Open Source Software useful in Radio


Open Source Software useful in Radio

“Okay, so I’m a day late with Idea Thursday this week…  its Friday, but it has just been that kind of a busy week.
This week I thought I’d highlight some of the open source software that is out there which can be used in Radio.
First, a quick definition.  Open Source Software is software which is licensed so that it is both free to use and free to have access to the source code, to make modifications if you wish to do so (and have the skills to do so).  By its definition anyone can download and use open source without being concerned about having to pay for the software.  Some projects do offer additional options such as paid support (or some will have the ‘free” version and the “paid” version).  In general most open source software gets developed on and can run on Linux and / or BSD, however there is also open source software available that can run under Windows, MacOS, eComStation, and others.  Some is very well developed and comes with ready to go installers to make the user experience very smooth, however some open source software can be more of a challenge to get up and running. Most have user-support forums where other users help out those having difficulty.

Sounds good?  Fortunately there are quite a few open source applications that can work extremely well for radio.  This can be a positive thing in that it can not only reduce costs, but also present a situation where – if a volunteer (for example) wants to install the same software on their own computer, they can do that.

Over the years I’ve developed a long list of open source applications which can work well in Radio.  This week I’m going to focus on user-facing applications – software that an end user can install and then do stuff with.  Next week I’ll offer my list of back-end applications – stuff that can be used “behind the scenes” to keep things running smoothly.

User-facing applications

-Rivendell Radio Automation – A fully featured, rock solid professional broadcast suite, can be used for multiple tasks including on-air playout, digital audio library, voice tracking, auto-acquiring and / or distribution of content to a variety of sources, local or remote console control. Striving to meet industry standards it runs well either on its own or can interface with both open sourced and closed source 3rd party software and hardware. It has full support for everything from high-end ASI audio cards, Axia Liveware systems, audio switchers and gpio systems, right down to the lowly onboard sound cards found in most computers. In addition to a strong focus on meeting industry standards one of Rivendell’s strengths is that it is well developed for use where people are live in a studio or left running when no one is in the studio.

-Openbroadcaster Player / Server – Can be used for station automation and scheduling of on-air content.  Works well for unmanned studio situations where the majority of programmers are not in the studio but rather access and build their programmes from remote via a web interface, with that programming then going to air at the appropriate scheduled time.  Also can be used for generating internet streams or an “internet radio” station.

-Audacity – An audio editor, has enough features to keep most busy and lots of effect plug-ins are available for it (Adobe Audition or Goldwave alternative)

-Ardour – A Multi-track audio editor with more features that you can shake a stick at (ProTools or Audition alternative)

-mp3val – quickly fix many of those broken mp3’s that people like to send

-OpenOffice / LibreOffice – open source office suite featuring word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics (Microsoft Office alternative)

-PDF Creator – a Windows PDF printer driver – you can print from any application and have it create a PDF of your document

-VLC Player – Plays just about any type of media file (audio, video, etc)

-GIMP – for editing photos and graphics (Photoshop alternative)

-DJLand / TPS – keeping track of those logs, digitally via the web!


A few weeks ago I highlighted some of the user-facing open source applications which can be used in radio.  As a continuation this week I have a list of open source software that can be used on the back-end of things in a more infrastructure role.  Much of this software can reliably provide services or fill technical needs for stations at a fraction of the cost of going out to purchase full priced retail equivalent.  Much of this will be unseen by anyone but an engineer / technical person but once set up can just run and do its job.

Note that some of this does require a certain level of knowledge / skill to set up (as with anything else in radio).  It all runs under various flavours of Linux.

-OpenOB – This can be used for remote broadcasts and / or digital STL’s where low latency is a requirement

-JackAudio – the virtual “patch bay” for Linux – if a Linux-based audio app is jack-aware, Jack can patch from anything to anything. With an appropriate audio card it is possible to use it as a routing switcher.  Jack may initially be confusing but for professional audio on Linux it is a must-have

-Changeling – A simplistic but effective profanity delay

-Liquidsoap – A stream generator capable of generating multiple types of streams using different codecs (formats), multiple bitrates for everything from low bandwidth needs (mobile phones, etc) up to high quality streams (desktops with high speed internet).  Can also be used for silence (or noise) detector

-Glasscoder – a lightweight stream encoder, less complex to setup then liquidsoap but can meet many needs easily

-Icecast – a streaming server which can handle multiple types of audio, multiple mount points, act as a stream relay, and many other uses

-Jack-rack – A jack effects rack – allows you to process the audio on your stream to give that “over the air FM” sound without purchasing extra gear

-Calf studio gear –  Another jack effects rack – similar to jack-rack, but for some of the plug-ins there is a greater variety of options available

-Jamin – allows for professional audio mastering of live audio feeds, can be used for processing

-SilentJack – A small app for silence detection

-Rotter – A small app to simplify audio logging / recording (CRTC compliance)

-OpenBroadcaster Player – Can be set up as an emergency alert system, either on a primary audio link or a backup

-FreePBX / Astrix – VOIP systems – can provide you with a fully featured VOIP based telephone system

-Xataface – Quickly develop end-user interfaces to a database

-Freenas / NAS4Free – Build your own Network Attached Storage unit

-Aman – a system for monitoring and managing redundant Rivendell servers, allows for easy and quick switching from a primary to a backup server in the event of system failure, handles background database and audio replication

-Limesurvey – a PHP-based web system for easily building surveys, either very simple or extremely complex

-r128 Gain – To normalize audio files to the EBU R128 broadcast standard



 Good list.  A few more…

Airtime: I’ve worked with this system (mostly migrating to OB) and find it is useful for running a online web radio station.

Libre Office: Is a drop in replacement for MS Office.  I use their word processor, spreadsheet and Draw.  Draw now supports MS Visio formats for sketches and technical diagrams.  All their applications allow exporting as a PDF.

PDF Shuffler: This is part of Ubuntu, allows taking a series of PDF files and combining them into one PDF with page numbering

Netbootin: Cross platform utlity to create bootable USB disks with ISO images.

Clonezilla: Is a utility for creating and restoring disk images.  Think of taking a snap shot of your main computer drive.  It makes backups and deploying computers on a network a breeze.  Includes a utility to create an auto restore feature so your image can be put on a USB stick to get back in order very quickly.

Sure I’ll think of a few more “must haves” to make life easier and more productive.