Internet radio streaming is gaining more and more popularity because nowadays audio quality is greatly improved, compared to traditional radio waves. Listening to a radio stream means that your favorite station will also be available from virtually anywhere. To access such online streams you will have to use an efficient radio manager/player and this is where FireRocker comes in.
When using internet radio as a source of daily entertainment two issues seem to be raised repeatedly. First of all, you do not want to waste desktop space by using the online players offered by different radio stations.
On the other hand, if you decide to actually use them and you feel the need to change the station, you will also waste time accessing several websites until you find one that suits your mood.
Of course, you can open the streams via an audio player, like iTunes, and create custom playlists, but FireRocker comes with a few additional features designed to improve your user experience.
One of them is the fact that you can choose to access stations randomly from the built in database, giving you the possibility to broaden your horizon, but you can also record the audio or look up for the current song in the iTunes store.The Looks
The FireRocker interface integrates perfectly into your system since it features an iTunes-like theme: clean, using a calm color palette going from black to gray and blue tones. The design does not resemble in any way the iPhone and iPad versions that might prove to be tiresome on a Mac.
On top of this, the buttons bar provides access to most capabilities while the main area is separated in three different columns. On the left you can see the predefined categories but you can also create your own playlists.
Initially, FireRocker comes with a database of over 390 radio stations that you can see sorted by name or by genre. The development team can update the database at any time (considering the iPhone and iPad versions provide over 1000 stations this could happen soon enough) but you can also manually add new stations.
This way a radio stations library is created and FireRocker allows you to arrange them in your own playlists in the Customs List group, through a simple drag and drop from the main Stations list.
No matter which entry you choose on the left, its contents will be displayed on the middle column while the last one will show the available metadata (when a radio is playing, of course) : the radio station’s name, the current track, artist, album and the attached artwork.The Works
FireRocker’s usage is extremely intuitive: on top of the main window you can see the play/pause button, adjust the volume, choose to listen to a random station, record the current audio or search for a specific radio.
To make things interesting, on the bottom of the available metadata, FireRocker provides a button that allows you to view the current track in the iTunes store. This feature will work properly only if the station is also streaming the required metadata and, of course, if the song is available in the store.
Ultimately, this function depends on the quality of the streamed metadata and If all the requirements are met you have the possibility to bookmark the song, which will be automatically added to your Favorites list.
Note that the bookmark is actually the iTunes Store webpage for the respective track. Still, if you forget bookmarking a certain track, there is a solution since FireRocker keeps a history of the played tracks.
There are two areas in which FireRocker has certain problems and might annoy the average user: the stations database and the audio recording function. In the first case there are some stations in the built in database that do not provide a valid audio stream.
The bad part is that the user cannot eliminate them in any way. When using the random function, if the user pushes the button very quickly and encounters several stations that generate errors, FireRocker might simply crash. Of course everything goes back to normal if the application is launched again.
On the other hand, FireRocker only supports MP3 audio streams and even if the developers recommend Shoutcast.com
as a source of new radio stations, the problem is that some of the streams offered on the website do not match the stations name. The user cannot do anything about this either since the stations name is not editable (the function might be available in the next release).
In case of manually added stations there is a solution though: simply delete the entry (by pressing backspace) and add the station again using the appropriate name. That is if you manage to discover the actual name: the metadata displayed by FireRocker might not include the web address.
When it comes to recording the audio there are several things to be considered. First of all pay attention to the settings in the Preferences window. If you choose to split the recordings when metadata changes, in some cases, FireRocker will start recording and when the track changes, it will delete the recently ended recording and simply start a new one.
In case of radio stations that are using promos or commercials between songs the initial recording will be replaced by one containing the promo.
If the function is unchecked, FireRocker will continue recording no matter what is streamed and the name of the recording will change taking the name of the latest track regardless of how many tracks are included.
Either way once a recording is done you will be able to access it via the appropriate list, play the audio, change the information or customize the album art as you see fit.
If some of your recordings simply disappear, choose another list, go back and everything will get back to normal. This tends to happen with recordings that have been accessed last.
Even if FireRocker allows you to record tracks it stays far away from facilitating any piracy actions: the recordings are available only within the application and cannot be exported in any way. The function might be very useful if you want to record your favorite radio show for example.
To improve your workflow, FireRocker also allows you to enable certain keyboard shortcuts for play, pause and random station functions, but also provides a status bar menu that includes entries for the most important features.
Still, there are some functions that are missing and that would represent a great improvement. The first one that comes to mind is the "Report non-working station" feature, available in the iPhone or iPad versions, followed closely by a back button in case of randomly chosen stations.
But probably the most puzzling absence is the fact that it does not provide a syncing method so the user can easily get its favorite playlist on all of his devices and make his recordings available in every FireRocker edition.The Good
FireRocker is extremely easy to use and provides a radio stations database that might provide pleasant surprises, allowing you to get in touch with music or shows that you never heard of before.
Although a good idea, the built in database cannot be edited and has glitches that might lead to errors. On the other hand, because FireRocker only supports MP3 radio streams, you might not be able to add all your favorite radio stations.
The recording feature also has a peculiar behavior in some cases: it will automatically rename the latest recording to the currently playing track on the radio stream and start recording from scratch. This might happen because of a programming error but also due to errors in the audio streams.
Even though the application must be improved in several areas, I can reason with the concept that led to its development. In fact, once I set my mind on a certain station, I was able to listen for several hours without being bothered once, and then quickly change the radio with a simple push of a button.
That might not seem a big thing but if you don't have the time/disposition to look for your next source of entertainment, FireRocker proves to be quite useful.Here are some snapshots of the application in action: