One of the most powerful and important aspects of the internet is its ability to remove boundaries. Geography and culture, often limiters in real life, can become much less burdensome online. This phenomenon is particularly evident when it comes to Internet radio.
One of the most significant shortcomings of standard AM and FM radio is the geographic restrictions. Great radio stations I listened to in one city are nowhere to be found once I moved. Likewise, depending on your location, there can be a paucity of radio stations playing what you want to listen to.
Enter Internet radio. Transmitted anywhere, good to go at any time, as long as your connection has sufficient bandwidth, you can tune in to one of literally hundreds of options. And one of the leaders in internet radio is AccuRadio.
AccuRadio is free Internet radio, sponsored via ads (both on the site and in the radio stream) as well as sales via Amazon.com items that are linked from the site and while listening. There are close to 300 different stations, with a multitude of styles to choose from including Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classical, International and different decades. Each category has subcategories allowing the listener to further fine tune what they are listening to.
Offering even more customization, in each station the listener can select certain artists to not be played at all. The music is delivered via a pop-up window in IE. Firefox users are out of luck at the moment, that is if you keep your browser up to date. There is a plug-in that works for 1.0 versions of the browser, but I was unable to get it to work using the most recent 1.5 version. This is a known issue and will hopefully be remedied soon.
Likewise, I could not get the stream to play using Opera 8.53, though I have not attempted with the 9 betas. There is no documentation of efforts to get AccuRadio to play in Opera browsers at this time, which is an oversight worth mentioning.
The stream is delivered at 32 kbps, and based on the sound quality at that rate, I am making an educated guess that it is in .wma format (which allows for better sound quality at a lower bit rate). It certainly is acceptable to listen to at this quality, though you won’t be tossing out your CD collection (or self-ripped .mp3 files) in favor of just listening to AccuRadio.
With all the choices available, and the customization options, one would think there is something for everybody. Sadly, I didn’t find that to be so. There are a number of rock stations, but very few hard rock/metal stations to choose from. I realize that this type of music isn’t the most mainstream, but is popular enough that I find it shocking that there is not a single actual metal station available.
AccuRadio is a good site, with many choices available for the listener. I ran into no technical issues when trying to listen via Internet Explorer. Changing stations, skipping songs, and clicking on links all worked fine. However, it is disappointing to note that there are many who cannot use the site at this time, as they do not use IE.
With the growth in popularity and use of alternate browsers such as Firefox and Opera, this is a glaring omission at this time. Audio quality is acceptable, but certainly not good enough for true audiophiles, and may even get tiring to the casual listener. Customization options and choices are significant, and will likely be sufficient for most, but there are some omissions that could prevent a number of users from seriously using the site as a source of music.