Tuesday, December 23, 2008

KEXP, Internet Radio on your iPhone & iPod Touch

One of the best alt/indie radio stations out there is KEXP from Seattle, WA. KEXP plays music from prominent national acts as well as highlighting artists from the thriving Pacific Northwest music scene. It seems like every noteworthy band I see that comes through Seattle thanks KEXP for "being the first radio station to play our music" (Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend come to mind as recent examples). It is listener supported, which means no commercials. If you are in the Puget Sound, you can find KEXP at 90.3 on your FM dial. KEXP also broadcasts a high quality stream on their website, www.kexp.org. KEXP can also be found in iTunes Radio under "Alternative."

Being on the road means I won't always have a computer with me. I figured the iPod Touch (and iPhone) must have the capability to stream internet radio. I checked out the top results for a "radio" search in the App Store. I tried two free applications first: iheart Radio and FlyCast Mobile Broadcast Network. iheart could not access KEXP, so that one was out. FlyCast could access KEXP, but the sound quality was very poor. FlyCast also seemed to be about a song or two behind KEXP's website stream. The winner ended up being Radio, a $0.99 app. The sound quality was what you'd expect from a 128k stream and it seemed to be in sync with KEXP's actual broadcast. None of these apps were able to display track and artist information. You can visit KEXP's website to find this information or use your buddy's iPhone to Shazam the song.

Of course, I stream KEXP using a computer when I can. At home, I use Apple TV and Apple's Airport Express. Using what Apple calls AirTunes, I can stream iTunes content to TV for playback on an external television set and home theater system. I also can stream content to a pair of powered speakers that are hooked up to an AirPort Express. Since KEXP can be played through iTunes, I broadcast the station to my TV and Airport Express speakers using my home WiFi network. This leaves my MacBook Pro unencumbered from pesky audio cables and I can avoid placing it in precarious positions near speaker magnets and ledges.

Bottom Line: Buckup and pay the $0.99 for Radio to stream internet radio on your iPhone or iPod Touch. If anything, KEXP is at least worth the dollar.


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