Listening to classical radio online is a great way to enjoy and discover new pieces. Here are reviews of the top internet-only stations, and other specialized ones you may be interested in...
You can also download all the pieces they play in MP3 format, which makes it a great resource for Bach lovers!
They have several different ways of listening, and two streaming qualities. I'd recommend the 'near-CD quality', it's wonderfully clear and great for hearing all the different instruments in a Wagner overture (for example!).
This is one of favorites since it's free and simple, and because the sound quality is very high.
The streaming is a bit weird though - I could only get it to work in my browser, not iTunes. The sound quality is good but not great, and the choice of music sometimes gets a little tedious.
I find the sound quality a bit harsh and slightly distorted sometimes, especially when they play harpsichord music. If you're going to listen I'd recommend you turn your sound down a bit so the harshness doesn't hurt your ears!
Otherwise the station is quite bare-bones. No playlists, no upcoming tracks, no hosts, just pure music. Personally I love this.
The selection of music is vary varied, from the Baroque era to contemporary pieces. The station takes a modern approach to things, with a trendy site, fresh classical news, and of course streams in all the major formats.
The station, which has been going since 2005, relies on donations from listeners. They're up 24 hours a day which is great if you're a night owl like me!!
Good if you just want something simple and pleasant. You can listen through your browser, but beware of the commercial interruptions.
There's a "premium" service which has a higher quality and no advertisements, but I wouldn't recommend it.
The station is completely 'no-frills', so all you get is a list of the upcoming pieces and the music itself. Perhaps this goes against what I talked about above, but it's a great example of a 'pure' classical internet station!
You can listen with either Real Player or Windows Media Player.
It has various sub channels and an extensive catalogue. You can listen through your browser, but the sound quality is slightly tinny.
I quite like the "Symphonic Selections" sub-station, which is a good mix of some of the great orchestral music performed by the world's finest orchestras.
This station features mostly contemporary classical music pieces, although they do intermingle some post-classical/modern era music from the early 20th century.
I think it's a very good selection of exciting music. You can listen to the station through Live365.com, which lets you choose which streaming player you want to use.
You can also browse through their catalog of music and send your request in; this is handled very well.
The amount of music they have available is extraordinary, since it's all focused on one specific era of classical music. I managed to discover some enchanting music by the British composer Arnold Bax after looking through the catalogue briefly. Wonderful!
This would be my top recommendation for this page!
You can choose, for example, "Orchestral (American)", "Orchestral (English)", or even "Orchestral (Contemporary)".
There are also multiple choices for chamber music, piano, and opera, as well as dozens of others. My favorite ones are Piano (Russian), and Opera Highlights.
You listen in your browser. It's a subscription service though, so after a 15-minute trial is up, you have to pay a small yearly fee to keep listening. This is the one thing that stops it from being the best classical radio online service there is!
It has a selection of contemporary and Romantic-era classical music. I quite like the choices here, as they seem to coincide with my own tastes!
You can apparently listen in your browser, although I found this not to work (not the fault of Equinox, but rather of the radio website). Alternatively you can listen with Real Media Player or Windows Media Player.
It's a nice idea, having one easy place to control all your classical radio from, but I couldn't get it to work!
The developers stuck so many bells and whistles on to the tool that it becomes almost useless - I couldn't actually find the section which allowed me to play classical radio.
I suppose one good thing is the classical music blog feed there, which has fresh updates of the newest classical music blog posts all over the web, but that's the only useful thing I got out of the toolbar.
Schoenberg was one of the most unique composers of the 20th century, who created a whole new style of music. It can be difficult to listen to, but also highly stimulating and intellectual.
This radio works in your browser instead of in your music-player software. The quality certainly isn't great, but I think the value comes from their unique focus on Schoenberg. Sometimes they also have live events.
To top it off, the station features an "audioscope" - a music visualizer in the form of an oscilloscope wave, so you can see visual patterns of Schoenberg's music. How odd!
Their site says "The German word Bach means a stream and it reflects the way we broadcast in."
There's a selection of eight different channels to choose from, which cover different areas of Bach's music. I'd recommend the "Greatest Hits" channel for a delightful listen.
You can only listen to the station through realplayer which is a slight drawback (I prefer mp3 streams), but apart from that it's great.
The station is purely music - no annoying adverts! But they rely on listener donations to keep going.
I think the volunteers behind this have done a really good job with the whole package - the station's homepage is hilarious and completely in keeping with the theme of the station. If you like this station then I'd really recommend you donate "a farthing, a groat or even a gold sovereign!" (as the site suggests).
Most normal radio stations in the world have some kind of 'listen online' feature. But beyond this, they don't really take advantage of the possibilities of the internet.
They're still set in the timezone of the broadcast location...
...they sometimes have all sorts of local programs which don't make much sense unless you live in that area...
..and they usually don't have any interactive features on their sites.
C'mon, this is the 21st Century!
But online Classical radio stations have lots of unique features which make them different from traditional stations.
High quality streams, lists of upcoming tracks, and often the choice of many different "sub-stations" make listening to classical internet radio a great way to take advantage of technology.
There are two main types of audio for listening to classical radio online.
They are Real Player, and Windows Media Player. Both have software which you can download to your computer and use to listen. I would actually recommend either iTunes or VLC media player, which combined support all of the radio formats you're likely to find.
However, lots of classical radio online stations let you listen in the browser itself, which is extremely useful!
Sometimes you can also have a choice of streaming quality.
If your connection is slow you can choose radio quality. But if you happen to have a fast connection, you can sometimes strike lucky with a station and get a "near-CD quality" stream, which is perfect for classical music.
The fact that you can listen anywhere... anytime... with added text, links, and pictures on the site, means that listening to classical radio online is much more interesting and fun as well!
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