How To Listen

Listen to KUT with an FM Radio

KUT transmits on 90.5 MHz from a 600-foot tall tower located approximately 8 miles west of downtown Austin at the University of Texas Bee Cave Research Center. KUT’s analog transmitter has an effective radiated power of 100,000 Watts, and can be received in most places out to about 40 miles from the tower.

Technical details of KUT’s signal, or why you can’t pick us up in some places.

For those wanting a more technical explanation, get your geek on and read further…

The FM Broadcast band, being VHF, is characterized by line-of-sight propagation. This means the best signals are received in places that can “see” the antenna, meaning there are no significant obstructions in the path. Austin has somewhat rugged terrain, with deep valleys and tall hills. These terrain features mean there are some places within the city limits where KUT’s signal isn’t very good.

 

This map shows the visual horizon from KUT’s antenna. Areas shaded green have an unobstructed view of our antenna and will receive a very strong signal. There will be some signal in the un-shaded areas, but it can be weaker. In some cases, much weaker.

Here is a more representative map of the predicted coverage of KUT’s transmitter over the Austin metro area. The yellow shading represents areas where the signal strength is greater than 70 dBu, which is a very strong signal. This is what the Federal Communications Commission considers a “city-grade” signal. What is interesting in this map are areas where significant obstructions exist. If you live in one of these areas, it is likely you have trouble picking up KUT on clock radios or portable radios, which have less than optimum antennas.

This map shows the predicted coverage at 60 dBu, which is generally considered the listenable area for car radios and radios with outside antennas.

Anomalous Propagation, or why you sometimes hear that religious station from Houston in the morning instead of KUT.

While VHF propagation is normally characterized by line-of-sight, sometimes the weather conditions are such that signals travel much further than normal. The most common phenomenon that causes this is tropospheric ducting.

Signals that come in via tropospheric ducting can be as strong, or stronger, than the local signal, and due to the capture effect of FM receivers, the stronger signal will be the one heard. These effects normally only last a few hours, and once the atmosphere warms up, the ducts cease to exist and propagation returns to normal.

Tropospheric ducting is most evident on spring and fall mornings, but can happen anytime weather conditions exist that permit the ducts to form in the atmosphere.

Picket-fencing and multipath, or why you hear that “swishy sound” when driving around downtown.

Radio signals can be reflected by buildings and other objects in the vicinity of the receiver. Because of the different path lengths taken by the direct and reflected signals, the signals arrive at different times. The relationship between these times causes the signal to be stronger or weaker depending on whether the waves arrive in-phase or out-of-phase. This phenomenon is called “multipath”. There is really nothing that can be done about it, it’s just one of those things that happens when radio waves encounter reflective objects.

Listen to KUT with an HD Radio™

In order to receive KUT‘s digital services, you must obtain an HD Radio™ capable receiver. They are available from many online sources, including Amazon.

KUT’s HD Radio signal contains three audio streams.
KUT1 (HD-1) is a simulcast of the 24-hour news and information programming from KUT 90.5 FM.
KUT2 (HD-2) is a simulcast of the music programming on KUTX 98.9, the Austin Music Experience.
KUT3 (HD-3) is KUT’s alt.latino format.

A good antenna is necessary to receive HD Radio™ reliably. There are numerous types of antennas and what works in one location may not work well in a different spot.

The minimum recommended antenna is a simple dipole similar to the Radio Shack 42-2385.

Other sources for various antennas are:
Crutchfield
Solid Signal
C. Crane Company

Amplified antennas are a mixed bag; some work well, others generate a lot of self-noise. As a rule, in Austin, a good unamplified antenna will be sufficient.

Technical Details of KUT’s HD Radio Signal

HD Radio™ is a proprietary digital broadcast system licensed from Ibquity Digital Corporation that allows broadcasters to provide multiple program streams as well as conventional analog radio in the same spectrum space. HD Radio™ is the only digital radio broadcast system authorized for use in the United States.

KUT’s HD Radio transmitter is located on the same tower as our analog transmitter. However, the effective radiated power is limited by FCC rules to 1% of the analog power. This equates to 1000 Watts effective radiated power.

Because of the lower radiated power, the digital signal covers 60-70% of the area covered by the analog signal. 

This map shows the KUT analog transmitter predicted coverage shaded yellow and the KUT-HD predicted coverage shaded green. If you live significantly outside the green shaded areas, you may have trouble receiving KUT-HD. An outside antenna will almost certainly be required.

Unlike analog signals, which can be received, albeit noisily, in low signal areas, digital signals require that the signal-to-noise radio be sufficient to permit decoding of the digital data stream in order to produce any audio. Therefore, digital reception is either perfect, or you hear nothing at all.

HD Radio Audio Quality

Ibiquity claims HD Radio is “CD Quality,” but this is a bit misleading. CD audio is uncompressed PCM digital audio. HD Radio uses a proprietary digital encoding and compression scheme similar to that used by MP3 or AAC. As a result, there will be some quality lost during compression.

