Tunein is close to being the default choice for finding and, well, tuning in to radio-station streams on the Internet, with more than 40 million monthly listeners. A lot of its investment has been directed to working with integrating its capability into audio products for homes and cars: Sonos players, Samsung Smart TVs, even Tesla’s Model S.
But all you need is a smartphone or a tablet to get access to Tunein’s free app, connecting you to 1,041 sources of classical music (and 69,000 other genres, too.). While a service like Pandora might be better known for “internet” radio, Tunein returns to the listener the kind of control and choice that conventional terrestrial radio has always offered – but adding vastly more choice.
The iPad version recently added a “live” panel, a sort of home page. You choose favorite genres of radio – talk, disco, and, of course, classical – and then the app surfaces offerings on your home screen. It’s kind of like Flipboard for radio.
The app, and the listener, are handicapped by the sparse information most broadcasters share with Tunein (or other third-party services) about what’s actually playing at any given moment. And the classical category, as on some other digital platforms, occasionally seats some unlikely guests at the table.
The company recently released a $4.99 “Pro” version, adding tools to help users schedule and keep track of programs they don’t want to miss (or won’t want to, once they find out they are there).
At best, you discover that BBC’s Radio 3 has a concert live at a certain time every day, but you don’t know who’s performing what unless you go find it on Radio 3’s website. If you are a creature of habit, it works well. If you’re of a mind to randomly roam the world and find out, for instance, what folks in Krakow are listening to this evening, it’s awesome. If you’d just like a listing of a few good choices, the industry still has a bit of work to do.
The recording function is the giant plus from the $4.99 “Pro” version. Hit the red button on the menu bar and go. You can also schedule recordings in advance. It’s not quite as simple as your DVR, but it works if you want to capture a particular concert, broadcast or even a favorite host. You have to locate the broadcaster’s listing in the app, then bring up a menu and enter the start time and the duration of your desired recording.
The output experience is up to you – but plugged into a good sound system or good headphones it compares well with any other digital source we’ve listened to. (With the usual proviso that, depending on your connection speed and set-up, there could be gaps or breaks in reception.) There’s probably no better way to spend $4.99 to open up your musical horizons.