In 2000, StreamGuys came onto the planet as a couple of guys with a laptop and an understanding that broadcasters needed help sorting through internet related issues.
StreamGuys believed its expertise in this area would enable it to build a successful business.
The company has grown, but in 2013, it still falls under the 50-employee threshold that the upcoming Affordable Care Act mandate covers. Broadcast Engineering spoke with Eduardo Martinez, the company’s director of technology, about the current state of streaming technology.
BE: Can you give our readers a typical StreamGuys case scenario?
Eduardo Martinez: “We have a strong presence in the Public Radio market. We began servicing some smaller market stations and over time have picked up larger market outlets, including WNYC in New York.
“We power all of WNYC’s live streams, on their website and their podcast libraries. If you go to www.radiolab.org you’ll be taken to the Radiolab site, where you can listen to podcasts of the shows that have previously aired. This is a fascinating, science based program.
“We host the infrastructure that delivers their stream to the rest of the world. From the initial signal flow to its end point, WNYC runs a combination of live encoders. In real time we accept a simulcast of their terrestrial broadcast signal and in turn deliver it to the rest of the world through the infrastructure we’ve developed across the globe. Parenthetically, with a show like Radiolab, you can also sign up to receive new shows at no cost through the iTunes store.”
BE: What hardware do you use?
EM: “We’re a partner of Orban. We resell a variety of their encoders, including the Opticodec 1211, 1100 and 1010 units. Most of your readers will be familiar with this hardware, but for those who don’t deal with encoding on a regular basis, these are hardware cards that slide into off the shelf PC’s. We love the Orban line; they handle signal processing tasks, normalization, for example, as well as encoding to either HE-AAC or MP3.”
BE: What is the essential difference between HE-AAC and MP3 audio?
EM: “The main difference is that HE-AAC delivers superior audio quality at lower bit rates. A 64Kb/s HE-AAC streams sounds just as good as a 128Kb/s MP3 stream.”
BE: Either way, you’re still dealing with compressed audio.
EM: “That’s true. Audiophiles don’t want to hear this, but the average listener finds this quality more than acceptable. For the discriminating listener, we support the lossless FLAC codec as well. The problem with FLAC, from a customer perspective, is that it’s tricky to integrated into a user experience, since less players support FLAC. As a result, very few of our clients use this codec.”
BE: StreamGuys supports the new Ogg Opus codec, right?
EM: “Yes. We’re codec agnostic; our job is to present our customers with choices, and then service them as if we were part of their in house team. Ogg Opus is on the cutting edge of audio streaming technologies. It’s similar to HE-AAC in the high quality it delivers at lower bit rates, but there’s a difference. Both the encoder and decoder are free! The Xiph Foundation (www.xiph.org), an organization dedicated to the development of free protocols to serve the needs of internet providers and users, played an instrumental role in bringing Ogg Opus into being.”
BE: What are principle strengths of StreamGuys?
EM: “Given our size — less than 50 employees — we’re doing pretty well, with a client base of over 700 customers. We’re fast, and nimble in adopting cutting edge technologies that allow us to craft the right solution for the individual customer. We service both the audio and video side of delivery, and as I mentioned earlier, our network reaches across the globe.”