If you own an Internet radio such as the Sangean WFR-20, IRIS Web Radio, Denon S32, the Victor Reader Stream New Generation, or the Logitech Squeezebox Boom, et al, you’ve probably noticed that their station aggregation web sites, to which many of these radios are intimately tied, may not have a particular stream that you’d like to play. You could ask the webmasters to add the station to their database. But if you do not supply a stream URL that’s compatible with the device(s) they support, they will not generally put it in. So, In order to add that station, either to the website databases or to a favorites list on your device, you first must find a playable audio stream URL (one that will in fact, play on your radio).
However, once you find the stream URLs, actually getting them into your Internet radio and seeing if they’ll play correctly, is a device-specific procedure that we will leave to you as an exercise, for now. If there’s enough demand however, we’ll produce additional articles, detailing these procedures for various Internet radios. This article offers hints on how you could go about obtaining that audio stream, though we don’t discuss here, how to use it. Presumably, you already know how to apply it locally to your streaming device.
Check Station’s Web Site for Their Live Stream
Most broadcasters these days have their own web sites, that feature listen live or on-air links, which allow Internet users from all around the globe to listen in to their programs. Sometimes you can get a useable stream URL just by visiting the link with your browser or looking at the link properties.
But nowadays, these links usually do not point directly at the playable stream URL, but rather, to a Flash-based player URL, intended for listening on a personal computer, smart phone, or tablet. These Flash URLs typically will not work as a live stream URL in non smart Internet radios. Still though, checking out the radio station’s website first, often yields the results you want. If it doesn’t, continue reading.
Check the Search Engines for the Station’s Audio URL
Remember, Google is your friend. So, if the above procedures have not netted you the playable stream URL you desire, then search for it on Google, AOL, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, et al. Just search for “wwsw stream” for example, if you’re looking for the audio URL for WWSW FM.
Sometimes, people exchange information about the many thousands of streams on the Internet, by way of the various forums at the Internet radio manufacturer web sites. Your Internet search will often retrieve posts relating to some of these discussions, and occasionally, a listener will share URLs that they’ve recently tested and found to work well. Your station may be among these.
But if the forum(s) aren’t searchable (have blocked search engines), often, you can find an article that lists the stream, just by perusing these forums yourself; a time-consuming procedure to be sure, but one well-worth spending a few minutes doing, if you really want to listen to that station on your favorite Internet radio.
You could even post a question to these forums that discuss Internet radio, asking if anyone knows the stream URL. The Internet Radio website lists several forums to consult, along with FAQs, listening tips, and thousands of station links.
Check for the Stream on Devices That Already Have It
You may already have an Internet radio that plays the desired station stream, but would like to play it on others of your devices that do not have it. Usually, streams like this can also be played on your computer, and if you can play it there, then this raises the odds considerably that you’ll be able to find a useable URL that will play on your desired device. See below for details.
Look for Desired Station on Popular Internet Radio Services
If it does not however, then you can check out a plethora of Internet radio aggregator servers that exist nowadays. These generally do not link to Flash players and apps currently, since they support many devices that cannot run Flash or any apps in general.
We’ve listed below, just a sampling of them along with their web site URLs. For some of these, to search the lists of stations they offer, you’ll need to create an account, or actually have a device serial number that they support.
- iHeart Radio
- Internet Radio
- iTunes Radio (Need iTunes software installed to view stations)
So, in short, the first major step in this procedure, is to find stations that you desire, that play on your computer. This is half the battle, and the other half, is to actually extract the stream’s URL, that you can then plug into the desired listening device. How you might get that URL is discussed next.
Get the Stream URL
Unfortunately, the actual audio stream URLs are not typically visible in either the web sites or the Internet radios themselves. Typically, the radios and sites show you only the name and brief textual description of the station; not its stream URL. So, you must do a bit of detective work to get them, and / or enlist the aid of a couple handy software tools that show you the URLs as you connect to them. The procedures below can help you zero in on that streaming media URL you’re after.
Network Sniffer Software Can Display Live Stream URLs
We’ve successfully use the following URL detection programs to find broadcast stream URIs.
These two free programs can show you the network traffic that your computer is generating and receiving. In a nutshell, you can install one of them, set it to watch the net traffic, and then play the station’s listen-live link or on air link, or any link that plays the station on your computer. These net monitors will then display all the URLs that your computer requests as it begins to play the station. Chances are, that one or more of these is a playable URL for your desired device.
However, you’ll typically see many, MANY URLs fly by when you start a station, and figuring out which one is the actual stream URL can seriously challenge your resolve. The above programs can help with this, as they feature URL filters that allow you to display only the multimedia URLs. Even then however, you still may see a high count of them. But eventually, you may have to simply try playing each URL that appears to be a stream, to see if it actually is the stream. So be sure to sharpen your copy-paste skills for this.
Recognizing Stream URLs
Fortunately, many stations use the same streaming audio services, and so, their playable URLs look similar. We’ve included popular stream URLs, to give you an idea of what they look like. If you see URLs like this in your network monitor program, they are likely the playable streams you’re after.
If an URL contains things like “streamtheworld.com,” “akamaistream.net,” and, “liquidcompass.net,” these are likely the URLs that your computer is playing while you listen there. Often, stream URLs contain the words live, stream, MP3, or AAC. At any rate, once you’ve retrieved the URLs for your desired station that look like this, the next step is to test them out on your desired device.
Again, how to do this depends on your make and model of Internet radio. You may have to add the stream URLs to PLS, M3U, or OPML playlists, although many models can play the stream directly, without it being placed in a playlist file first.
Notice that the URLs above contain URL parameters, which may or may not be necessary to include in the URL that you place into your target device. You want to use as short an URL as possible so long as it still works, to avoid possible errors when copying long URL strings around. However, some streaming sites require URL parameters, for requesting the desired stream type (MP3, AAC, AAC+, et al), as well as various identifiers for purposes that only the streaming service providers know. Again, try the URL with and without the parameters (the part of the string after the question mark).
You need a healthy willingness to experiment a little, to find the right URLs. But once you do, listening to your favorite stations on the net is quite rewarding. They’re very clear, noise free, and global. But keep in mind that URLs change often in this rapidly evolving transmission medium. So do not be surprised that an URL you find today that plays well, will not work tomorrow. Thus, it’s best, once you locate a playable URL for a station, to submit it to the bigger webradio aggregation websites, and then they’ll often update it for you, should it change.
Hope this tutorial helps you to get your favorite audio streams onto your favorite devices for playback anytime you’re connected to the Internet. Will add more as questions about this content surface. Good luck.
- 2015-11-28: Added appropriate tags.
- 2015-09-19: Added the Suggested Reading section along with more appropriate tags.
- 2014-11-24: Original publication.