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Using an encoder to stream live audio from your computer to a server somewhere on the Internet should be a transparent process. Having the connection run without disconnecting to the point where you forget there’s an encoder running is the ideal scenario for streaming audio. When we started streaming The Chris Pirillo Show live at the end of 2004, we were using Windows Media Encoder, the free encoder from Microsoft. WME does a stand-up job of converting audio and video to Windows Media formats, but when it comes to reliably maintaining a connection, there are a few important features missing. The folks over at Spacial Audio solve this problem with SimpleCast, an awesome encoder app with support for streaming Windows Media audio, MP3, OGG, and mp3PRO audio content. As far as I know, it’s the only app that can stream all four file types simultaneously at multiple bitrates, which makes it a clear winner all by itself. The reason I’m using SimpleCast to encode our live broadcast of The Chris Pirillo Show is fault tolerance. Relying on network connections from consumer ISPs when we broadcast means relying on faulty service, because there’s no enterprise level guarantee of network uptime. SimpleCast picks up the slack by reconnecting the stream if there’s a network error breaking the connection between the streaming server and the encoder, which means listeners aren’t left wondering what happened to the show. SimpleCast is compatible with Windows Media Streaming Services, Shoutcast, IceCast, P2P Streamer and Live365. Depending on what you’re streaming, the software automatically injects album art and file information about your audio as well. Depending on the server you stream to, you can also get live stats back to know how many listeners are tuned in. If you do any amount of live audio streaming for a business, church or just as a hobby from your basement, the $60 you spend on SimpleCast will be among the best purchases you make for your audio tool set all year. [Windows 2k/XP $59.95]