online audio - listening guide

Note that this is written from the point-of-view of a PC user. It will soon be expanded to include notes for Mac users - bear with us. If you have any questions or comments about these notes, please get in touch.

When you visit an audio collection at, you'll find that the tracks are available in a number of formats. The collections linked from this site tend to be available in three - "128Kbps MP3", "64Kbps MP3" and "Ogg Vorbis" - although some more recent ones are also available as "192Kbps MP3" and "VBR MP3"

MP3 is the most familiar audio compression format, and the "64", "128" and "192" refer to the bitrate (a sort of "resolution") of the encoding. 192Kbps and 128Kbps provide higher quality sound, but the files are approximately 2-3 times the size of the 64Kbps versions. If you're using broadband or a particularly fast dial-up connection, then the 128Kbsp versions are recommended. If you have a standard dial-up connection, you might be better to stick to 64Kbps versions.

Ogg Vorbis is an alternative to MP3, described as a "completely open, patent-free, professional audio encoding and streaming technology with all the benefits of Open Source". The MP3 format is actually owned by a German corporation called Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, so there are complex licensing issues associated with it. We strongly encourage you to visit the Ogg Vorbis site and download the appropriate software to play these files. This, we'd like to think, will be the future of online audio. Mac users can download Ogg software from here.

You will also notice that it is possible to download an entire collection as a single zip file , or stream the entire collection as an M3U (just click on the appropriate link).

To stream an individual track, left-click on the appropriate link. If your browser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer, you may see the following image appear in the middle of an otherwise blank window:

This is IE's built-in MP3 player. It may take a little while to load. We have noticed that very often, the track will start, and then after a second or two, you'll hear an annoying pause, before the audio-stream resumes. If you just drag the little circle back to the far left, this should re-start the stream, and play it without interruption.

If you would like to download an individual track as an MP3, then right-click on the appropriate link, and select Save Target As from the drop-down menu which then appears.

Mac users using IE or Safari will probably find that Quicktime player will open and have similar delays to IE's default player. To download, Mac users should 'alt-click' and select 'download linked file'.