As perhaps some of you may have already noted, some stations choose to dress up
their audio streaming links with fancy graphics and flashy advertisements.
This can cause streaming problems with connection speeds of 33.6K or slower.
offers a useful and simple solution to this.
Take a look, for example, at the
WCNY audio frame.
Once this is loaded, pass your cursor over the Windows
transport bar. Now right-click and the Windows
menus will come up. Go to Properties
and then File
and then Content.
There you will see displayed the URL JUST FOR THE AUDIO STREAM ITSELF. The
domain is listed under File
and the file name is displayed in Content.
Now combine these two pieces of information. The File
is listed as
name is listed as wcnyweb. Usually, when one sees that Windows
symbol it means
the file extension is .asx.Therefore the URL for the audio stream itself
up your Windows
mode and plug this address into the File
Open URL window
and click OK.
The stream will then load up, minus the accompanying graphics, in one's standalone
player rather than in one's browser.
We understand that there are reasons why it might be desirable to load up the
full browser audio frame accompanying the stream rather than performing the above
operation. A full browser audio frame can perform useful functions, e.g.
it can keep the surfer apprised of the selection currently playing. So consider
the above operation as an option which can be exercised at the surfer's convenience
rather than a technical operation which must be performed.
There are some sites which disable this function altogether. If one loads
up the Radio
Classique audio frame,
for example, one finds that the Windows Media Player graphic has been buried and
replaced by the station stream provider's own graphic. It is understandable
why this should be so in some instances. Some stations are not very rich
and desperately need to protect their advertising revenue. This is one means
by which they do so. Of course, the process of sitting there while all those
graphics and animations load up can be not a little annoying. But don't
forget that this service is offered free and did not even exist a few years ago.
The emergence of this new technology is an exciting event, however frustrating
the experience occasionally can be.
We hope the above information will increase your enjoyment of Windows
is a horse of a somewhat different color. It helps to be aware of its peculiarities.
You see, in fact, Real
is not ONE format, or codec, as the engineers like to put it; it's THREE.
Up until four or five years ago Real
utilized an audio codec which was frankly not very good sonically. About
the only way one could receive quality audio with the codec was by implementing
stream rates well in excess of the connection speed of the average surfer.
since come out with two significant
Version 6 G2 and Version 8 G2,
and audio streaming on the Net has never been the same.
The two G2
formats are not only totally different from anything previously offered by Real
Player; they are even separate and distinct from each other. They
use different streaming frequencies, and operate differently beneath the surface,
as far as the surfer is concerned.
The 9 most common streaming rates offered by Version 6, in descending order of
quality, are 96.7K stereo, 64.7K stereo, 44.1K stereo, 32.5K stereo, 32.1K mono,
20.7K mono, 20K stereo, 16.2K mono, and 11K mono. The 20K stereo (and its
mono equivalent of 11K mono) are not high fidelity.
The 12 streaming rates offered by Version 8, in descending order of quality, are
352.8K stereo, 264.6K stereo, 176.4K stereo, 132.3K stereo, 96.5K stereo, 64.1K
stereo, 44.1K stereo, 32K stereo, 20.7K stereo, 16.5K stereo, 16.2K mono, and
11K mono. The 11K mono stream is not high fidelity.
Player and Windows Media Player Version 9
offer a feature called
their latest versions, which is non-defeatable. Some stations choose to
activate it, others don't. But the surfer has no choice in the matter.
Scaling, when activated, senses when a stream is not being processed sufficiently
quickly. If the current connection is inadequate to process the stream at
its current speed, scaling
forcibly moves the stream rate to a lower one, with correspondingly lower sonic
quality, in order to protect the stability of the stream. After streaming at a
lower rate for a minute or two the program 'sniffs the waters', as it were, to
see if conditions have improved. If the program
decides they have, it will restore the previous higher-quality higher-frequency
There are two flaws to this feature in practice. First, as the audio switches
from stream rate to stream rate the changes in audio quality, whether for the
better or the worse, are very clearly audible. In addition, in Real
Player Version 6, they are heralded usually by a startling, disruptive,
and loud click, which can be very annoying and unsettling when listening to classical
music. With slow connections on Version 6, the clicks can also be followed
by a break in the sound of as long as a minute.
