Radio isn’t necessarily the most trendsetting entertainment medium around, though in many ways it should be. Certainly the online streaming services and satellite radio have their place, but compared with good, local radio, they can’t compete. The problem is, at times at least, local radio is unavailable … and the major companies that control the majority of stations in town and across the country are moving away from a local focus in an ill-fated attempt to cut costs and survive.
But that doesn’t mean radio is dead. Far from it. It is still the easiest entertainment source around, definitely the least expensive (free), and when done right, offers extremely compelling content.
And radio doesn’t have to mean radio sent over the airwaves, either. In fact, using smart speakers, online streaming, or smartphone apps, you can listen not only to your local stations, but distant stations and off-air stations available on the net such as the wonderful recreation of KNX-FM available at knxfm93.com.
I’ve spoken about smart speakers in the past – they are an excellent way to get radio into your home and — due to the superb sound quality — may indeed be the true savior of AM radio. Today, though, I want to go into detail on how to get your smart phone connected to your car, and how to tune stations using an app.
Hopefully I can do so without being too technical …
The main thing you need to do first is ascertain that you can indeed connect your phone to your car audio system. Most new cars are easy: they include at a minimum an auxiliary input; many offer a connection that allows Apple Car Play and Android Auto which seamlessly bridges the phone with the car system. Still others offer something in between – control without full integration.
So if your car offers any of those, you’re set. If not, you might consider upgrading the system, or adding an interface that allows such a connection. I’ve done both and prefer the full upgrade, but there are good interfaces available that can convert most systems as far back as the late 1990s. If worse comes to worse, you can always use one of those cassette adapters.
Now – if you thought that sounded complicated, the apps will be even more so. There are many available, some required to hear certain stations (iHeart and Entercom in particular want you to use their apps, so they often restrict availability of stations on competing apps). One I find particularly easy to use is called myTunerRadio, which you can get via the app stores and at mytuner-radio.com
What makes it so good? It’s easy. Very easy. One you get it set up, it acts exactly like the preset stations on a radio, and it tunes into the stations fast. The app can tune into stations from all over the world, you can find stations by searching by country, state, city, or genre, and it has support for Apple Watch, Apple TV, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Google Home.
For stations that are not listed in the search function of the app, if you pay for the “pro” version — about $10 — you can do a web search. Basically, if the stations has an easily accessible station link on their web page, you can find it via the search and the app will set it as a favorite.
Once set up, it’s like turning your phone into a super-tuner. Large, easy to see and press buttons are on the screen, and a special car mode simplifies use even more. It doesn’t work just for radio stations either, you can also hear your favorite podcast or even find out what the most popular songs currently being played on the radio.
The limitation is, of course, iHeart and Entercom. Many of their stations aren’t in the search, though if you can find the web stream directly you can add them. I handle it by not adding them … if the companies are short-sighted enough to limit access and force me to use their absolutely awful apps — iHeartRadio and Radio.Com — I don’t need them.
This is not the only good app, but it is one I really like. Another I will discuss in the near future is StreamS HiFi Radio, designed by amazing radio engineer Greg Ogonowski. It’s perhaps not as easy to use but has other nice features and is the best sounding app you can find — capable of playing surround-sound audio. Do you have a favorite? Let me know and I will check it out. In the meantime, happy streaming!