the player is embedded in the web page. If you're having problems with Flash, you can try uninstalling all versions of Flash Player, before reinstalling Flash Player, if you still can't see pages embedded with Flash. You can also download and install the latest versions of RealPlayer, Windows Media Player and WinAmp, if necessary. You'll need administrator rights to install the software, if you are on a work PC. Check with your I.T. administrator to request installation of the software.

All of the above software is freely available, although some versions will persuade you to purchase their full version; our advice is to stick with the free versions as this is all you need. The software basically decodes and decompresses the data coming in to your computer from the internet (using a 'codec') and sends the results to your sound card, which converts the data into an audio signal that is played through your speakers.

I get a message saying 'Your security settings do not allow this file to be downloaded' or the player in a web page does not start, when I click on a link

Sometimes our live audio links will point to web pages in which a cut-down (or 'embedded') version of the player sits. If your internet security settings are set to 'high', then Internet Explorer will not download or stream audio files. To remedy this, in Internet Explorer, choose Tools » Internet Options » Security and move the slider to the 'medium' setting. (If you are at work, you should check with your I.T. administrator to find out if it is okay to change this setting.)

I get a message asking me if I want to open or save the file

If the station uses WinAmp or Realplayer you might need to click 'open this file from its current location' to open the .pls (WinAmp), .ram (RealPlayer file) or .rpm (RealPlayer Media) file when prompted, which are two types of streaming file. A bug in (very old versions of) Internet Explorer means that the option to open the file is greyed out. You should select the button to open the file and not download it. If nothing happens, you need to install WinAmp or Realplayer.

The audio stream keeps stopping and starting

Check your broadband (or wi-fi) connection to make sure your signal is good and uninterrupted. A piece of flat silver baking foil tacked behind the stubby wi-fi aerial can direct the wi-fi signal back into the room for a better signal. If your PC/MAC keeps dropping a wi-fi connection you may need to move the computer nearer to your router, or check your settings. When listening over a public wi-fi network, be aware that many other people may be sharing the same connection, so bandwidth may be limited and the audio may break up as the computer rebuffers during streaming.

I'm connected but I can't hear anything

You'll need a sound card and speakers in order to listen to stations while you're connected to the internet. Most new computers now have both of these, although if you are at work your computer may not have either of these. Make sure that your speakers are connected properly and that they are switched on!

Sometimes the station's audio link breaks down for a short while - the player doesn't appear to buffer and no sound appears. This indicates a problem at the radio station end. You should try again later.

Realplayer starts as normal, then locks up when trying to connect

Sometimes, when using 'firewall' software such as ZoneAlarm, the computer has only one way of connecting to the audio source over the internet. If this single connection is in use by another program (e.g. if Windows Media Player is also running), Realplayer can 'hang' or 'lock up'. Before clicking on a link, close both Windows Media Player and Realplayer to make sure a connection can be made to the audio source when required.

Windows Media Player and Realplayer behave oddly with several 'listen live' pages open

Some stations use an 'embedded' player; that is, the player and its controls sit within the live audio page. Sometimes, if several embedded players are opened, this can cause problems. Close all pages like these when you have finished listening to the station, so that you only ever have one 'listen live' page open.

I try to click on a loudspeaker icon or listen live link within a station's website, but nothing happens

Some stations temporarily remove their live stream while they switch streaming providers and therefore the streaming may not be available for a couple of weeks, or sometimes months at a time. Their web page may contain an icon or 'link' which appears to be clickable, but actually is not. You should visiting the page again soon, when streaming may be up and running.

If you still don't hear anything, it could be for these reasons...

  • If you are trying to listen at work, you may find that your computer is behind a firewall. This security feature prevents access to your computer by RealPlayer during the audio connection, but can also prevent the audio links from working correctly. Check the RealPlayer site for more advice and how you can configure RealPlayer to listen over the net. The easiest way is to start RealPlayer and click View (menu) | Preferences (menu option) | Transport (tab) | Auto-configure (button), which will set-up RealPlayer to look for the best way to connect to the internet. You have to be connected to allow this to happen. RealPlayer then selects the best way of streaming sound to your computer, running through a number of different ways to do so.

  • Stations sometimes run out of capacity of 'streams', which stops further visitors from listening over the web. If this happens, you should try again later.

  • Occasionally, stations have technical problems with their live streaming and remove the service temporarily.

  • You should be aware that not all stations broadcast 24 hours a day and that not all services are available all of the time. If a station is silent, it may simply be because it is not currently broadcasting!

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