In Version 6 the scaling process is supposed to take the stream back up to its
previous maximum level when it senses that conditions have improved. This process
is extremely unreliable. In my experience, it usually only works around 30%
to 40% of the time. Most of the time when one finds oneself stuck in the
slow lane with substandard audio quality one usually has no choice but to hit
the stop button eventually and then reload the stream again. Once again this
means that one misses completely a minute or two of the program.
Scaling with Real Player Version 8 seems to operate much more smoothly, with no
loud clicks and no or fewer sound "dropouts" as the stream scales up or down the
speed spectrum. We are still experimenting with the different "fixes" discussed
below to see which ones work well with Version 8.
There is absolutely nothing one can do to override these programs from
there are steps one can take which can sometimes minimize its occurrence.
experimentation is one way by which one can fine-tune Real
reception of audio streams. There are four possible transport protocols one can
utilize to load a stream. Their controls are located in Real
menu and Windows
In Real Player there are two sets of controls for
the transport, one labeled RTSP
the other labeled PNA
codec feeds and the PNA
to plain codec feeds. But the parameters one adjusts in the two windows
are identical. In Windows Media Player there is only one set of controls for the
In my experience, as a general rule of thumb, the most reliable protocol to use
is number 3, TCP. Real
will tell you differently, recommending in most cases that one turn on numbers
1, 2, and 3, and allow the Real Player to try them all in turn until a good connection
is achieved, with HTTP
to be used only as a last resort and manually selectable by the surfer when all
other options have failed. In my experience, without going into the gory
proposed approach is as often a hit-and-miss proposition as it is a guaranteed
path to a good connection.
In fact, a few stations are now ever-so-slowly and grudgingly coming around to
the same point of view. Minnesota Public Radio, for example, came right
out and told the surfer to enable TCP
as the best protocol to use to load their audio stream, -- and promptly lost its
financially favorable arrangement with Real Player. It no longer streams
My experience has been that the other protocols can be useful when and if an audio
stream is acting in a temperamental or unreliable manner. In fact, in such
cases, I have usually found that one of the other protocols solved the problem.
Finally a word about the HTTP
It has one very useful characteristic. While normally not very stable with
high-speed and/or broadband streams (though I have experienced some exceptions
to this), it also streams, when at its best, more stably than the other protocols. This
can be particularly convenient if one is experiencing constant scaling with a
For you see HTTP
basically needs an atom bomb to scale. Unless there is a really dramatic
interruption or disruption to the feed the HTTP
hold on to its current stream rate for dear life.
There is a downside -- if the irresistible force meets the unmoveable object
and the HTTP
indeed forced to scale downwards it will NEVER then scale back up. It will
simply hold on to its new stream rate as tightly as it held on to the previous
one. Nature of the beast.
Assigned Connection Speeds
And then there are assigned "connection speeds."
No, these programs
don't actually reach out and monkey with your modem connection speed. But
they are quite good at mimicking the performance one would get if one WAS hooked
up to a particular modem speed. And this parameter can also be manipulated to
frequently activates upward scaling when it thinks that it's got a connection
speed that's too good for its current stream rate. When that happens Real
will move up to the next stream rate,
--- or will TRY to. Many's the time in the old days, when I used to have
a 56K connection, that I'd be cruising along at 32.1K and suddenly I'd hear scaling
breaks in the sound as the Real
repeatedly and unsuccessfully to move up to the 44.1K level.
But in reality the rule of thumb is that the fastest audio stream rate that is
sustainable for ANY speed connection is usually equal to somewhere between two
thirds and three quarters of the connection's rated speed. For example, in
the case of a good 56K connection, a stream rate equal to between two thirds and
three quarters of the 56K speed will equal somewhere between 37K and 42K approximately,
which places the 44.1K rate firmly out of Real
But try telling that to Real
and you will not go very far; therefore you have to lie to it.
