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Comparing Streaming Services: a Guide to Spoitfy, Rdio, Turntable.fm, and Pandora  Print E-mail
Home Theater Feature Articles Audio Related Articles
Written by Michael Palmer   
Friday, 29 July 2011
Article Index
Comparing Streaming Services: a Guide to Spoitfy, Rdio, Turntable.fm, and Pandora 
User Experience
Quality and Conclusion


In terms of musical selection, the general search functionality of turntable.fm seemed a bit limited (searching for an artist, say Nirvana, turned up only a handful of the band's biggest hits) when compared to the in-depth catalogs of Spotify or Rdio.  I may be mistaken about this, but I believe a many Turntable.fm users upload their own tracks (or at least it seemed that way, as I checked out a number of rooms focusing on musical mashups).  In terms of plans or pricing, at the time of this writing, there is no paid plan option or an app for smart phones or tablet devices.

Turntable.fm screen shot


Lastly, though there are clearly other options as well, we have Pandora.  What started in 2000 as the Music Genome Project has become ubiquitous with internet music streaming.  The idea, for those who may not know, is that users search for artists, songs, or albums to create a unique, personal music "station."  Using the musical details of each track (melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, genre, etc.), Pandora then selects similar artists and songs to your original choice.  Users can created up to 100 stations, mixing and matching them as necessary to create a random playlist of all your favorite types of music.  To help identify what you actually want to here, users are also able to Like or Dislike any song (Dislikes will be dropped from that station's playlist).  The only catch is that you can't actually choose a specific song to play (or repeat them).  The order is totally up to the computer, and much more like a radio experience than iTunes.

Pandora logoPandora is available in two versions.  Pandora is free for up to 40 hours of ad supported music per month.  Pandora One, at a cost of $36/year (which amortizes to $3/month), includes a desktop application, unlimited commercial free music streaming  at a higher bit rate, and the ability to "skip" more tracks.  Pandora One is currently available with a 24 hour free trial.  The best part about both versions of Pandora is the free app which allows AirPlay streaming to a dedicated listening environment (for those, like me, who do not have a computer hooked up to my best sound system).  Also, because Pandora was at the forefront of streaming music, it's already built-in to many modern network-capable electronics such as Blu-ray Disc players, smart phones and AV Receivers.

USER EXPERIENCE


Spotify and Rdio offer simple, familiar user experiences for anyone who has used Windows Media Player or iTunes.  The one thing that seems to be missing from Spotify is a musical genre browsing.  For each artist, you can browse "related artists", but I didn't see a way to check out "film scores" or "country" or "heavy metal" or "pop" (unless they happen to be part of an album titled after a genre, like a Divas of Jazz, etc.).  That's not to say it's difficult; one just has to have an idea what he or she is already wants.

Turntable.fm is a completely different experience.  Going to Turntable.fm to listen to others works quite easily -- look around for a particular genre and listen away with no ads or delays -- but you don't have a choice in what plays.  For that, you have to find an empty DJ spot and then wait your turn.  Definitely not a deal breaker, but not quite a simple as the other three services we're talking about here.  

Pandora is super easy to use as well, and does a lot of great legwork in terms of figuring out what you like or don't; again, the drawback here is that if you're in the mood to listen to that one favorite song, you'll have to wait and hope it eventually plays.

 


 

 
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