The demise of internet radio at the hands of podcasting has been greatly exaggerated. While it may no longer have the same level of popularity of podcasting, internet radio is still very much a thriving medium. If you’ve ever listened to a commercial radio station using your Mac or iPhone, you’ve listened to an internet radio stream.
While we may be entering the golden age of podcasts, internet radio is just as popular, if not more so, than ever before. Unlike podcasts, internet radio is better suited to a never-ending selection of songs from a track list or listening to live events, concerts and listening to a random selection of music based upon the station’s speciality.
Nicecast, by Rogue Amoeba, is a nifty solution that turns your Mac into a fully-fledge internet radio station, allowing you to stream audio over the internet directly or through the use of a compatible server.
The app works by allowing any form of audio, whether it be from a microphone or app such as iTunes, to be broadcast over the internet using either the app’s built-in internet server or via a compatible relay server. As internet radio stations can have tens of thousands of listeners, these relay servers become useful so that broadcasters can offload all of the bandwidth requirements as well as ensure a reliable connection.
Nicecast isn’t a new app, in fact it was released over ten years ago, though it’s been continually supported by the nice people at Rogue Amoeba consistently over the years with regular, albeit largely spaced out, updates. I’ve previously used the app over six years ago and the interface has barely changed at all. This does make the app look rather aged with its Aqua-style buttons and use of sliding panes, especially when compared to some of Rogue Amoeba’s more recent offerings, such as Piezo.
If there’s one thing that Rogue Amoeba knows, however, it’s audio. The majority of their apps are all about manipulating and recording audio and Nicecast is able to capture system audio, a specific audio device if you’re using something like an external microphone or even from an individual application using their well-known feature called “hijacking”. By using this, Nicecast will relaunch any open app you select as an audio source so that the audio it outputs can be captured by Nicecast and broadcast. This lets you play music from iTunes or Spotify, or playback audio from almost any source.
There are a number of panels that let you customise the broadcast with specific information, from the stream’s name to its description. You’re also able to provide music information should you be using a compatible source app, such as iTunes, where Nicecast will also provide listeners with artist and title names. Additionally, you also have full control over the quality of the stream as well as enhancing audio by layering effects. The number of effects are limited to the speed of your Mac as the more effects you add, the more processing power is needed.
One, Two, Stream
Starting an internet stream is as simple as selecting the sound source and then starting the broadcast. Nicecast provides a visual reminder that you’re broadcasting, as well as how long you’ve been on air for. Your stream’s information can be found under the Share tab, which provides both an internet and local network link that you can copy to the clipboard or save as an iTunes-compatible M3U file.
The stream format that Nicecast outputs is compatible on almost any media playback device and no specialised apps are needed. Even on iOS, you can listen to a stream simply within Safari.
For those wanting to use the app with a dedicated broadcast server platform such as Shoutcast, Nicecast supports a number of different server types so you can stream directly to a compatible server and all of your listeners can connect to it rather than swamp your home’s internet connection, offloading all of the bandwidth requirements.
Nicecast includes some further features via the menu. For example, if you want to save copies of your internet radio broadcasts for posterity, Nicecast has an excellent Archiving function that will record any broadcast in a number of formats. I’ve no doubt many broadcasters will want to use this feature but it is easily forgotten as it’s not positioned within the app’s main interface, instead it’s buried in the menu.
In the age of $2 games and in-app purchases, $59 sounds like a lot of money to spend on an app. The race to the bottom has certainly caused apps such as Nicecast to be overshadowed and ignored due to their price yet $59 for someone serious about internet broadcasting is going to be a worthwhile investment. It’s ease of use and powerful feature set make this more than a great app, it’s a great investment.
If you’ve been interested in the idea of starting your own internet radio station or wanted a way of simplifying your workflow, Nicecast is a fantastic app that makes it very simple to get started, yet has enough features and customisability to keep even the more advanced users happy.