You do so as follows: Open up the View
window and go to Connections. Real
offers two adjustable parameters, the Maximum
and the Normal
In my experience, you're always better off if you maintain an identical speed
for both parameters.
Now set both parameters for a speed no more than 50% higher than the stream rate
at which you desire the Real
For example, for years KBYU used a very poor 20K Stereo Real
feed. Its saving grace was that scaled below its wretched 20K rate was an
excellent 16.2K Mono feed.
to 19.2K. This has the effect of tricking Real
into believing that it will be unable to stream anything much over 16K. Usually
what happens is that after a minute or two the player will settle on the 16.2K
stream as being the fastest available to it, considering its purported 19.2K connect
speed. And once there, it will stream solid as a rock.
This principle applies no matter what your connection speed. For example,
if you have a Dual
line that's experiencing some difficulties, and you know that you will not be
able to stream a scaled G2
feed rate of 64.7K which a given station is offering you, but you know that the
44.1K rate just underneath that on this station's scaling ladder will stream fine,
all you do is set your Preferences
for 56K Modem
and sit back and enjoy.
Conversely if you're dealing with a non-scaled feed, which you are confident your
connection can handle, simply set the Speed
LAN, and enjoy. Real
in this instance, has nowhere to go since there is only one speed available from
the stream. Consequently it will stream the unscaled feed with the greatest
efficiency, and load it in the most expeditious manner possible.
And then, of course, you come across those feeds which sometimes suddenly refuse
to stream at their maximum rate. This can happen occasionally even with Broadband
connections. It is my belief that most such occurences are NOT the result
of network congestion but more likely the result of overload on the transmitting
server. I have come to that conclusion based on the fact that most of the
time when I experience this problem it is confined only to one isolated stream.
Solution? Simply ratchet down your connection speed in the preferences until
one achieves a stable stream rate.
THAT YOU MUST MAKE SUCH ADJUSTMENTS BEFORE LOADING UP A STREAM AND NOT
WHILE RECEIVING A STREAM, AS SUCH ADJUSTMENTS DO NOT TAKE EFFECT WHILE IN THE
MIDST OF STREAMING.
In other words, you have to play a game of start and stop. For example, if WUOT,
which streams at a maximum rate of 176.4K, is exhibiting this problem, hit the
button, adjust the speed to avoid the 176.4K rate, which would be Dual
ISDN, and hit
button. If you get a stable stream rate of 96.5K you've succeeded in your task.
If you do not, move the speed down to 56K Modem,
and try again. If you get a stable stream rate of 44.1K you've succeeded in your
task. If you do not, move the speed down to 33.6K
Modem and try
again, etc., etc.
The annoying, in fact, downright galling, fact here is that this was precisely
the sort of situation which scaling was supposed to remedy. In practice,
however, any loaded stream where the Real Player
has activated scaling normally winds up with a more UNSTABLE stream load experience
rather than a more STABLE stream load experience. In our opinion, the entire
scaling concept, particularly its non-defeatability on the part of the surfer,
is a fundamentally flawed one, and a feature AROUND which one needs to work rather
than a feature which operates in the interest of the surfer's greater CONVENIENCE. We
regret that Windows Media Player Version 9 has chosen
to add this concept to their player now and we think this technology has laid
a real egg with this one.
But for all its technological wrong-headedness, there is no doubt that Real
the player which first introduced reasonable sound for live streams, opened the
door for classical music buffs to enjoy great music in good sound the world over.
It represents a paradigm shift in the enjoyment of music in one's home, and for
that reason if for no other we must gratefully acknowledge Real
ground-breaking technological contribution.
At this point, it should also be noted that the latest incarnations of Windows
Media Player, Version 9 and later, use some slightly different connection
speed options from Real Player. Windows
Media Player lists the following connection speed options, from fastest
to slowest: LAN (10 Mbps), T1 (1.5 Mbps), 768k, 384k, 256k, 128k, 64k, 56k, 33.6k,
and 28.8k. Real Player lists the following connection
speed options, from fastest to slowest: 10 Mpbs LAN, T1/LAN, 512k, 384k, 256k,
112k, 56k, 33.6k, 28.8k, 19.2k, and 14.4k.
