Audio Streaming Formats
Thanks to streaming music, there’s nearly a limitless supply of music available at our fingertips in a variety of audio streaming formats.
Some of these formats are:
- Streaming MP3
- RealNetworks’ Real Audio
- Microsoft’s Windows Media
- Apple’s QuickTime
- Beatnick’s Rich Music Format (RMF)
- RealMedia G2 with SMIL
What is Streaming Music?
Streaming music allows you to listen to the tunes of your choice without downloading the full file to your computer.
When you select your chosen music, data instantly starts to arrive to your computer in a process called buffering. The speed at which this happens depends on your available bandwidth, but typically it only takes a few seconds.
The audio begins to play as new data continues being sent to your computer in a process referred to as streaming. You’ll get to enjoy constant sound as long as your computer receives a constant stream of data. If there’s net congestion, meaning there are a lot of people trying to access the same data through streaming at the same time, your audio transfer might be interrupted and you’ll no longer be able to hear music.
It’s also possible to use streaming media to access downloadable files like .au, .wav, MIDI, Liquid Audio and MP3s that you can permanently save to your computer for your future listening pleasure.
Accessing Streaming Audio
Software is necessary to listen to streamed audio. Your choice of software will depend on the types of audio streaming formats you’re trying to access.
For example, if you’re trying to access streaming MP3 data, you can usually play this data with Winamp. Sometimes you’ll be able to configure Windows Media to play MP3 streams.
In many cases you’ll need a few different types of software to listen to the various types of audio streaming formats. Not all formats can be played on all software types. Usually you’ll be told the type of software you need when you click the button to stream the music of your choice.
After you click on the button, the streaming will begin by compressing the digital audio file and breaking it into small packets of data that can be buffered to your computer for playback.
Streaming Audio to Stereo
If you’re not impressed with the sound quality of your computer speakers, it’s possible to listen to a variety of audio streaming formats from your home stereo equipment.
To do this you’ll need a wireless music system that basically connects your computer to any stereo speaker in your home using your Internet. There are many different kinds and they all provide slightly different services.
For the person looking to get the most bang for their buck, the Orb MP-1 is a good option. The unit costs around $70 and comes with free computer software and a free app that turns your smart phone into a remote.
The software, Orb Caster, works on both PCs and Macs and indexes all the media files you have on your computer. It can also transfer the music you’re streaming instantly to the Orb device connected to your stereo allowing you to enjoy live international radio from the better-sounding speakers of your home stereo system. A Wi-Fi connection is necessary.