Classic FM streaming update

Digital Radio; photo by Stephen Martin, used under terms of a Creative Commons licenceEver since Classic FM’s owners made half-hearted attempts to stop overseas listeners from listening online a few years ago, people around the world have been listening quite happily to internet streams of the station. If the streams are accessed directly by URL, for example using a media player, there is no check of the listener’s location. However, even if they use the official player on the website, overseas residents need only to enter a valid UK postcode in order to listen, and those are not exactly top-secret.

In recent weeks, Classic FM has been advertising its website player, referring to it as “Radioplayer”. What is not obvious from those adverts is that Radioplayer is actually a collaboration by all the major national British radio stations – both the BBC and commercial stations – that allows them all to be accessed from a single site. I can only assume Classic FM don’t advertise this fact because they don’t want people to listen to other stations, although in that case, why did Global Radio participate in the project at all?

It appears that as part of the move to the Radioplayer platform, Classic FM’s internet streams have moved to new URLs, meaning that the links people have used for a long time no longer function. It is still possible for people around the world to listen online using Radioplayer. Some people have reported that this asks for a postode, but that should be easy enough to find.

However, many people find it more convenient to use a stream URL directly, rather than having to keep a browser window open in order to listen. This is still possible, as various streams still exist. In fact, far from trying to hide these away, Global Radio have a page, albeit not a particularly public-facing one, that lists streams for their stations. There are three different streams for Classic FM, of different bitrates and formats. Each is also available either as a direct link to the raw stream, or as a playlist, meaning nine URLs in total: more than a little confusing!

The highest quality stream available is a 128kb/s MP3 stream. This will probably give better sound than the old streams. However, the higher bitrate means that overseas listeners may find the broadcast is interrupted as their connection struggles to keep up. This isn’t a case of Global Radio trying to stop foreign listerners from using it, but simply the fact that internet traffic is more likely to be delayed when it is travelling further. Some overseas listeners have already reported problems with this stream stopping after a few minutes, but in the UK I can listen to it without interruption for hours.

There are then two streams that use a lower bitrate of 48kb/s. These are likely to work better as they require less bandwidth. One stream is in AAC format and the other is MP3. The AAC stream should give higher quality sound as AAC uses more efficient compression than MP3. Therfore I only recommend people use the 48kb/s MP3 if they are unable to play the AAC stream or find it unreliable.

To summarise, in order of highest to lowest sound quality, the streams available are:

It is important to note that these link directly to raw streams, which your browser may try to download if you click on them. Such a download may never complete as the stream should continue indefinitely! You can open them in a media player, though, by choosing “Open URL” or similar from the player’s menu.

For access from a web browser, each stream has a corresponding playlist URL. This should tell your PC that it needs to use a media player in order to open the actual stream. Two playlist formats are available: M3U and XSPF. It is easy to form URLs for these playlists. Simply add .m3u or .xspf to the above. So for the highest quality MP3 stream, the M3U URL is

and the M3U URL for the AAC stream, which is probably the best bet for overseas listeners, is:

I’m sure you have the idea by now, if you require a different format.

For completeness, there is one further set of streams available, although these are probably of limited use to the average listener. They are the streams used by Radioplayer. They use a protocol called RTMP, which most media players don’t support: RTMP is the protocol used by the Flash plugin. However, if you have a media player that does support this protocol, it may provide a more robust stream than using the HTTP streams above. The RTMP URLs are in the format:

  • rtmp://

That will give the AAC stream, but as before you can add “MP3” or “MP3LOW” to the end to obtain the other stream formats.

I hope this information will be of some use to Classic FM listeners from around the world, and will enable them to enjoy their favourite station from the comfort of their computers. Everything should also apply equally to the other stations listed on Global Radio’s page. Please leave comments below to let everyone know whether the streams work for you, and to ask for further help if needed.

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