What Is an Internet Radio and How Does It Work?

An internet radio, or internet radio receiver, is a special type of radio that connects to the internet, allowing you to listen to radio stations broadcast online.

Unlike traditional radios, whether analogue or digital, that work by receiving transmitted signals through an aerial, an internet radio streams audio via the internet.

It’s important to distinguish between “internet radio”, which refers to broadcasting radio online, and “an internet radio”, which is an electronic device.

The term “internet radio” refers to broadcasting radio via the internet. These days, almost every radio station can be listened to via the internet. There are also lots of internet-only radio stations.

If we’re talking about “an internet radio” or “internet radios”, we’re referring to electronic devices that look like regular radios but are capable of connecting to the internet.

How Do Internet Radios Work?

Connecting to the internet

Internet radios usually connect to the internet via WiFi, though some have Ethernet ports, allowing you to use a wired internet connection.

You will need broadband internet with a reasonable speed—ideally over 2 Mbps.

Setting up an internet radio tends to be very straightforward.

You will need to select your wireless network and enter the password or use the WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) button on your router.

If you want to connect to the internet using Ethernet you will need an Ethernet cable, as these usually aren’t included when you buy an internet radio.

Obviously, it will need to be long enough to reach between where your modem or access point is and where you want to put the radio.

If you’re a technical person, you might like to know that most internet radios are compatible with 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n networks.

When connecting via WiFi, you will need to position the radio relatively close to the router (within 20 metres).

Tuning into stations

Internet radios have menus that allow you to browse the radio stations available by country, city, genre etc.

You can usually save a lot of preset stations so you can quickly access your favourites.

Many internet radios also have an FM and DAB tuner which can be useful if you have internet connection issues.

Other features

Some of the other features internet radios can offer include:

  • Bluetooth
  • Remote control
  • CD player
  • USB port for playing MP3s
  • Alarm clock (that can be set to use an internet radio station)
  • Spotify Connect compatibility
  • Ability to use phone as a remote control
  • Sleep timer
  • Headphone jack

Standalone Internet Radio vs. Internet Radio Tuner Separate

When buying an internet radio, it’s important to know whether you’re buying a standalone radio or a tuner.

A standalone internet radio comes with a built-in speaker (or two). It has everything you need to start listening to the radio.

An internet radio tuner needs to be attached to separate speakers as part of a hi-fi system.

Which Internet Radio Should You Choose?

If you’re looking to buy an internet radio, check out our overview of the best options here:

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