Start Your Own Internet Radio Station for Free

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Patrick Miller, PCWorld
PC World
Tuesday, March 9, 2010; 12:19 AM

If you're the kind of person who insists on handpicking a road-trip playlist rather than just setting your music player to shuffle, you were born for radio, baby. Fortunately, you don't have to let your daily life get in the way of your broadcasting fantasies. As long as you have a PC with a broadband connection, you have what it takes to inflict your talk-radio rants or musical taste on anyone who'll listen.

The Quick Way

For a quick and dirty way to stream music to your buddies, you can simply grab a male-to-male 3.5mm RCA audio cable, plug one end into the microphone jack and the other end into the headphone jack, and either start a Skype session or sign up for an account with a Web-based streaming service (Justin.tv or Ustream.tv, for example) to get going.

Your computer will feed your audio output (from the headphone jack) to the audio input (from the mic jack) and broadcast it to whoever is on your stream. All you have to do is open up your MP3 player of choice and you're ready to rock.

Justin.tv even supports Youtube playlists, so your listeners can stay on after you sign off.Of course, if you want to set up something that gives your listeners a distinctly radio experience, you'll have to do a little more work than that.

Perform the steps below, and you'll have an online radio station that can stream to Icecast or Shoutcast servers like the big radio stations do.

Step 1: Get Your Gear

You don't need any special audio gear for this project--aside from a mic, if you plan to say anything (song introductions, station identifications, or whatever). What you do need is a handful of different apps: one to play your music files, one to turn the audio feed into a streamable source, and one to act as a server for sharing your stream with the world.

You have plenty of options to choose from in all of the above categories, and each app has its own merits. In this tutorial, we'll use Winamp to play the music, Edcast (the Winamp plug-in, not the stand-alone version) to turn it into a stream, and Icecast2 to serve it up. The Edcast/Icecast2 pairing is unusually easy to configure for different types of radio servers and audio formats.

You'll also need to download a special .DLL file (lame_enc.dll) if you want to broadcast in an MP3 format (which is more compatible with older audio players): Download the zipped version, unzip it, and put lame_enc.dll in Winamp's root directory (it usually is located in C:/Program Files/Winamp).

Step 2: Set Up Your Server

Before you start streaming, you'll need to estimate the size of audience you expect (or want). Your capacity to stream music depends on your Internet connection's upstream speed--the speed at which you can send data to other computers. At faster upstream speeds, you can accommodate more listeners with a higher level of audio quality.

Since both connection speeds and digital audio quality are measured in kilobits per second (kbps)--not in kilobytes per second (KBps)--you can figure out how much bandwidth you need to serve your radio station by plugging the numbers into this formula:

Simultaneous listeners x Audio bitrate = Required bandwidth


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