Latest Winamp adds access to CBS Radio stations
Who still uses Winamp? There's at least one guy at BetaNews whose desktop clutter contains the venerable music player, and today there's actually a new reason for it to stay right where it is.
Though it's been BetaNews itself that sounded the death knell for Winamp as much as four years ago, the product itself lives on, albeit without the innovative spirit that characterized its Nullsoft developers at the turn of the decade. Today's release of version 5.54 might not merit mention were it not for the addition of at least one compelling new feature: the new and rebuilt AOL Radio, which now provides direct access to CBS owned and affiliated radio stations throughout the US.
CBS Radio (previously known as Infinity Broadcasting) has been streaming its owned and operated stations over the Web for several years, though up until recently, you've had to dial up each station through its Web page. Then CBS Radio launched its own online player, followed last March by an agreement to merge that player with the troubled AOL Radio -- at one time, the Internet's leading streaming music service.
There's been a multitude of services available through Winamp over the years that have gone by the name "AOL Radio" (earlier builds appeared to intentionally confuse AOL Radio with Shoutcast streams). Today, AOL Radio for all intents and purposes is CBS Radio, with all of its selections being stations from CBS' roster of 150 streaming broadcasters. But not every CBS stream is featured there yet, especially including several of the "HD2" channels that appear on new digital "HD" FM consoles.
Still, the mere fact that Winamp 5.54 provides direct and unimpeded access, without popup ads, to KRTH-101 Los Angeles could be the media player's raison d'etre, at least for this not-so-golden oldie. You'll also find access to KMOX 1120 St. Louis, KCBS News Radio 740 in San Francisco, KOOL 105 in Denver, and CBS College Sports radio from New York.
Sound quality is excellent at 64 Kbps, especially when compared to Shoutcast or Surfer Network stations (KOMA Oklahoma City comes to mind) that stream at 31 Kbps or less, which often sound like they're being sent to you from an orbital space station.
You'll also get access to quite a few advertisements, the sheer volume of which is often astounding. Thanks to the magic of synchronization, certain ads that are exclusive to AOL Radio will pre-empt local stations' broadcast ads, often for 60 or 90 seconds at a time. For now, many of these are public service ads. But when these spots have concluded, there may often be as much as 60 seconds more of local advertising, followed by 30 seconds of station promos. And there may be four of these breaks per hour.
With AOL Radio paying multiple tiers of royalties, including for categories that CBS' broadcast stations are currently exempt from paying, these ads won't be going away any time soon.