One of my favorite ways to listen the Standards is to grab a glass of wine, dial up one of the better Standards internet radio stations and let someone else do the driving.

I have a sizable library, a myriad of hand crafted VS_guy playlists,  Spotify, MOG, Napster, Pandora … a ton of material to call up at will. But sometimes it’s fun to relinquish control and listen “old school radio” style … just let the music wash over me for a few hours (refilling my wine glass as needed of course).

A great way to explore the Vocal Standards genre…

With a quality DJ at the helm, I  invariably end up hearing material or artists that are new to me, or a pan a new deep catalog nugget from one of my favorite artists. Radio style listening can be a fun way to explore the vast American Songbook realm IF it’s done right. For me there needs to be a mix of familiar contemporary and classic stuff commingled with the “new to me” songs or it can just wear me out.

Fortunately there are several good internet radio stations out there, a few great ones that deliver a high quality Standards listening experience … and one clear winner!

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The Top 10…

  1. Martiniinthemorning.com
  2. Sinatra Style on JazzRadio
  3. Siriusly Sinatra (Sirius/XM Radio)
  4. SKY.fm American Songbook
  5. Y! Classic Vocal Standards (AOL Radio)
  6. Vocal Legends on JazzRadio
  7. RadioIO Vocal Jazz
  8. Jazz FM 91 – High Standards
  9. Y! New Vocal Standards (AOL Radio)
  10. Sinatra Style (AOL Radio)
Check out mini-reviews of each station and the details behind the rankings after the fold!

What is “Internet Radio”?

For the purposes of this review, here’s how I define internet radio:

  • We’re talking about a managed radio stream…
    • No listener control of the title selection … no “thumbs up/down” or “skip ahead” function
    • A blind stream (no view of upcoming tracks beyond radio style DJ foreshadowing of “upcoming songs”)
    • This leaves music service “Artist channels” and Pandora out of the mix for this review (I like and listen to Pandora and music service (MOG, Spotify, Rhapsody…) channels but I think they have specific features, pluses and minuses that are distinct from  a true radio experience. (We will review Music services separately in an upcoming post in September.)
  • The stations may or may not have a DJ (live or prerecorded)
  • All business models are on the table
    • Ad based free radio
    • Subscription stations (often available as a quality/reduced advertising option of the free stations)
    • Satellite radio subscriptions with internet streaming options

An exhaustive round up of every Vocal Standards station would be … well, exhausting!

There are scores, maybe 100’s of jazz, oldie, lounge and period (“The 40’s”) stations on the internet that focus some of their effort spinning vocal standards — far too many to listen to in a meaningful way and roll up into this review.

Also, internet radio is a wild and dynamic place. New stations emerge literally every day and current stations fade into sad silence just about as quickly — by the time I finished anything close to a comprehensive review campaign, about a third of the stations I listened to would no longer be on the air … and there’d be 10 or 15 newbies in the mix!

So rather than attempt the near impossible, what you’re getting here is my slice of the top ten, distilled from listening to about 30 stations over the past several months. I’ve been listening to some of these stations for years but I formally started scouring the internet for solid Standards stations earlier this year with this review in mind.

How I judged the stations…

Though I started out trying to make this scientific (capturing the number of classic artist songs vs new stars and the like) I determined my true sense of enjoyment to be less scientific and more related to the overall ambient feel of the stations during my listening campaign.

What I found is that sometimes you just want to be awash in solid standards songs from familiar artists — no effort required listening — while on other days I really relished the deep category plays. The bottom line is that my mood and inclination on any given day (or time of day) changed how I perceived and enjoyed the various channels in this review.

The net/net is that I find a balanced play list mix of classic, new and crossover material is what keeps me away from the tuner dial and on a channel for an extended listen. With this in mind I consumed a metric butt-load of internet radio (1-2 hour pulls per station making sure to listen to each station in morning, afternoon and evening time slots during the week and weekends) … all leading to the following top ten.

Without further ado (there’s already been way too much ado)…

The top 10 Vocal Standards Internet Radio Stations…

#1 … Martini In The Morning  (martiniinthemorning.com) MITM clearly separates from the rest of the internet radio pack with a great 24/7 station dedicated to the Great American Songbook. Brad “Martini” Chambers, Mother Miriam and the gang do a great job of spinning a perfect mix of classic material, contemporary and cross-over artist’s fare … and they have fun doing it!

This is real radio … LIVE radio and feels like it with the fun banter, comments and anecdotes from Brad and the team. That said, at the end of the day it’s the excellent play list they spin — a balanced flow of great standards that puts Martini In The Morning on top.

MITM does not dip as deep into the classic artist catalogs as some of the other stations, but for my listening preference this is a plus rather than an issue. 

Stream quality is excellent. The ads are reasonable in number and well recorded so they don’t grate the nerves like some of the other stations. (Though MITM would benefit from a few more advertisers to reduce the frequency of the same ads … a very small nit).

#2 … Sinatra Style on JazzRadio (jazzradio.com) JazzRadio does a very good job of delivering a balanced blend of classic and newer material. No DJ (which is no problem) … they occasionally go on a deep catalog run of somewhat esoteric material but it’s usually well blended with the staple standards yielding a very enjoyable listening experience. The quality of JazzRadio’s free/ad based service is solid and they offer the traditional internet radio uplift to “CD quality” and no ads if you’re a ‘phile.

#3 … Siriusly Sinatra (Sirius/XM Radio) Though this channel is only available as a “for-pay” optional service on top of an already expensive satellite radio contract, I’m staying focused on the music they deliver rather than their high cost.

