Streaming live audio involves using bitrates. What are bitrates Bitrate is the bandwidth used to send a stream to the listener. If you are going to broadcast via the internet you must choose a bitrate to send the content to the listener. When choosing bitrate you must take into consideration your target audience. Will my listeners be using a broadband connection such as dsl or cable, or will they be using a dial up connection.
Streaming at a bitrate higher than the listener can download results in buffering. This basically means the stream is stopped while the listeners player downloads enough of the stream to resume playing. Obviously the listener will not want to continue listening to the stream if he has to wait 30 seconds or so in the middle of a song.
Generally a dial up listener can listen to a stream that broadcasts between 8kbs and 32kbs without experiencing buffering depending on the individual listeners connection. Dial up modems can accomodate a maximum band width of 56k although the actual bitrate can vary from 21k to around 52k dependant on the phone line.
Broadband listeners can listen to audio streams at a much higher bitrate. The highest bitrate recommended to stream music to broadband listeners is 128kbs. Why Music cd's are recorded at 128kbs. Any streaming above this bitrate is just a waste of your bandwidth. Of course you can choose any rate between 8kbs and 128kbs to stream to broadband. Rule of thumb is the higher the bitrate the better the quality of the stream although there are several other factors to consider which I will address in my next article.
Whats the alternative if you wish to include multiple bitrates The alternative is to get stream hosting that allows you to broadcast at multiple bitrates. Many stream hosts offer packages that include several different bitrates to effectively let you stream to a larger audience. You send the stream from your computer to said stream server and it sends the stream to your listeners at the multiple bitrates. You can also send your stream to multiple stream servers if you choose in the event that one stream server fails, your stream will still be up and running.
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