I have a query, who do I contact? [View]

There are three ways you can raise any questions with us or report any incidents with our services. You can raise a ticket through our support page, If you haven't created an account you can open one for free here.

When you are logged in you can create a new ticket by clicking "+ New Support Ticket", this allows you to add a ticket topic to better direct your query for a faster response.

Alternatively, emailing support@sharp-stream.com with your issue will create a new ticket automatically and notify one of our helpdesk team.

If your issue is more pressing, feel free to call us on 0800 999 2468. our office hours are 9am to 5pm GMT Monday - Friday. Please ensure that your number is not withheld.

All of our plans come with office hours support as standard. We also offer a number of 24/7 support options. If this is something you are interested in setting up, speak to a member of our sales team who will be happy to answer any of your questions.

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Where can I monitor my streams and statistics? [View]

Portal is our site for monitoring live streams, live and historic statistics and can provide email and SMS alerts when your stream is unstable. It comes available as part of all our streaming plans. 

If you haven't been introduced, let us know! We can arrange your account setup and a full walkthrough of Portal's features with one of our Support Agents.

Audio File Formats [View]

For audio to be understood by a computer it must be 'encoded' into an audio file. This process involves taking an analog audio signal and converting it into a string of code that can be understood (digital).

This process converts continuous signals into discrete values. 'Snapshots' of the audio signal are taken at set frequency, these are called samples and the frequency is called the 'sample rate'. The standard sample rate for high quality audio is either 48000 or 44100 samples per second. the 'accuracy' of these samples is determined by the bit depth (usually 16, 24 or 32) the higher the number, the higher the quality of the audio. this then has a knock-on effect of increasing the file size.

PCM (Pulse-Code Modulation) is the name given to the uncompressed process, as a file format you will see PCM files under the wrapper of .WAV or .AIFF/aif (optimised for Apple computers)

PCM is the truest representation of audio you can find in the digital realm. However, as it is uncompressed the file sizes are often very large. For streaming purposes, Uncompressed audio would be unfeasible because of the bandwidth required to send and receive it.

For this reason, compressed audio files are preferable for streaming. Compression (not to be confused with the audio process of compression) reduces a the size of an audio file and can be either a lossy or lossless process. lossy processes mean some data is lost in the process and lossless compression can reduce file sizes without compromising the data sizes. For streaming however, lossy formats are most often used because they are the smallest files and generally sound good enough to use.

The most common forms of lossy compression are .MP3 and .AAC. The main goal of MP3 is three-fold: 1) to drop all the sound data that exists beyond the hearing range of normal people, and 2) to reduce the quality of sounds that aren’t easy to hear, then 3) to compress all other audio data as efficiently as possible.*

The compression algorithm used by AAC is much more advanced and technical than MP3, so when you compare the same recording in MP3 and AAC formats at the same bitrates, the AAC one will generally have better sound quality.* You will often see that high quality streams use aac audio and low quality audio streams use mp3... although there are ranges of bit depths available in both aac and mp3 formats which have an effect on audio quality.

Platform exclusively uses mp3 audio, ensure your audio files are in this format when uploading content.

*Source quoted: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/audio-file-format-right-needs/

Concurrent Listeners [View]

The amount of simultaneous connections to your live stream that you have at any one time. This can be viewed for your station in Portal in the blue "Listeners" box at the top of your station page.

Edge [View]

Edge servers provide your stream to your listeners and act as a way of load-balancing your stream. When a listener connects to your stream via our listen links we will redirect them to one of our Edge Servers. This takes the strain off the server that receives your stream to ensure your live content is delivered stably.

Encoder [View]

For audio to be sent digitally, it needs to be encoded first. This process happens within your encoder, a piece of software or hardware that takes in an audio feed, converts it into digital data (usually in the form of an mp3 or aac stream) and sends it to your mountpoint. This data is then decoded back into audio by whatever device connects to your stream (provided the device can read the data type).

An encoder requires a stable internet connection and audio feed to successfully send a stream. 

