STREAMING AUDIO:

WHAT IT IS & HOW TO USE IT

A friendly guide from Manhattan Beach Music

Latest Update: November 12 2002, including information on MP3

 

 

Links within this page:

INTRODUCTION

Streaming audio is an improved method of transmitting sound over the Web. Waiting is eliminated, and sound quality is often improved. With streaming audio, your computer is like a virtual jukebox!

Our streaming audio requires QuickTime 3, or 4, or 5, or 6, or newer; for compatibility information, see below. Your Web experience will be better with QuickTime, whether you are listening to regular or streaming audio. It's easy to upgrade ... as we'll explain later. (The most current version of QuickTime is 6.0.2.)

 

WHY STREAMING AUDIO IS BETTER

You may be used to waiting to hear a sound file. The way it works without streaming audio and without the QuickTime Plug-in is as follows:

If you already have the QuickTime Plug-in installed in the Plug-ins folder of your Web browser, your Web experience will be much better, something like this (for a non-streaming file):

So, what does streaming audio add to all of this? With streaming audio, the sound file has been specially prepared. When your computer is set up to play back this format, then your Web experience will be something like this:

 

WHY WE CHOSE QUICKTIME

There are a number of streaming audio technologies available for use on the Web. We have chosen to use QuickTime 3 (which is the first version of QuickTime to support streaming audio) because of the excellent sound quality it supports and because of its ease of use (no "helper" applications are required). QuickTime 3 or newer is required to hear our streaming audio files; earlier versions of QuickTime do not support streaming. We continue to encode our soundfiles using QuickTime 3 for the greatest compatibility;

 

WHERE TO GET QUICKTIME

To download QuickTime go to:

http://www.apple.com/quicktime/

There are both Mac OS and Windows versions available for free download.

QuickTime support:

http://www.info.apple.com/usen/quicktime/

Additional information regarding QuickTime:

http://www.judyandrobert.com/quicktime/

 

HOW TO TELL IF YOU ALREADY HAVE QUICKTIME

QuickTime 3 has been available since March 30, 1998. Check the Plug-ins folder of your Browser: You need QuickTime Plug-in version 2.0 ["2.0" is not an error] to run QuickTime 3. You need QuickTime Plug-in version 4.0 to run QuickTime 4, and Plug-in 5 to run QuickTime 5, and Plug-in 6 to run QuickTime 6. (Mac: To check the version, highlight the icon and choose Get Info from the File menu.)

Versions of QuickTime earlier than version 3 will not stream audio.

In order to hear streaming audio, the standard, free version is all that you need. (You only need the "Pro" versions to create streaming audio.)

 

HOW TO SAVE OUR COMPLETE PERFORMANCES TO DISK
FOR LATER LISTENING

Band Directors: If you want to hear our music when you're offline, you can save the sound files to your disk. Later, you can open the files with the QuickTime Player application (which comes with the free QuickTime installation) to play them back anytime, with printed score in hand. This application was called MoviePlayer in QuickTime 3.

It's easy to do: To save an audio file to disk, if you are using Netscape Navigator as your browser, "click & hold down" the link (the link is the underlined word, "Hear") and select "Save this Link as ..." and then choose "Source" from the pop-up menu to save the file to your hard drive. (Windows: Right-click the link to bring up the pop-up menu.)

If you are using Internet Explorer or the AOL browser "click & hold down" the link (usually on our web pages the link is the underlined word, "Hear" and select "Download Link to Disk" (or "Download Target of Link" in AOL for Mac OS X) to save the file to your hard drive. (Windows: Right-click the link to bring up the pop-up menu.)

Note: the above directions refer to the Mac OS; certain details may vary in the Windows version (Mac OS "click & hold" = Windows "hover-click")

If you decide to download before you have heard the soundfile, then you will spend some time waiting for the download to complete. If you decide to download after you have heard the soundfile, the procedure is to use the "back button" of your browser and then "click & hold down" the link (the underlined word, "Hear"). Since the soundfile is already cached, the save to disk will be instantaneous.

If you have the Pro version of QuickTime, it's even simpler to save the file to disk: After you have heard the soundfile, use the rightmost button of the sound controller bar and choose"Save As QuickTime Movie..." It instantly saves to disk. This feature is disabled in the regular, free version of QuickTime. However, even using the regular, free version of QuickTime, you can save the sound files as described in the above paragraphs.

The Pro versions offer many additional features for file export and content creation.

 

HOW TO OPEN A SOUND FILE
IN A NEW WINDOW

How to open a sound file in a new window: Why would you want to do this? Normally, a sound file opens in the same window, replacing the web page you were looking at. If you press the back button, you return to the page you were looking at and the music stops.

So, if you want to be able to hear the sound file and at the same time read the page's program notes, etc., you need to open the soundfile in a new window. Here's how:

Macintosh: click and hold on the word, "Hear."

