Saturday, January 14, 2017

It's Time To Stream Some Music

A recent Christmas present from my wife was Chromecast Audio, a very small device that can be attached to my Yamaha home theater receiver. It’s no more than half an inch thick and not much wider than a silver dollar. Basically, it looks like a small, black, plastic, hockey puck with a couple of wires attached.

Once Chromecast was plugged into the RCA V-AUX outlet on my system all I had to do is register it online and begin streaming music directly from my laptop. Installation is easy even for those of us who are not tech savvy. Now I can play streamed music through my Klipsch floor speakers in beautiful, room filling, clarity.

There are additional ways to plug Chromecast Audio into traditional speakers (what some people now call "dumb" speakers) and equipment so you can use it virtually with any kind of setup. You can enjoy Chromecast by using apps downloaded to your phone or ipad or on a laptop or desktop computer.

Chromecast Audio is inexpensive too. It lists at $35, but my wife purchased one at Best Buy for only $25. You can’t buy it from Amazon because the online shopping giant considers it competition for their own Echo. I’m using it to replace my Sirius/XM subscription that was now surpassing $100 per year and because there are so many streaming sites available I have far more opportunities to hear a lot of different music.

Now it's time to move on to the reason technology such as Chromecast Audio exists and that is listening to music.

Chromecast easily works well with both Pandora and Spotify but there are lots of sites beyond those two that offer a thousands of songs, artists, and genres so let's discuss a couple of very good ones that you can use.

AccuRadio is completely free and for my money it's one of the best streaming platforms currently available. It offers over 1,000 stations. You can customize your listening by rating every song you hear. You can even ban songs and artists. Unusually, for a free service the site also offers an unlimited number of song skips.

The Chicago based outfit has stations featuring everything from classical, opera, beautiful music, Broadway, jazz, blues, all kinds of rock music and country fare, folk, singer-songwriters, and hip-hop. There are hits stations for every decade from the 1950s to the 2000s.

Examples of the unique stations AccuRadio fans can sample are "Ladies Sing the Blues," so titled because it plays only blues music performed by women. They have a Korean pop station and a French pop station.

AccuRadio pays the bills with ads on their website and with commercials on their stations. However, to greatly reduce the interruptions per hour you can sign up for a free account. There is never a fee.

The bottom line is if you can't find a station you like using AccuRadio you should not bother making music a part of your life.

Another good streaming service that is geared toward the Philadelphia metropolitan area is iradiophilly.

Unlike AccuRadio, it's a small, local service with only eight stations including a year round Christmas music station and a station that plays only Philadelphia based artists. The website has a definite local slant, including regional news and events, but the radio programming is for everyone, everywhere. Their stations are not commercial free, but the ads are strategically placed so as not to be annoying or overwhelming. They offer a great signal too.

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