RTE’s low quality streams

Update October 2011: Following the launch of the new RTE Radio Player this article can be considered deprecated. The audio stream quality issue has been addressed (although I have yet to figure out what the bitrates are) and now for the first time from one central location you can listen back to at least the most recent edition of most shows across all the RTE stations including the DAB stations like 2XM. Congratulations to RTE and all who worked on the project.

As a radio listener who recently discovered the joys of 2XM I have become a little frustrated by the quality of RTE’s online radio streams. RTE provides two stream formats; one Windows Media Audio 9.1 (WMA2) and the other using RealAudio. Both streams are 32kbps using a 22kHz sample rate. According to wikipedia, today “most stations stream between 64 kbit/s and 128 kbit/s providing near CD quality audio”. So RTE uses a rate less than half the minimum value in that range. Looking at some other Irish radio stations, TodayFM offers a 96kbps MP3 stream at 44kHz sample rate (ie on paper 3 times more data than RTE). PhantomFM offers 3 different stream types WMA, MP3 and AAC each in a high quality (128kbps) and lower quality (48-64 kbps) version. 4FM has two streams a 64K mp3 stream and a 128K AAC+ stream. Over the water the venerable BBC provides a 128kbps AAC stream (48kbps to listeners outside the UK) with significant improvements planned. I think it’s fair to say that RTE’s streams are bottom of the table, maybe it’s time to upgrade? Update: DPC has posted an alternative link for 2XM which boasts higher quality streams. Is a retraction required?

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7 Responses to “RTE’s low quality streams”

  1. Demosuzki Says:

    The BBC offer higher rates if they determine, via IP geolocate, you are in the UK.
    Worth using a proxy or VPN if you record off iplayer using get-iplayer or sone such.

  2. Fanning Sessions Says:

    Thank you, I didn’t realise the BBC provided different stream quality depending on listener location. It is interesting that their lowest quality offering still beats the RTE offering. Will update the post, I have also found some interesting articles related to the BBC here http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/01/our_plans_for_online_radio.html and http://www.digitalradiotech.co.uk/broadband_internet_radio.htm

  3. Fanning Sessions Says:

    Thank you DPC those are higher quality streams that I had not seen before. I haven’t yet figured out what the specifications are, I hope I’m not going to end up with egg on my face! My 2XM listening has just taken a leap forward.

  4. Fanning Sessions Says:

    That RTE digital radio link seems now to have been “fixed” and now offers only the lowly 32k stream which sounds just like AM radio.

  5. Fanning Sessions Says:

    RTE has been dropping hints for some time now that a new player is imminent. Originally mooted to be ready by the end of the summer, last week they said

    “The new RTÉ Radio Player is coming…. designed to make radio work for you more than ever before. Stay tuned for more details this week.”

    We wait with bated breath..

  6. Fanning Sessions Says:

    You probably know by now but the new RTE radio player and app are live and very nice they are too. I for one am enjoying the improvement in audio quality and being able to easily listen back to those missed shows. 2XM is now no longer the poor cousin and many of it’s shows can be listened back to also.

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