Streaming audio is all over the web these days. There are live radio broadcasts, video and audio streams, and many music vendors use streaming audio as samples of their products. You can listen to the song, but unless you buy it, it can't be stored on your computer. Or can it? The simple answer is "Yes"! We'll take a look at a few methods for recording streaming audio.
First of all, we should examine what streaming technology is and what it is used for. The traditional method of listening to music or watching videos on your computer was to download the entire file and play it from your hard drive. Streaming works in real time - you can view the video or listen to the music as it is being downloaded. The data arrives in a "stream" of bits from the server to your computer.
The obvious advantage of streaming is saving time - you can listen to the stream a few seconds after the download is started. Streamed audio and video can also be protected from copying by Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. This is often done by commercial vendors of video and audio to control distribution of their content.
Even with DRM, however, all audio and video streams can be recorded. The simplest way to record streaming audio is to attach a recorder to the output jack of your soundcard. Any recording device - portable MP3 player, cassette deck, MiniDisc etc. can be used. The problem with this method is that you have to convert the digital stream into analog, and there will be some loss in sound quality.
If you wish to keep the audio stream in the digital domain, you need special software to capture it. Most audio capture software works by emulating a sound card. You feed the output of the emulated sound card to a file, and as the audio is streamed to your computer it is captured to file. Any kind of audio stream can be captured this way no matter whether it is played with Windows Media Player, Real Player, Quicktime, or any other audio streamer.