Is My Broadband Fast Enough to Stream Audio?

Is my Internet Connection Up to Speed?

The first thing you will need to make sure of, especially if considering a music subscription service, is to check that the speed of your Internet connection is sufficient enough to carry streaming audio. The big question is, "can it cope with real-time streaming without excessive buffering?" Having a slow connection to the Web can cause intermittent pauses while the music is playing which is often referred to as buffering.

This term simply means that the audio data that is being transferred (streamed) to your computer isn't fast enough to keep up with the music that is playing. If this happens a lot then this will ultimately spoil your listening experience. So, before setting up your computer to stream music from the Internet, it is worth spending a little time checking whether or not your connection is up to the job.

How do I Find Out my Internet Connection Speed?

If you're not sure what you've got or want to check the speed of your connection, then there's a myriad of free tools on the Web that you can use. An example of a free web-based tool is Speedtest.net. This online tool allows you to see your 'real' Internet connection speed. Once you have tested your connection, the figure you'll need to look at is the download speed.

I've Got Broadband! Does That Mean I can Stream Anything?

The good news is that if you've got access to high-speed Internet (broadband), then there's a good chance that you'll be able to stream audio (at least) in real-time without any problems.

However, just because you have a broadband service doesn't mean that you'll be able to listen to all music streams. What you end up being able to stream as far as quality goes depends on the speed of your broadband service -- and this can vary considerably from area to area. If it is on the slow end of the scale, you may find that you can stream music but not high-quality audio that is encoded at a high bitrate (320 Kbps) -- the higher the Kbps the more data is required for streaming.

Another point worth mentioning is that streaming over a wireless connection (Wi-Fi) using a laptop, for instance, can be a hit and miss affair compared to a wired connection to your home router. Therefore if possible always stream music over a cabled connection to get the maximum transfer rate and hopefully listen without any interruptions.

How Fast Should my Broadband be for Comfortably Streaming Audio?

Listening to just audio streams takes up a lot less bandwidth than video. So, if this is your only requirement then your broadband speed requirements can be lower than if you also need to be able to stream music videos -- from YouTube for example. If this is the case, then it is recommended that you should have a broadband speed of at least 1.5 Mbps.

What's the Recommended Speed to Stream Music Videos?

As mentioned above, streaming video takes up a lot more bandwidth due to more data (both video and audio) having to be transferred in real time to your computer. If you want to be able to stream music videos (at standard quality) then you'll need a broadband speed of at least 3 Mbps. For high-definition (HD) videos, an Internet connection that can handle 4 - 5 Mbps is an ideal range to ensure there are no drop outs.