Here are the top 5 classical music radio stations you can hear online, hand-chosen by an enthusiastic listener (me!)...
BBC Radio 3. This world-famous UK classical music station is probably my favorite.
I used to wake up each morning before school with some exciting classical piece playing right beside my head thanks to this station!
Regular features include a composer of the week program, and a lunchtime concert. They also have some jazz radio, and more during the late-night "Late Junction" show.
You can listen live, as well as up to seven days after a program has aired.
Radio 3 also has full coverage of the world-famous BBC Proms, the biggest classical music festival in the world. No other station has this coverage!! (This station doesn't have advertisements)
KING FM. Based in Seattle, Washington, this station has an interesting mix of less well-known pieces.
It's lister-supported, so there are no annoying adverts - just music! They lack the depth of analysis the programs on Radio 3 have, but I quite like the selection of music they have here.
The whole package (from the website to the shows to the choice of pieces) is just clean, and works well.
They also have a great minute-by-minute playlist so you can find that piece you really liked but missed the name of. It's surprising how many stations don't have some kind of online feature like this, but KING FM handles it very well. Thumbs up from me!
WCPE Classical. This North Carolina-based station, which has been going in one way or another for about 30 years, plays continuous music (i.e. no special historical/informative programs).
Depending on your preferences this is either great or a drawback; personally I prefer stations like this, since I can just tune in any time and enjoy the music.
One area which the station does very well is in having little "themed" features, where all the music they play is tied to one theme. These are always changing, and always interesting!
Some examples include a Women composers/conductors/performers show to celebrate Women's Equality Day, a day of French composers to celebrate Bastille Day, and a show with famous classical pieces which have been used in classic films.
They keep an excellent record of all the pieces they've played, along with the performer and even the record label! The mix of music leans towards the "older" (i.e. pre-1800) classical music.
There are both monthly and weekly listener request programs. This station has no adverts either, since it's listener-supported. Definitely a great classical music radio station!
Classic FM. I see this as kind of the opposite of Radio 3.
Based in London, they present a more popular spin on classical music, with top 10 lists and the like.
They tend to rotate the same selection of pieces throughout the day. This is really good if you just want to hear some beautiful music without complex analysis, for instance if you're driving back from work.
I like the way Classic FM tries to make classical music appealing and accessible to as many people as possible. This station has advertisements, but they're not really that intrusive.
WGUC FM. This classical radio npr station, based in Cincinnati, is a member of the national public radio (USA). They have amazing high definition live streaming of their station, and a good mix of programs.
There's a mix of modern pieces and the great classics. "Classics for kids" and "Composers Datebook" are interesting and a bit different to other things out there.
Unfortunately they have the presenters read out annoying adverts, which they sneakily blend into their descriptions of the music.
So there are my top 5 classical music radio stations!
Here are some other stations you may want to have a listen to...
I tried all of them; the flash stream is fairly good, and obviously the 128k stream is the best, but I can't help feeling that there was still a little dryness to the sound.
One feature I'm really impressed with on this classical music radio station is the incredibly detailed and useful playlist search.
It lets you look at the full playlists for each and every program WWFM has. You can search by date range, and the playlist times are accurate to the second! Very useful.
Classical 96.3 FM is a Canadian station with a good live player, which plays on your browser and shows you the current piece/composer. You can also request pieces online via the website.
This is a fairly middle-of-the-road station owned by a big media company. The selection of pieces is nicely varied with some less common composers frequently popping up.
There's also a "what was that piece" feature on the site, which goes back one week and shows the pieces accurate to the minute. Not as good as some of the other stations, but good enough.
All Classical is a listener-supported classical music radio station from Portland, Oregon.
There's an online player with decent quality sound, but it's a bit clippy sometimes when the music buffers for a few seconds.
Before you listen online you're also treated to a little blurb about the station, which is impossible to switch off and could get annoying after several repetitions.
However, their playlist is good, and lets you browse back through months of shows. I like the selection too, since it has interesting and unusual arrangements of pieces by popular composers, and less well-known pieces too.
An interesting mix of pros and cons!
KMFA is a classical station from Austin, Texas. The stream is only 96k but somehow still sounds very good quality. They also offer some on-demand programming, although I would say that the selection is very small.
The programming is rather bizarre; they seem to mix the great classics with all sorts of other jazz and rock music. I think this isn't a very good idea as it dilutes your enjoyment and can be quite jarring!
Otherwise they have a very advanced playlist feature, letting you search back through the months and accurately find what you're looking for.
WUOL is another listener-supported station, this time from Louisville in the USA. Their streaming browser player is good enough, although suffers from small clips sometimes.
Their online playlist is rather strange, since they only show you several pieces from the whole day, without any feature to search. Based on what I can see though their selection is average, with the usual names popping up plus some slightly uncommon composers.
It's difficult to find a good classical station to listen to sometimes! Some don't have very good choices of music, while others have low quality sound.
The stations listed above are some of the best "real-world" stations (i.e. they're from an actual geographical place), which also have "listen online" features so you can tune in over the internet.
Try them before you try others, and you might save some time!
Also have a look at the list I compile of internet-based classical radio stations.
For information on getting the best sound quality from these stations, check out the home audio system section.
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