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Online Audio Listening Quick Intro


A quick intro to online listening...

The computer is a multimedia device, and no longer just an e-mail machine. With the right software and adequate computer resources, professional audio editing, video editing, and even complete music synthesizers appear on-screen. Even consumer computer stores have entry-level video/audio packages to process your audio collection or camcorder movies into CD's or DVD's. Some computers are being marketed as high-end audio/visual components.

At the very least, your computer should have some good speakers or a direct connection to your main stereo listening system. Some computer speaker systems can do an amazing job for as low as $100. But why spend any more when a cheap cable can run right to your stereo from your sound card's "line out"? (Oh, and of course headphones have their place, too.)

Your Internet connection? There are fewer and fewer media sites that have much of a chance of working with a dial-up account anymore. Even the lowest speed options from a cable or DSL provider will give you enough bandwidth for good audio. The lowest speed my cable company offers is 768 kilobits/second, which is plenty for a near-CD quality 128 kilobits/second audio stream! DSL providers in this range will be good enough for this, too.

Once you're wired up, how do you listen (and view, for video items)?

Software is free from the providers (at least a basic version - some will try to sell you their "pro" versions, various subscription music services, etc., so beware and click your links carefully). The dominant Windows operating system from Microsoft includes the Windows Media Player, which covers some basic needs, but do NOT depend on it for some of the more interesting stuff out there. Get these:

  • RealPlayer - (external link) (Windows, Mac, Linux) - an early internet multimedia leader, RealMedia? streams are still common (and the BBC still uses it as its primary internet broadcast format), although lots of other options have become popular in the market place.
  • Winamp (external link) (Windows)- I've come to love this for day-to-day CD and mp3 playback - maybe it's their trademark llama in the logo :-) ... But more importantly, it plays the newer aacPlus streams being used by many classical webcasters. This is a very fine format that tests show sounds better at slower bitrates than the old standby, mp3.
  • QuickTime and/or iTunes (Windows, Mac) - (external link) / (external link) - another fine media format that you should be ready to roll with. The QuickTime? player will often show up right in your browser window to play .mp3 files and some other formats, depending on configuration.
  • Flash Player - if you're able to play YouTube? videos in your web browser, you already have this - if not, install it at (external link). I mention this especially because the organ program "Pipedreams" recently upgraded its audio quality to 128 kbps mp3, but what isn't made clear is that it is the Flash Player that actually does the work!
ADDITIONAL SOFTWARE OPTIONS - fun, somewhat geeky, but very versatile stuff:
  • VLC Media Player (external link) - (Windows, Mac, Linux) Very versatile player that deals with almost everything but RealMedia?. It can save the media you're playing, stream it to another computer, and more. If you want to play aacPlus on a machine you can't install software on (e.g., your company machine), you can get this in a Windows "portable" version (external link) that will run off a flash drive. Like MPlayer below, it has a (complicated!) command-line interface to make automated captures easier.
  • MPlayer (external link) - (Windows, Mac, Linux) multi-format player that was first designed to work only from the "command line" interface (i.e., like your old DOS computer!). Don't laugh - in conjunction with Windows "scheduled tasks" (and its equivalent in Linux), this makes a nice free way to set up automatic recordings to disk of streaming Internet media, and is the way I archive lots of material! Importantly, it handles RealMedia? (but there are some complications for the average user that I won't get into here...). Windows "portable" version (external link) is available also (with a standard point-and-click interface for ease of use).
See Internet Audio Recording for more of my recording approach.

Created by: admin. Last Modification: Monday 13 of October, 2008 19:55:07 CDT by admin.

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