Better audio for BBC Radio online
It's been some time in coming, but today marks the next step in improving the audio quality of BBC Radio online.
For our UK-national radio stations, if you become an BBC iPlayer Labs tester (and you're in the UK), you can try our new live streams.
They're much higher quality than we've offered in the BBC iPlayer before now; using the AACfamily of audio codecs, we're offering great audio quality without using all your bandwidth. And, just as importantly, the streams don't need any new software - just a recent version of Flash Player. No media players, no Totem or VLC, no plugins for Quicktime.
We're rolling this out in today's iPlayer update under the "iPlayer Labs" label to gain an understanding of how the streams perform in real life. Our embedded media player lets us know when you have buffering issues, for example; and we'll be using the information we gain from this to further tweak our streams before we make them the default in a few months.
During this time, we'll play with the bitrates, to see what effect that has, as well as the embedded media player's code to make it more resilient of choppy network conditions. So don't worry if the audio quality goes down or up, or if it fails altogether - this is a test, after all. The system producing these streams is not also fully resilient, so you'll spot some short periods of downtime (during which time you'll proabbly want to stop being a Labs tester). We'll try to make these breaks as few as possible.
We're now also using AACfamily streams for the listen-again service. This went live today for everyone; though you'll currently see (and hear) no difference, you might spot that your internet bandwidth usage is significantly less, which should be good news for those on limited bandwidth connections.
I'd be really interested in your feedback in our live streams, as we continue testing them.
James Cridland is Head of Future Media & Technology, BBC Audio & Music Interactive..