Windows: Right-click on the word, "Hear."

(The word, "hear," is the link to the sound file.)

Next, choose from the pop-up menu "open link in new window" or "new window with this link." This opens the link, in this case the sound file, in a new window.

Next, move the new window behind or aside to see the prior page while listening to the music.

Shortcuts to open a link in a new window: Macintosh: Command-click the link. Windows: Shift-click the link (works in some browsers).

Note: To stop the music close the window containing the sound file -- or you may end up hearing several pieces playing simultaneously!

Links within this page:

 

IMPORTANT COMPATIBILITY INFORMATION
(MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS)

In order to hear streaming audio on this web site you will need, for Windows-based systems, a Pentium processor (or equivalent, or faster); for Mac OS-based systems, a Power Macintosh computer (examples: iMac computer; Power Macintosh G3 computer; Power Mac G4 computer); and you MUST install QuickTime 3 or newer (older versions of QuickTime do not support streaming.)

(There are some Windows MP3 players that do not require Pentium, and will work with 486 CPU's. Search for "MP3 players" at www.cnet.com)

For Mac OS-based systems, many parts of QuickTime will function with even 68020, 68030, or 68040 processor-based, vintage 1987-1991 computers, but the streaming audio created by QuickTime 3 will not function (it will be silent). Such older Macintosh computers generally have three digits in their model number.

For Mac OS-based systems, streaming audio will only play if you have a Power Macintosh computer, that is, a Macintosh computer or Performa computer compatible based on either a 603, 603e, 604, 604e, G3, or G4 processor, and have installed QuickTime 3 or QuickTime 4. Older Power Macintosh computers generally have four digits in their model number -- newer Power Macintosh computers do not have four digits. Examples of some newer Power Macintosh computers are: iMac, G3 Power Macintosh, Power Mac G4.

The codec (that's "co" as in "compressor" and "dec" as in "decompressor") used to compress the file for streaming audio requires a very fast processor to decompress it on the fly as it streams over the Internet, and only newer computers possess such cpu and fpu power.

For best audio results, be sure to set your computer system's sound output to 44.1 KHz stereo, which is the sample rate used by our stereo streaming audio soundfiles.

 

TECHNICAL INFORMATION
(ABOUT STREAMING AUDIO IN GENERAL)

In streaming, the initial data is placed into a buffer area, which functions like a pipeline. After the "pipeline" has been filled with a certain amount of data, the older data (the beginning of the sound file) begins to play back. At the same time, additional data is being received, and being stored for later playback. The "level" of data in the "pipeline" may vary, but there is always enough in reserve to play back the sound without interruption. (We've just describe "http" streaming, which Apple Computer, Inc. now refers to as Internet "Fast Start.")

Depending upon your connection speed (28.8 kilobits per second or faster is a good idea) and the size of the file, there may be a delay before playback begins, because playback won't begin until the computer detects that there is enough data in the pipeline to play the stream without interruption. (The delay will be quite brief for small files; for some of our long, six-minute-plus streams, your wait may be up to 1-1/2 minutes before playback begins automatically; however, read on:) If you don't want to wait for playback to start automatically, you can always press the "play" button sooner -- the playback may stall part-way through (when the slider on the play bar "catches up" to the stream), but it will eventually play back without interruption. And, if you upgrade to a 56K modem, there is no wait to stream even a six-minute audio file!

Reminder: For best audio results, be sure to set your computer system's sound output to 44.1 KHz stereo, which is the sample rate used by our stereo streaming audio soundfiles.

 

KNOWN PROBLEMS

Sometimes you may have performed a complete install of QuickTime, and for some unknown reason your browser refuses to play the soundfiles while you are online.

You might try this:

Download the sound file (to download, click and hold the word "hear," and select "download link or save to disc as source" or similar wording). Now the file is saved to your disc.

Once you have the file saved on your disc, you can play it offline using the MoviePlayer or QuickTime Player applications. This completely bypasses your internet browser.

 

QUICKTIME 4 IS COMPATIBLE

and also plays

MP3 FILES

On April 20, 1999, QuickTime 4 was offered as a Public Beta. "Beta" is the term used to describe software that is beyond the internal testing stage (which is "Alpha" software), and is available to the public in a pre-release, "Beta" form. On June 14, 1999 QuickTime 4 was released in final form; on April 24, 2001 QuickTime 5 was released in its final form; the latest version is QuickTime 6.0.2.

Our sound files will play just fine with either QuickTime 3 or QuickTime 4 or QuickTime 5 or QuickTime 6, although the later versions of QuickTime offers an improved algorithm for sound compression. Should we decide to utilize this format in the future, such files will be identified as "Using and Requiring QuickTime 4 or newer." Files currently identified as "Using and Requiring QuickTime 3" will play equally well under QuickTime 3 or QuickTime 4 or QuickTime 5 or QuickTime 6.

