The Tech-pert: Three Cool Things You Can Do with Streaming Audio

The Tech-pert: Three Cool Things You Can Do with Streaming Audio

You’ve heard of Pandora, right? It’s the Web-based radio service that lets you choose your favorite artist or type of music, then builds a custom station for you around that choice.

For example, just type in “Adele,” and Pandora will create a whole playlist of songs and artists with similar styles. It’s ridiculously cool.

And it’s only the tip of the streaming-audio iceberg. (For the uninitiated, streaming audio means music that’s delivered in real-time over the Internet, as opposed to broadcast over the airwaves like traditional radio.) With a little know-how, you can access more Internet-radio goodness than you ever thought possible.

To make the most of these options, you’ll need a smartphone or tablet and the Pandora and Slacker apps. Both are available for Android and iOS, and both are free—though you can enjoy commercial-free listening (and a few other perks) for a small monthly fee. Of course, you can also listen on your PC as well as various media-streaming devices (like Roku boxes).

Set the Mood

Planning a romantic evening with your significant other? A wild and crazy party? Maybe you just want some quiet background music while you curl up with a good book. Whatever the occasion, services like Pandora and Slacker can serve up suitable tunes.

See, although they’re famed for creating custom stations based on your preferences, Pandora and Slacker also offer a variety of preprogrammed “genre” stations—everything from dance-pop to Valentine’s Day to music for kids.

Laugh It Up

If you’ve ever tried satellite radio, you know that SiriusXM offers a handful of comedy stations—most of which aren’t very good.

That said, what could be better than listening to a playlist of your favorite comedians? Thanks to Pandora and Slacker, you can do exactly that.

For example, create a Pandora station called “Jerry Seinfield,” and you’ll hear from not only the stand-up legend, but also the likes of Steven Wright, Jim Gaffigan, and Bill Cosby. Awesome.

Pandora also offers about a dozen comedy genre stations, while Slacker serves up four. However, the latter lets you create a custom comedy station with exactly the artists you like, where Pandora lets you pick only one and guesses at the rest. Thus, if you’re serious about comedy, I think Slacker offers the better listening.

Get Local

Want to listen to a radio station from your hometown? Or maybe keep listening to that NPR program after you get out of the car? Maybe you’ve just exhausted your own music library and want to hear what’s playing on the adult-alternative stations.

There are plenty of Android and iOS apps that will stream local radio stations, but the best I’ve found by far is TuneIn Radio, which tunes in more than 50,000 stations worldwide. It can find local stations, pause and rewind what you’re listening (just like a DVR), built a list of favorites, and much more.

Amazingly, the app is free, though you might want to consider splurging a whole buck to get the Pro version, which adds radio recording to the feature list.

By the way, if you’re not into music or comedy, how about a nice book? With Simply Audio, you can stream unlimited audiobooks for $24.95 per month.

Rick Broida has spent the last 25 years writing about technology in all its forms. A self-proclaimed cheapskate, he authors an eponymous blog for CNET. He is also a contributor to CNET's iPhone Atlas and Ehow Tech. Broida's book credits include the best-selling "How to Do Everything with Your Palm Handheld" and the more recent "The Cheapskate Rules: 21 Easy Money-Saving Tech Secrets."

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