Apparently these differences are caused by considerable confusion in the industry
over how to characterize the typical download speeds at these various connection
speed configurations. For example, if you set Windows Media
Player 9 to any of these connection speeds, take a look at the numbers
given in the View Statistics menu once the stream
starts to play. The View Statistics window tells
you at what speed you have configured your player, i.e., it tells you whether
you're configured for ISDN or for T1 or whatever. But it doesn't tell you in terms
of their names (ISDN, T1, etc.). Instead it tells you what connection SPEED is
currently configured in your Tools Options Performance
menu, as described in my paragraph above. And here is the really weird part: the
speed given for each type connection in the View Statistics
menu DOES NOT MATCH the speed given in the Tools Options
Performance menu. For example, when one chooses a 64k ISDN connection in
the Tools Options Performance menu that same connection
shows up as a 58k connection in the View Statistics window.
And the connection type listed as a 128k Dual ISDN connection in the Tools
Options Performance menu shows up as a 115.2k connection speed in the View
I do not know why there appears to be this confusion but, as you can see, either
there is confusion over terminology here, even within the Version 9 Windows
Media Player itself, or Windows Media Player
and Real Player are talking about entirely different
types of connections, or there is a serious lack of standardization over how to
characterize Internet connections. For example, perhaps calling a Dual ISDN connection
a 128k connection is because that is the fastest that a Dual ISDN is physically
capable of operating. And calling it a 115.2k connection is perhaps because that
is the average speed of a Dual ISDN connection, while calling it a 112k connection
may be due to the fact that that is the minimum guaranteed speed of that kind
of connection under ideal Internet circumstances. But whatever the origin of this
bewildering variety of nomenclatures, the fact remains that the most important
operating principle for you, the average listener, is to match whatever speed
option in the player's menu is the closest SLOWER speed to what you believe your
connection speed to be. For example, if you have a 700k DSL connection then you
need to adjust your Real Player maximum connection
speed and normal connection speed to 512k and your Windows
Media Player connection speed to 384k. If you have a 5000k Cable Modem
line, then adjust your Real Player maximum connection
speed and normal connection speed to T1/LAN and your Windows
Media Player connection speed to T1 (1.5 Mbps), and so forth and so on.
Latest Versions of Real Player - Should you upgrade to Real One?
At this point, I think we need to add a few words of clarification concerning
the newest version of Real Player, called Real
One. It is supposed to succeed and update Version 8. However, for our purposes,
this new version of Real Player offers very little.
In fact, we have concluded that it is actually a step backward. There is no presentation
on the main window, either at the bottom or anywhere else, for that matter, to
tell you whether you are experiencing reception problems. About the only way you
can gather that sort of information is in the Tools Playback
Statistics window, and this information is not complete. As many of you
may have noticed, momentary interruptions in a stream, which can result in a momentary
burbling effect in the audio, are generally indicated ONLY by the reception dot
on the main window of Version 8; it does NOT usually show up in the Statistics
window. And yet Real One, in its wisdom, has
chosen to eliminate that presentation on the main window. Very unhelpful decision.
In addition, some of you may have noticed that there are some Real
Player scaled streams (for an explanation of scaling, see above) we list
which have a high fidelity mono stream which runs at 16.2k and run a LOW-fidelity
stereo stream just above that at 20k. Bartok Radio is an example of such a stream.
With Version 8, the procedure for accessing the higher fidelity, lower speed 16.2k
stream is simplicity itself: simply set your maximum bandwidth to 19.2k. But Real
One, again in its wisdom, has ELIMINATED the 19.2k connection option, which
means that anyone who doesn't want to listen to a low-fi 20k stereo feed, or who
has a connection slower than 28.8k, is out of luck: they can't access the high-fidelity
16.2k and 16.5k streams with which many Real Player
streams are equipped. How a design team, which continues to offer the 16.5k stream
as a standard part of the Real Player scaling package,
could decide to remove the very means by which one accesses and listens to that
option is beyond me.
