Snowtape: Internet Radio Done Right

Although iTunes has offered a selection of internet radio stations for several years, this is one area of the application that hasn’t seen a great deal of recent development. Snowtape aims to take the baton, and offer a full-featured internet radio experience on the Mac.

The software makes it easy to find a station that plays a particular type of music, establish a “favourites” list, record and edit tracks, export music to iTunes, and automatically discover album artwork. I’ll be delving a little deeper into Snowtape and exploring what the app is capable of.

Setup

Setting up Snowtape is relatively simple. When launching for the first time, you’re asked whether to install a Safari plugin that will automatically send any radio URLs to Snowtape:

Safari Plugin

Safari Plugin

The app will also download the latest index of radio stations from the Snowtape server to ensure you have the most up-to-date listing available. It’s also useful for ensuring that any old, defunct stations are removed from your library.

The Interface

If you’re a seasoned iTunes user, you’ll immediately feel right at home in Snowtape. Although the interface is considerably darker than iTunes, it retains the same general layout and style. Each option and menu item is positioned exactly where you’d expect it to be:

Snowtape Interface

Snowtape Interface

The left panel allows you to navigate around the application, with recordings and radio shows displayed in the main central area. To the right, you can see detailed information about the track currently being played. When browsing stations, you can sort by a number of different headings – popularity is a good option for finding shows of a fairly high quality.

Snowtape also clearly shows the stream quality of each station, with different colours representing varying quality. It’s generally better to aim for the green shows, as those will resemble – at the very least – MP3 quality audio.

Mini Controller

Like iTunes, Snowtape also has a mini controller for a simpler listening interface. This is incredibly well-designed, and allows you to see current track information along with recording a particular song.

The Mini Controller

The Mini Controller

Recording, Editing & Exporting

Snowtape really comes into it’s own when you begin to record a particular radio station. This is done at a very high quality, and the application can automatically detect when one song ends and another begins. Each song is tagged with the correct artist and album information, and stored in your “Repository” of songs (a welcome alternative to “Library”).

Recording

Recording

After recording a song, you may find that it’s necessary to edit out any advertisements or dialog at the beginning and end of the track. Snowtape again keeps this simple with a tool for cropping a few seconds off where necessary:

Editing and Cropping

Editing and Cropping

When you’re happy with the finished result, exporting to iTunes takes a single click. The song (along with associated metadata and album artwork) is sent across to iTunes and stored in the “Snowtape” playlist.

This ease of export makes the application a useful tool for quickly loading up your iPod with a range of new music. The Snowtape website states that “In just 10 hours your music library will contain over 150 songs and by the end of the week your iPod shuffle is already packed with your favorite music.” It’s a valid claim, and the process of moving songs from radio to iPod is remarkably easy.

Album Artwork

One feature of Snowtape that particularly impressed me was the way in which album artwork is handled. The software does a good job of guessing the correct artwork automatically, but if you’d prefer to choose a different image, clicking “Change Album Artwork” will bring up a useful interface:

Changing Album Artwork

Changing Album Artwork

This brings back a range of different results for the track, and allows you to adjust the artwork search parameters to find exactly what you’re looking for. Incredibly useful, and something I’d love to see incorporated into iTunes as well.

iPhone Companion

A companion iPhone application is also available, SnowRemote ($0.99), that allows you to control the playback of music on the desktop application. You can also initiate recording of a particular station.

SnowRemote

SnowRemote

Conclusion

Although there’s an awful lot to like about Snowtape, a few areas did stand out as needing a little refinement. The first is the inability to record one station whilst playing back stored music at the same time – a limitation that seems unnecessary. I also had a few problems with lyrics not downloading (though this could have been an issue with the provider, Last.fm, rather than Snowtape itself).

I would strongly recommend giving the app a try if you’re interested in internet radio. It’s a great way to browse stations and easily record tracks to your local library. The interface is remarkably well polished, and it’s a fun piece of software to experiment with!

Our competition to win a Snowtape license is still running, so be sure to enter if you’d like to stand a chance of winning a free copy.


  • Topy

    i love this program, i’ve been looking for something similar since years. Of course i made it in the competition :D (sorry for my english)

  • http://inkpattern.com Fred K

    Absolutely agree. Snowtape good. ;)

  • http://mediumjones.com Mediumjones

    This app looks cool, but still having to use iTunes? I’ve been looking for a lite & simple music player for Mac for years. Something like WinAmp where you don’t have to use the library feature if you wanted to just use Finder to organize and queue up your playlists. Or something like the OSX Preview app, but for audio files. I don’t mind just Quicklooking .mp3s but the playback stops if you do anything else. Songbird and iTunes are just way too bloated to want to launch usually.

    • http://soyek.pl Soyek

      Cog ain’t bloated, kinda ugly tho. Plays FLACs, APEs and even CUEs like a charm.

    • http://soyek.pl Soyek

      Cog ain’t bloated, kinda ugly tho. Plays FLACs, APEs and even CUEs like a charm.

    • http://www.ragunaru.com Ragnar

      Yeah, I’ve been wanting the exact same thing. I have many random mp3 files which I would love to listen to WITHOUT adding them to my library. My library is something sacred, where only the selected few end up. Most of the other stuff is just lying around. And I can’t listen to them properly. Open in iTunes and after listening to it once, I have to remove it and trash it and what not. Bah!

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  • Alex

    I too would love a license. This is such a great idea!

  • spiritualized

    great program, the ONLY thing as I stated somewhere else, it has such a small number of stations, there is no for instance BBC Radio stations, etc.
    I tried Radioshift and its way of finding stations through a search inside the app is awesome, finding and adding stations was done in a second and without a problem
    already sent the developer of Snowtape to switch to that way of finding stations, as there isn’t a single station that I couldn’t find through Radioshift, everything else is better on Snowtape, especially the recording part
    But pls consider, cause it is a huge thing, a lot of people find it a big issue, hope u manage it somehow :)

  • http://www.macflashcardapp.com Flash Cards

    Really nice app. I wish it did one thing like RadioLover does…which is the ability to set recording split preferences… some stations i listen to may have one long mix where the artist/song doesn’t change… it is convenient to have it say… split/create a new file every 5 minutes of recording.

  • oracle

    Found a coupon code on retailmenot.com. Apparently you can save 20% using CPN3667046RMN.

  • http://www.w2point.com Web 2.0

    Awesome plug-in, great work… Thanks

  • http://simplyblog.net Miguel Wickert

    Nice share, looks interesting but I have an Android app that tunes into tons of stations. For the Mac, I enjoy Somafm.com which allows users to tune in with Windows Media player or iTunes. They also have an iPhone app with other apps for other devices coming.

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  • http://www.pixmac.com Vitezslav Valka

    Looks fairly nice! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Jim Kinney

    This makes me nostalgic for the good old days of holding up my sony mic to my AM radio. Count me in for the competition

  • http://www.cycloptic.com Mark

    It’s a great program but the inability to schedule a recording is it’s biggest limitation. Rogue Amoeba’s Radioshift is the best alternative for scheduling radio programs.

  • http://mikeseaby.co.uk Mike Seaby

    Lovely app, just brought it – scheduled & multiple recording are promised in future updates apparantly.

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  • http://www.ragunaru.com Ragnar

    It lacks the option to let SnowTape record one track at a time only. Say, I’m listening to a channel and a really good song starts to play, and I press the record button. After the song has finished, I would love that recording stops, too. I don’t want the other BS that is coming after that song. And in case I wanted a song after that one, I just press the record again.

    An option to choose between continuous recording and single track recording, basically. Will have to check around for other apps. Won’t buy an app with such a basic feature missing.

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