Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Real Player radio on demand

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Earlier in the year I wrote a post explaining how to go about converting web-based, Real audio radio streams into a more portable format. Since then a new-ish Mac application has emerged to streamline (see what I did there?) the process even further.

In the spirit of granny-proof Mac software, Stream Recorder does everything for you without asking any complicated questions or pestering you with inane dialogue alerts and requires no ancillary software. There are no parametres to tweak before you begin recording; you simply drag 'listen again' links into the application window and leave it to generate an MP3 file, which can then be transferred to your not-necessarily-Apple-branded MP3 player.

There's a clue in the title of the app, but for anyone who hasn't yet had their first coffee of the day, Stream Recorder captures audio in real-time so it's prone to connection drop-outs unlike the Flashget / HiDownload / Net Transport / Mass Downloader plus Switch method (which involves downloading .ra files via a resumable download manager before converting them locally).

That said, it performed flawlessly when I tested it with two three-hour, 32 kbps broadcasts. It could be that the application has some sort of built-in blip recovery gizmo in place, but as I haven't experienced any yet I can't be certain one way or the other. If not your recordings are no more susceptible to premature coma than they would be if recorded using better established software like Audio Hijacker - on several occasions whilst 'hijacking' BBC radio streams, Real Player has ceased transferring data and Audio Hijacker hasn't known how to pick up the ball again.

In each case Stream Recorder churned out a 163mb MP3 file encoded at 128 kbps. This seems to be the application's default - and unalterable - setting, though as you're unlikely to find web audio streams encoded at a superior bitrate I don't see it as a limitation. Well unless, at the other end of the spectrum, you're running low on flash memory capacity.

One feature I would like to see included in future releases is a timer to indicate how long a stream has been recording. Oh and it wouldn't hurt to drop the redundant, obligatory association with the iPod. Otherwise Stream Recorder gets a big thumbs up from yours truly.


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