I recently wrote an article about a nice little utility for Linux that is able to capture streaming radio (Shoutcast and Icecast), off the Internet. I now find myself using Windows for a few weeks, and decided to look for something like it. The program I used in Linux was not cross-platform, but I was still happy to find a very similar program. Called Streamwriter, it allows for many of the main functions, and happily does it in a nice, easy to use interface.
First, why would someone want to do this? I listen to a lot of radio streams, and many of the ones I listen to play a lot of live concerts. They aren’t the greatest quality (to make sure the stream doesn’t skip, the bitrates are lowered, which means a little lower fidelity), but they’re still nice to have, especially if I’m listening on my MP3 player. It’s certainly possible to find tools that simply capture all the audio that’s being pushed through a computer’s soundcard, but Streamwriter, and utilities like it, generally offer a few more options.
Using Streamwriter is pretty simple. Just enter the URL of the stream you want to capture and hit the Record button. Behind the scenes, Streamwriter starts streaming the audio and capturing it as it comes in. Depending on your settings, you can also listen to the stream through your media player, or else listen to the captured audio, which is nice for making sure everything is working correctly.
Often times when I’m recording, I have no intention of listening right then, which makes it nice that Streamwriter has an option to show an icon in the notification area, as well as minimizing to the notification area when closed. This way it is out of the way, but still recording.
Most streaming audio is in MP3 or AAC format (and Streamwriter supports both), which means the streams can include tags, which include artist name, album (or concert), song title and more information. Streamwriter supports these tags, and even allows the individual songs to be renamed according to this information. This is useful for organizing the songs (not to mention being able to tell what each track is, compared to Song001.mp3 and Song002.mp3, which with other stream rippers is the reality). And since some streaming stations include little commercials, Streamwriter offers to ignore anything smaller than a certain size (a size generally too small for an actual song).
And for complete radio junkies, Streamwriter supports streaming and writing multiple radio streams at once. This wouldn’t be too useful for listening while recording, but is good if the goal is to just dump the music to hard drive and listen later.
I’ve used quite a few stream ripping utilities in the past, and in many ways Streamwriter is nearly identical. From listening to the stream while recording to ID3 tagging to recording multiple streams, there aren’t any “new” features being offered here. However, it’s one of the few programs I’ve used that offers them all, and for that I think it’s something I’ll keep around.