Unlike QuickTime 3, QuickTime 4 and QuickTime 5 and QuickTime 6 support live streaming, which is the Internet equivalent of live radio or live television broadcast. For example, with QuickTime 6, you can now hear and see live broadcasts of, for example, the BBC in London. For other sources of live streaming, launch the QuickTime Player and click on the QuickTime menu (the "Q" at the lower right hand corner of the player).

For Internet radio stations, you will definitely want to use iTunes 3, available for Mac OS X (and iTunes 2, available for Mac OS 9), To find the downloads, go to www.apple.com and click on Support. Loo carefully for the iTunes download. If you don't find it, click on Downloads and look for "Apple Software."

A note from the Technical Information Library at Apple Computer, Inc. suggests that for both Mac & Windows to prevent possible crashes it may be advisable to increase to default amount of memory allocated to your web browser if you plan to view streaming movies with the QuickTime 4 plug-in. And now on to MP3:

MP3

Link to: Manhattan Beach Music Online Library of Recorded Performances

All versions of QuickTime starting with QuickTime 4 can play MP3 files.

Why do so? First, MP3 has emerged as an Internet standard for sound compression. You can download software MP3 players/encoders for free, and make your own MP3 files. MP3 hardware players are portable, so you can download MP3 files to your player, and bring your music anywhere. MP3 generally sounds warmer and more natural.

The downside (as compared to QuickTime) is that MP3 files are ten to twenty times as large; you'll need a broadband connection such as a cable modem or DSL for fast transfers. Only those with patience and time to spare should attempt MP3 downloads using a dialup connection.

Note that there are a variety of "flavors" of MP3, and certain MP3 files will not play at all in the first version of QuickTime 4 (these problem files include those using VBR, or Variable Bit Rate encoding, and those using padded ID tags). The next version of QuickTime took care of the ID tag issue, but it was not until version 4.1 that VBR became playable.

Therefore, if you are interested in playing MP3 files, both those here and elsewhere, it it recommended that you download QuickTime, version 4.1 or newer.

Our MP3 files do not use VBR (some earlier portable hardware MP3 players cannot play them, so we decided VBR was not necessary), so you can probably make do with the earliest version 4 of QuickTime if that is what you already have. Certain of our higher bandwith MP3 files do use VBR and are listed in boldface and show larger file sizes.

Note: MP3 will not stream on a dialup connection. If you are using a 56K or slower modem, it will take you upwards of 30 minutes to download any of our MP3 files. If you have a broadband connection, such as DSL or Cable Modem, your download time will be in theory negligible, and in practice perhaps one minute.

Inquisitive Minds / Tech Info: MP3 stands for "MPEG-1 Layer 3." MPEG is pronounced "EM Peg" and is an acronym for Motion Picture Expert Group. Each brand of MP3 encoding software uses its own proprietary encoding algorithm, at bit rates typically from 64 bits per second to 128 bps (or higher). However, it is the cleverness of the encoding algorithm (and of the human software user, in choosing the best combination of bit rate, sample rate and frequency range) which are jointly responsible for the final sound quality of MP3 files, which should be warmer than low bit-rate QuickTime, and with fewer artifacts. This, however, is an unfair comparison, since MP3 files are generally around 10x the size of QuickTime files.

The usual relationship of file size: if CD quality is represented by 100, MP3 is 10, and Quicktime is 1, which makes QuickTime truly amazing! This means that an MP3 compact disc can hold some 10 hours of music at somewhat less than CD sound quality; but a QuickTime compact disc can hold up to 100 hours of music at somewhat less than MP3 sound quality.

Reminder - a note on playback of our files with QuickTime 4: If your player "stalls" during a download due to network traffic, you may discover that the download will continue silently. To once again hear sound, simply move the slider on the play bar to the left.

Our experience is with Macintosh computers; certain details may vary in Windows.

 

Bob Margolis, Director, Manhattan Beach Music

©1999-2002 Manhattan Beach Music

Copyright © 1998-2009 Manhattan Beach Music. All Rights Reserved. Brooklyn, NY, USA.

Made with QuickTime

iMac, iTunes, Mac, Mac OS, Macintosh, Performa, and Power Macintosh are trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc., registered in the United States and other countries. QuickTime and the QuickTime Logo are trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. The Made with QuickTime Badge is a trademark of Apple Computer Inc., used with permission. All other product and company names mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective manufacturers. Mention of third parties and third-party products is for informational purposes only. Such mention does not necessarily constitute an endorsement or a recommendation, and Manhattan Beach Music assumes no responsibility with respect to the selection, use, and performance of third parties and third-party products.

 

for MP3 downloads, visit the Manhattan Beach Music Online Library of Recorded Performances

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