I was surprised to find that amongst all my friends and acquaintances there was no-one who new what an internet radio player was. Moreover as we are currently switching over to digital here in the UK I thought most people would be missing a trick.

So what exactly is Internet Radio?

Essentially it is a station that is streamed over the web.  Most commercial and public stations such as the BBC broadcast over the internet making their station available to anyone in the world who has an internet connection.

Streaming over the net is cheaper than running your own real world station which has meant there are many amateur stations which are internet only. I use the word amateur loosely as many internet only radio stations are very professionally run, only on a smaller budget.

How do I listen to internet radio?

There are a few ways to listen to internet radio. You probably have the software already installed to listen already. Windows based computers come with Windows Media player that can play many types of streaming radio. When you come across a radio station or more specifically a link to their stream clicking on it will launch the software on your computer to play the stream. That's it.

Some stations have a built in player on their websites and so you do not need separate software in order to listen to their stream.

There are tens of thousands of different stations covering a multitude of different types of radio. This means that unless you already know where the station you want to listen to is it can be difficult to find it. This brings us to our final option for listening, Internet WiFi radio player or receiver.

So what is a WiFi Internet Radio?

Rather than listening through your computer you can get a separate stand alone radio. This connects to the internet via your WiFi or wireless internet connection usually through your wireless router or hub. It means you can listen to thousands of radio stations from a device that looks pretty much just like an ordinary digital radio.

An internet radio player picks up a list of radio stations and you can choose which one to listen to. The benefits over a DAB radio is that there are many more stations and you are not dependant on signal strength. Some parts of the UK can still not get a decent digital signal.

These WiFi radios have been around for quite a few years. You can use them in any room in your house or even your garden. There are quite a few to choose from such as the Roberts stream 83i or the Tangent Quattro which are both good examples of internet radios.

So why buy an Internet Radio?

Compared to DAB the cost is comparable plus most players have DAB built in anyway. Digital is limited to a handful of commercial and public stations so there is little in the way of choice. Having the whole of the internet broadcasting world opened up to you means that ex-pats can easily listen to station from their countries of birth. You can listen to many specialist music and talk radio channels and even the now infamous Bird Song Radio which no longer broadcasts on digital.

An additional benefit is that you can listen to all of your mp3 music on your radio. Other than streaming the music from your PC many of the modern players have a USB port that you can plug a USB memory stick into containing all your songs. Some radios even have the facility to plug in your mp3 player or iPod.