RARA, or Real Audio, is an audio format developed by Real Network in 1995. Ever since, it has constantly been in use for streaming audio on the Real Player.
RA uses an encoding format similar to those used in cellular telephones and digital television, whereby the audio can be played back at the same time that it is being downloaded. In other words, playback starts after a part of the audio has been downloaded, and then continues playing while the rest of the audio is being downloaded. This feature makes RA an ideal audio format for use in radio music and talk shows, educational programs for distance education, and live events.
Another facet of RA is that it supports SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) and RAM (Real Audio Metadata) files. Both SMIL and RAM files are small text files that contain a link to the audio stream, so when a user clicks on this link, the user’s web browser downloads the SMIL or RAM file and opens the media player. This important feature is particularly useful when playing long works, like operas, as it allows a series of audio files to be consecutively played without any manipulation from the user.
The speed of Real Audio playback is consistent off internet, but a little inconsistent on the internet. This is because on the internet, the speed doesn’t only depend on the Real Audio server, but also on the HTTP server. An HTTP server is usually not as fast as a Real Audio server; hence the connection between the two is not always in harmony.
The official player for Rea Audio is Real Player, the latest being Version 11. Version 11 is available in two formats – Basic and Plus. Basic is available free, while Plus, which has some added features, has to be bought at a price. Other players capable of playing RA files (with the file extension of ‘.ra’) include Real Alternative and Windows Media Player.
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