In addition, the HD Radio equipment used at KUT provides 96 kilobits per second of data bandwidth, which must be divided three ways to accommodate the three audio streams. Higher quality streams require more bandwidth, and stereo streams require more bandwidth than mono.

KUT has chosen to maximize the audio quality of the main channel KUT1 by allocating half the available bandwidth to this stream. KUT1 is a 48 kilobit/second stereo audio stream. This leaves 48 kilobits remaining for the other two. We allocated 24 kilobits to KUT2 and 24 kilobits to KUT3. These are mono streams to conserve bandwidth.

Listen to KUT on Your Computer or Device

KUT provides streaming audio services to computers in a variety of formats which should be compatible with any operating system. The streaming formats provided are MP3, AAC+ and HLS. We test our streaming services for compatibility with Microsoft Windows, Apple iOS and Linux.

KUT is committed to supporting open media formats and free (as in speech) software whenever possible. Music licensing and royalty requirements sometimes prevent us from doing this. We make every effort to support as wide a variety of operating systems and software as we can.

Note: The current version of the KUT media player requires the Adobe Flash browser plugin. Our web player is based on JW Player by Longtail Video, which supports both Adobe Flash and HTML5 playback. However, our media player requires playlist functionality, and the current version of JW Player does not support playlist functions using HTML5. As soon as Longtail Video releases a version of JW Player with HTML5 playlist functionality, we will add this support to our player.

In addition to our web player, we have tested our streams for compatibility with Windows Media Player, Winamp, VLC, and iTunes standalone playback software.

Links to All Our Stream Types

These MP3 links are 128 and 192 kbps streams. Use with stand alone software and directly:

KUT: http://kut1.streamguys1.com/kut1
KUTX: http://kut2.streamguys1.com/kut2
Alt Latino: http://kut3.streamguys1.com/kut3

The AAC+ codec which is mobile-friendly for most devices. It's a much newer codec than the legacy MP3 codec. It uses less bandwidth yet still has high-quality encoding:

KUT: http://kut1.streamguys.net/kut1.aac
KUTX: http://kut2.streamguys.net/kut2.aac
Alt Latino: http://kut3.streamguys.net/kut3.aac

For KUT we also have an HLS stream available:  

KUT: http://kut-hls.streamguys1.com:80/kut1/playlist.m3u8
iTunes: NPR News - KUT 90.5 Austin

Some browsers and players, like VLC, will natively play an HLS stream. iTunes will not, but you can use the above link or search for "KUT News" in Apple Music Radio to find this same HLS stream.

The HLS format is different from a live stream, like AAC+ and MP3; HLS is file-based. They're small files that record our broadcast and play them back sequentially and as close to live as possible. They're 30 seconds in length. The big difference with HLS is it has an adaptive bitrate. Either a 64, 128 or 256kpbs AAC-based stream. With a steady, fast connection, you'll get the best possible stream delivered.

Listen on Your iOS or Android Devices
 

KUT, KUTX and Alt Latino can be streamed to your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet using our custom applications. Our apps all use the AAC+ codec.

Download the KUT iOS app here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kut-90.5-austins-npr-station/id1129873118?mt=8

Download the KUTX iOS app here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kutx-98.9-austin-music/id1129872826?mt=8

Download the Alt Latino iOS app here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/alt.latino-latin-music-rock/id1129871162?mt=8

 

Download the KUT Android app here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=edu.utexas.android.kut

Download the KUTX Android app here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=edu.utexas.android.kutx

Download the Alt Latino Android app here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=edu.utexas.android.altlatino

Other Apps and Platforms

KUT provides all our streams to popular providers like iHeartRadio and TuneIn. We are the origin of these streams, providing them the same MP3 and AAC+ streams listed above, which you can get directly through our apps or websites. These aggregators then make our stations available on their apps and platforms.

iHeart: KUT, KUTX, Alt Latino

TuneIn: KUT, KUTX, Alt Latino

Our stations are also in iTunes under Internet Radio, plus KUT News is found in Apple Music Radio.

Listen to KUT on an Internet Radio Tuner

A number of consumer electronics manufacturers make standalone internet streaming receivers that are compatible with KUT’s streaming. These devices enable you to listen to internet streaming audio without a computer. They normally connect to your network with WiFi. Some have preset station buttons that make it easy to select the stream source. They can also play music from iTunes shares or other music servers on your home network.

This is by no means a complete list. There are many companies making these. Some are available at retail outlets in addition to online suppliers.

Internet appliances such as the ChumbyInsignia Infocast and Sony Dash are also capable of receiving KUT streams.

Most KUT/X streams are compatible with these devices. You will likely need to paste the direct MP3 links into the device, but some will also work with AAC+. These devices are normally programmed by connecting to the device using a computer and configuring. Use the links above to receive the stream(s) you wish to listen to.