The standards listening experience Sirius offers is very strong and mostly well balanced. Though not a live DJ channel, they have regular hosted shows (the Sinatra kids, Deana Martin… etc.) and a variety of guest DJs that are usually well produced and bring their own interesting perspectives and anecdotes to the table.

The exception for me is the prime time slots Sirius offers up to Jonathan Schwartz. I’m conflicted about Jonathan on Siriusly Sinatra — though clearly an exceptionally informed guy with lots to share, he tends to share a bit too much (soliloquies from hell sometimes). In addition his play mix often drops very deep into esoterica … way, way deep into broadway and jazz trenches that might be intellectually interesting but it just wears me out.

The Schwartz not withstanding, the OVERALL quality and balance from Sirius is great. I also have to admit that the fact I can get this channel easily on my car head unit is a plus that works to buoy Siriusly Sinatra into the top 5.

#4 … SKY.fm American Songbook (SKY.fm) The fine British folks from SKY.fm come in next with their American Songbook channel. Really very good over all, though not quite as balanced an offering as the top three stations. SKY’s selection is a bit skewed toward the classic artists (not a problem), but they also veer off into deep or very old selections pretty regularly.  

Balance is a minimal issue, but along side their frequent and gratingly loud ads, and the somewhat noticeable lower stream quality, SKY.fm American Songbook can get a little wearisome. Still all in all they are a top player in the standards radio realm.

#5 … Y! Classic Vocal Standards (AOL Radio) Given the name, it’s no surprise that this AOL Radio station is dedicated to the classic side the vocal standards boulevard … and they do an excellent job. Y! Classic Vocal Standards plays a great selection cut from the heartwood of the classic era with a nice frequency of deep dives into the catalog — a fun listen! Y! CVS delivers a high quality stream with a reasonable number of ads so you’re probably wondering why their #5 with all this yummy radio goodness.

Well, had their availability been better, I would have bumped this station up to #3. Sadly, they have pulled back their distribution and are no longer available on several internet radio player apps (TuneIn, Shoutcast…). Worse yet (for me) they no longer stream  through Sonos (my main listening vehicle at the house). They do play on Radium so I can still get to them when at my computer while I’m working, but that’s not prime listening as I see it.

#6 … Vocal Legends on JazzRadio (jazzradio.com) JazzRadio pulls out another great station with their Vocal Legends channel. Another really nice blend of classic, new and crossover artists are reflected in their play list. Like their sister station they occasionally do a deep catalog dive but those runs are nicely balanced for a fun overall exploratory listening experience.

The JazzRadio folks occasionally take this station into more of a jazz vocal realm which is a nice diversion, but since we’re rating these channels for their standards offering, this “jazziness” drops them into the second five. That said, overall this is a very nice place to sit and enjoy a varied playlist of standards and jazz vocals.

#7 … RadioIO Vocal Jazz (RadioIO) Similar to Vocal Legends (#6) RadioIO brings us another high quality vocal jazz oriented station that casts a strong shadow on the American Songbook. A good blend of classic and new standards artists especially in the evening listening slot. The stream quality is very good and though the ads volume is a bit higher it’s still not abusive. RadioIO rumbles into a more jazzy play list than all the other stations in the review but the overall standards listening experience is solid.

#8 … Jazz FM 91 – High Standards (jazz.fm) Very similar to the RadioIO offering Jazz FM 91 – High Standards is virtually the same style of classic and new standards with a significant jazz vein running through their spin list. Stream quality is excellent and ads are not overbearing. Net/net a very nice listening experience especially if you’re looking for something a bit jazzy.

#9 … Y! New Vocal Standards (AOL Radio) A really nice channel that focuses on the contemporary standards artists. These guys do a great job so if you’re leaning more towards Bublé and Jonny Blu this station is spinning a playlist right in your wheelhouse. They suffer the same availability issues as the other AOL Radio stations which from my standpoint kicks them down the list. Ads are a bit strong but overall an excellent listening experience that gets discounted by their access restrictions.

#10 .. Sinatra Style – AOL (AOL Radio) Rounding out the top ten is yet another AOL Radio station that does a good job of serving up the Rat Pack era standards. Same availability/marginal ad pain issues as the other AOL offerings but again a nice listening option that delivers excellent balance of both classic and contemporary stylings.

Other stations that came in just off the back of the top ten… The Penthouse (Loudcaster), Jazz Spotlight on Sinatra (Live 365). These and others are certainly worth a pass every so often, but from my perspective the top ten above are the cream of the crop.

I’m sure I’ve missed some great stations and likewise sure there are differing opinions on my rank order. If I missed a great station please let me know. Or if  you think my rank order is rank, tell me where I got it wrong … I can probably take it ;-).

 

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  • Barrjranch

    I fully agree 200% with voting MITM number one!! Well earned, well deserved! I have tried the others, but keep coming back to MITM! Seems Brad has put together just the right mix…it’s way too cool!!!

    • Anonymous

      Yes indeed. MITM’s prominence only became more obvious to me after spending several weeks listening to all the internet radio options morning noon and night … like you every time I returned to MITM I rediscovered why my virtual tuner has a well worn notch at martiniinthemorning.com!

      Thanks for stopping by and the feedback!

  • Zack

    Yes! MitM is the best, and why someone with more resources doesn’t pick them up is beyond me. They do the best job, but I’m afraid they’re going away, too, as they had to stop their wifi stream and are only available thru their internet website.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Zack,

      They showed back up on the TuneIn app and the Sonos home theater streaming internet radio “dial” today so all is not lost! I think Brad and the team are trying everything they can think of to keep it going — hopefully enough people will make it to some venue that pays them some $ and keeps them on the air.

      Thanks for stopping by man!

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