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The solution to a year long (and extremely frustrating) problem I've had, caused by the fact that I only have one speaker; this command downmixes the stream to monophonic output, making sure I don't miss any of the music.
NOTE: When stream is in .m3u format, a -playlist option is required, as shown below:
mplayer -af pan=1:0.5:0.5 -channels 1 -playlist radiostream.m3u
This command works great with aliases for various channels in .bashrc. Sample below:
alias radio1='mplayer -af pan=1:0.5:0.5 -channels 1 radio1stream.pls'