The bottom line: Real One is plagued with terrible
design decisions, and, in addition, does not even offer the capability of playing
an audio format/codec that is not available in Version 8. Therefore, for these
and many other reasons, we continue to recommend that OperaCast visitors use Real
Player Version 8, and all Real Player instructions
on this site use Version 8 as the standard.
what about Real Player 10?
we have discovered a couple of Real Player streams
that won't load and play unless one upgrades to Real Player
10. We are still experimenting with this new version - will it allow one
to play the older Real Player 6 streams that still
exist (although in ever decreasing numbers)? or to connect to slow 19.2k mono
streams, or will it (mis)behave more like RealOne?
& MP3 STREAMS
We have recently received a number of queries from visitors who have had difficulty
playing MP3 streams on either Real
Player or Windows Media Player. In our experience,
MP3 streams WILL NOT play properly (or in some cases
at all) with these players. Download and use WINAMP
to play MP3 streams. Real Player
has a tendency to "hijack" file associations from other programs. If
after downloading WINAMP, an MP3
stream still tries to play in Real Player, simply
copy the stream's URL from the error message that Real Player
generates, paste it into the Location box in WINAMP
and click on the Play button in WINAMP.
is unique among audio players, to our knowledge, in that it offers listeners a
choice of more than one audio driver. The two drivers which are standard with
every version of Winamp are the waveOut driver and
the DirectSound driver. The default configuration
utilizes the waveOut driver. For most stations the
waveOut option is preferred but certain stations
on certain computers sound better with the DirectSound driver.
If you would like to switch your WINAMP audio driver,
or have been advised to do so, the operation is as follows (the exact menus vary
slightly from version to version; we are using WINAMP Version
5.09 as our standard):
anywhere in a free area within the WINAMP interface
(but not in an area where there are buttons or displays). Select Options.
Select Preferences. Select Plugins
Output. You will see a list of the various WINAMP
drivers available to you. Different version have different lists, but all versions
have at least the waveOut and DirectSound
drivers. Select the DirectSound option. Click Configure.
Click Apply. Click OK.
set the driver selection back to its normal waveOut
configuration, right-click any free area within the WINAMP
interface. Select Options. Select Preferences.
Select Plugins Output. Select the waveOut
option. Click Configure. Click Apply.
Click OK. Click Close.
& OGG VORBIS STREAMS
of the newer formats to hit the streamways is Ogg Vorbis.
It has no proprietary player of its own. Rather there are several players out
there which can handle its streams. Of them all we recommend WINAMP
WORD ABOUT IMPROVING SOUND QUALITY (WHICHEVER PLAYER ONE USES)
If one has a Windows computer, then double-click your volume
control, open up Options, open up Properties,
check EVERY ONE of your volume controls, and click OK. You will then see a display
of several volume controls. Please mute EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE VOLUME CONTROLS
EXCEPT FOR THE WAVE BALANCE AND VOLUME CONTROL SLIDERS. Believe it or not, this
significantly improves the noise picture of your analog output. Based purely on
my own listening tests, I would say there is about a 30% to 40% improvement by
employing this procedure. The CD Audio and PC Speaker outputs are particularly
culpable in this regard. I'm a Windows user myself, and I regret that I do not
know whether it is possible to make similar adjustments on a Mac computer.
Just remember, if you encounter any problems as you music-surf, that without this
technology we would never have the opportunity to listen live to Chicago Lyric
Opera broadcasts (which, as of the 2007 season, are now back on the air on WFMT's
opera network), to live broadcasts from Vienna of Janacek's Jenufa with
Karita Mattila, and myriad other operatic offerings which would otherwise be the
strict provenance of opera lovers in a narrow geographical area.
If it is true that the Internet has played its part in transforming us into a
global village, then it is certainly just as true that it is now also playing
its part in bequeathing to us and to our music-loving children a sparkling new
virtual opera house constructed on that global village's Main Street. For
that we must surely be grateful.