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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Do it Yourself Internet Radio

I rarely listen to the radio unless I'm in the car, or cooking. In the kitchen we have a DAB radio, which I usually tune to Jazz FM or, on the suspiciously large number of times when Jazz FM isn't actually playing jazz, Planet Rock. A few days ago I happened to notice that the DAB radio had a USB port on the side. I still don't know why it needs this, but it got me thinking again about getting an Internet radio. Trouble is, they start at around the £100 mark, which seems a bit steep, particularly as, a recent All About Android podcast informed me, I could listen to internet radio for free on my mobile phone with the TuneIn Radio app.

A lightbulb came on inside my head (and not one of the longlife ones, which take a few minutes to warm up) What if I plugged my mobile's earphone socket into something with a speaker? I'd have my own internet radio.

(Or I could listen to my mobile through earphones. However, for some reason listening to music in a world of my own without disturbing anyone else is deemed more anti-social than playing it out loud for everyone to hear.)

My first attempt was the Sound Traveller universal USB speaker. Not very expensive, but unfortunately not very loud either, and the sound was a bit tinny. I had much more success with E-volve MP3 Vibe-Dock Home portable speaker system. This runs off the mains, and has an excellent sound for £25. It has a USB outlet, so it can charge my phone up even as the phone streams music at it. I've tried this once, and the speaker system started to give off a faint smell of overheating electronics, so I'll probably use that feature sparingly. Bizarrely, the system also has an earphone socket, though why I should ever need that I can't begin to imagine.

So now I can listen to radio stations from around the world in the kitchen, and the question comes down to choosing which station to listen to. Or whether to listen at all. I have Spotify on my mobile, which lets me listen to millions of songs. I could build the playlist of my choice and listen to that instead. (Or not, because it seems that the Spotify app now bombs out a few seconds after logging in. Tried reinstalling it, but no luck. Haven't used it for months, so no idea when this behaviour started, and may have to wait until it just as mysteriously stops. Anyway, I reckon my argument still stands.)

Radio listening has the advantage of serendipity, plus I always find that music I know sounds much better when someone else chooses to play it. However, the amount of access we now have to music creates a new variation of the old question, "What do you give to someone who has everything?"