Listening to music makes everything more fun. Instead of wasting your time with managing playlists or putting up with poor local stations, consider listening to the radio online. You can choose from countless fantastic Internet radio stations, many of them dedicated to specific genres, and you might even discover a few that are free of commercials.
First, you need a player to access the stations. In the realm of desktop tools, you can choose from two avenues; either outfit your existing media player with radio streams or find a dedicated app that meets all your radio needs.
Dedicated Internet Radio Apps
TapinRadio is a desktop tool for Windows 7 and 8. It comes pre-loaded with hundreds of stations. New stations can be added via the File menu; links saved to the clipboard will conveniently load into the URL field and SHOUTcast URLs are supported natively. Apart from being an Internet radio player, TapinRadio can also record streaming audio.
The simple and intuitive interface includes a station search. To filter stations by region, genre, or network, make your selection via the little arrowhead next to the search field (items also available via the Stations menu item) or click ALT + B to launch the station browser.
TapinRadio is a great little tool with many smart options. Some advanced features, like lyrics or adding podcasts, are restricted to the pro version.
Those of you living in the US and looking for a mobile or modern Windows 8 app, iHeartRadio is the latest and greatest. Unfortunately, I can only judge it from afar as it’s not available in my geographical location.
Apart from giving you access to hundreds of US radio stations, iHeartRadio also has a music discovery engine like Pandora and can play music based on your mood or current activity. The app is available for a wide range of mobile devices, provided you reside within the US.
Wherever you live, you can tune into thousands of stations worldwide on your mobile devices and in Windows 8 using TuneIn Radio. Browse stations by music genre, location, and discover talk or sports stations.
What’s missing is a way to search stations within the Windows 8 app. I also thought the Windows 8 app was a little buggy; it lagged and crashed and generally felt a little too basic.
Stream Radio On Your Media Player
This is one of the best media players for Windows and it’s cross-platform. It comes pre-loaded with the Icecast Radio Directory and Jamendo Selections. To access these collections, open the View menu and click Playlist or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + L to switch to the view shown below or back. When you expand Internet on the left-hand side, you will find the respective playlists, some of which might not be available to you, depending on your geographical location. Double-click a channel to start streaming in VLC.
You can save your favorite stations to the current playlist and via the Media tab Save Playlist to File (CTRL + Y) for future use. You can also open stations manually, provided you have the streaming link. Go to Media and select Open Network Stream… (CTRL + N). Alternatively, you can right-click the playlist, choose Advanced Open… and switch to the Network tab. Enter the network URL for the Internet radio station and click play. The station will auotmatically be added to your playlist.
Unfortunately, the SHOUTcast directory was pulled several years ago, but you can add individual stations after copying the streaming ULR (see screenshot above) from the SHOUTcast website.
Hard to believe, but Microsoft made listening to Internet radio rather straight forward. In WMP 12, click the Media Guide link in the bottom left, which will open the respective website in the player. Here you can browse stations by genre and open them directly.
Click the Play tab in the top right to see the station that is currently playing. From here, you can drag it into one of your Playlists in the menu on the left. Easy!
To manually add radio stations by URL, go to File and Open URL… (CTRL + U). You’ll notice that WMP 12 doesn’t support PLS files, the SHOUTcast format. You can either copy the streaming URL from the PLS file by opening it in notepad, or install a tool aptly named Open PLS in WMP. Note that you’ll need to open files with OpenPlsInWMP, which will then launch the stream in WMP 12.
Internet Radio Is Alive & Kicking
The widespread use of modern mobile apps indicates that Internet radio is still going strong. In case you cannot find what you’re looking for in the preset stations, you can manually add stations from other online resources.
What is your favorite (online) radio station? Please share a streaming link with the rest of us if you have one!