Listening to radio again

Adel Gabot

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3:03PM

So I’m working on my computer this morning, all the while idly listening to the radio finishing Daryl Hall’s Wildfire when the announcer goes “It’s half past ten in the evening and you’re listening to Chicago’s 103.5 KissFM.”

I was jolted out of my writing. Evening? Chicago? Oh, yeah, I forgot.

I was listening to a talky female evening jock with a relaxed, sultry voice on the radio, live, half a world away in Chicago, and not from one of the local Metro Manila stations. You see, I was able to download a new app (for the console, anyway) on the PS4 called iHeartRADIO early this morning, and as a result I can listen again to a whole host of international radio stations live, in real time, on the audio system.

I had the app on the Xbox 360 when I still had the old console and made a habit of listening to some American FM stations all the time, but I sold the 360 some time ago (because I wasn’t using it much anymore) and had to quit listening. Now, this week, Sony introduced a version of the old app on the PS4, so I downloaded it, revived my old account and began listening again. (Although, in retrospect, I’m sure there is a way to listen online to iHeartRADIO on my iMac, but I never really bothered to check. So sue me.)

Of course, I can listen to Spotify or even iTunes in a pinch (and I sometimes do), but real radio has been a old addiction—especially since I spent over two decades of my life working at, and managing, local FM radio stations, and old habits die hard.

Listening on my sound system via the PS4 is a nice, comforting experience, recalling my 96.3 WRock, Magic 89.9 or 103.5 K-Lite days when I’d work the mic for four-hour shifts and then still listen to the stations all day even when I wasn’t on the air. It was the soundtrack of my life, as an old radio promo for another station said all those years ago. Today, FM radio quietly plays in the background again while I write, and keeps me company.

The “international” part of iHeartRADIO is the attraction for me. It’s like I’m in another world, another environment. FM radio in the Philippines has devolved into cheap, talk-centric, personality-driven programs and the industry is infested with pretty-boy-or-girl announcers hired for their youthful, telegenic looks and a passable twang rather than their announcing talents, not like in my day when we were all, uh, better heard than seen. But boy we gave good radio back then.

These days I listen to mostly American classic rock, top 40, pop, jazz and R&B old-style radio stations, and a few British, Canadian and Aussie ones, mostly because of the language. Some of the Asian and European stations are nice, musically speaking, but I balk when the announcers come on and spout Mandarin, Korean, Malay, French, Italian, or German spiels. I’ve gravitated to KOST Los Angeles, V103 Chicago and 106.7 Lite FM New York because they’re basically old-fashioned and sound like the late 80s and 90s of my radio heyday.

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The PS4’s implementation of the app is elegant and simple: the program opens with the iHeartRADIO logo and a simple four-item menu on the top of the screen, a graphical bar in the middle of the screen featuring all your favorite stations, and then a simple logo of the currently playing station and the playing track on the bottom. Then after a bit, it morphs into a full-screen faded background graphic of the artist, the app logo on the upper right, the album cover on the center of the screen, and then logo, track title and artist on the bottom left.

The Xbox 360 implementation was a bit more confusing and complicated back then, and it had a damn sight more buffering and playback problems than the PS4’s. Of course, it’s next gen technology with the PS4, so I guess that accounts for the improvements. In fact, the PS4 doesn’t even pause or buffer at all, doesn’t skip or jump, and has a consistent, steady playback, even if my home network is otherwise heavily loaded.

It’s great. I’m thankful for iHeartRADIO, and will have immense fun listening again.


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