First, internet radio “broadcasts” can be either a play list, an actual radio broadcast, or a combination of both. What I’m speaking of here is a stand alone appliance for tuning to an online radio station with its’ own call sign/station designation, just like traditional radio.
Radios such as these will cost anywhere from about $100.00-$300.00 depending on the factors discussed below. These receivers acquire their signal via antenna, Ethernet or wifi, depending on your preference, although wifi probably lends the most versatility, when connected via your router.
They come with a variety of features/capabilities. When connecting without a computer refer to the manual which should be included for setup instructions. Access is through a server which you log onto, enter your model number/code which configures the receiver. Depending on what software your radio is based will determine the ease of acquiring streams(broadcasts).
The tricky part has to do with the software upon which radios are based. Although there are a number of very good U.S. alternatives, I would recommend those which are Reciva based out of the U.K., and marketed here. This company is sometimes referred to as the “Microsoft” of the internet radio business in terms of dominance, and have access to some 16,000+ feeds.
Through their web portal, you can register and customize the stations appearing on your radios’ dial through “my stations.” Most reputable servers will enable access to thousands of broadcasts in their database. The ability of adding URLs not in their database is another desirable capability to consider when making your choice. That’s it, as far as the basic procedure. Additional aspects to consider include: Sound quality, Network connectivity, and Extras which may offer enhanced versatility.
Sound quality: Whether the stream is 32k mono, or 128k stereo plays a large part in terms of the overall enjoyment experience, especially when playing music stored on a local file server(home or office computer). This is coupled with speaker response, in terms of dynamic range, highs and lows for overall sound presence.
Network connectivity, meaning the time from powering on and hearing music can vary widely from 4sec to 25sec. Broken connections can be a recurring problem. External antennas, and ethernet ports can help in these cases.
Extras items to look for would be direct 120v inputs(US only), or if you travel abroad, transformer powered. Is radio battery operated for portability? Can you record stations easily? Does it have a headphone jack(audio out), audio in/aux(mp3 player), remote control, alarm clock, FM tuner, dual speakers, etc.?