If you're setting up a stream on a budget, there are a number of free software encoders that are great for getting you started, including B.U.T.T. and Altacast

If looking for a premium software option, we recommend Omnia's Z/IPstream X/2 which is capable of streaming multiple audio sources to multiple mountpoints and gives you audio-processing options such as compression and EQ. SharpStream is an authorised reseller of Omnia software. If you are interested in purchasing a license, enquire with a member of our sales team on 0800 999 2468 (ext. 1).

Remember, using software encoders will require a means of inputting stereo audio into your computer. A soundcard (or audio interface) is the best way of ensuring this. Entry-level external soundcards are available for as little as £20.

Alternatively, you could stream from a standalone hardware encoder. These come at a more premium price-point but are particularly handy for events or mobile streaming rigs and professional radio studios. 

Ingest/Ingress [View]

An Ingest (sometimes referred to as an Ingress) is where we receive your audio stream. We have a number of servers that handle all the incoming connections from our clients. When you set up your encoder with the stream details we provide you, you're directing your stream to a port on our ingest server. 

This stream is distributed to your listeners via multiple edge servers, which are load-balanced (i.e. the servers work together to handle hundreds of listener connections) for extra stability, security and reliability.

You can monitor your Ingress feed in your Portal account (located in your stream page under Stream Information).

Items and Item Properties [View]

*This definition is in specific reference to our on-demand content manager, Platform*

Item is the term used in Platform for content that can contains a media file (audio), an image, title, description, tags and publishing information. This bundle of information is what gets consumed by your listeners when they access your on-demand content.

Below is an example of an item and its constituent parts as it appears in the Platform items list.

Property NameDefinition
Show IDA six-digit, unique identifier that is referenced in the URL for any given Item as the show_id query - clicking this number will direct you to the listener-facing Item URL. (http://platform.sharp-stream.com/client.php?client_id=176&show_id=549041)
Item TypeThis is indicates the nature of the item's creation. If you load a file from your disk to a Platform item, this would be marked as an "Upload" If it is an item is recorded from a scheduled recording instance in "Scheduler" this will be marked as a "Recording".
ImageImage asset associated with the Item.
TitleThe Item title equates to the <name> field for an item in an RSS Feed.

Media FileThe associated audio file to the item (either uploaded from your local disk or generated recording from your stream).
Chapter IDIdentifier relating to the timestamped chapter markers within the content.
Publish/Unpublish Date
Publishing dictates the timeframe when your item is publicly visible. Unless your item has been manually unpublished, if the current date is within the publish and unpublish date, your item will be publicly accessible.
Publish StatusThis is a glanceable indicator depicting the visibility of the item. An eye indicates that the item is published/publicly accessible. A crossed-out eye indicates that the item is unpublished (publicly inaccessible). A clock indicates that the item is unpublished but scheduled for publishing in future and a warning indicator denotes that the item has been manually published/unpublished, overriding the pre-established publish dates.
Upload DateThe date/time the Item was first created.
Last UpdatedThe date/time of the last update to any of the item properties.

Metadata [View]

Along with audio, your encoder/on-demand content is also able to deliver/contain metadata. This simply means "data about the data". You will come across this term in regard to both live streams and on-demand content.

Metadata in Live Streams

In regards to live streams. Metadata could be information (sent alongside your audio) about the music playing on your station, the show that is broadcasting, or could just show your station's web address or social media handles. Metadata can be displayed by a number of Internet Radio players and can be retrieved manually to display on your station's website. 

[2020-01-07 09:21:16] INFO admin/command_metadata Metadata song on /yourmount.mp3 set to "Fangclub - Viva Violent"

SharpStream live player displaying song Metadata.

  "Metadata song" field as it appears in Ingest Log (top) and SharpStream Live Player (below).

Metadata can also be used to trigger mid-roll ads for online advertising. This requires an account with AdsWizz. If you are interested in monetisation, speak to a member of our sales team.

You can programme metadata in your playout system or your encoder itself. To check metadata is being received by us, head to Portal and look at your ingest log or see the metadata that is currently being sent listed alongside 'Metadata on Ingress' on your Stream Page.

Metadata in On-Demand Content

Metadata can also be found in on-demand items in Platform. In this context, "metadata" refers to the title, description and tags that accompany the audio content.