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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

QUALITY

I was only able to stream Spotify and Turntable.fm to a couple different PCs, connected to some very simple 2.1 Boston Acoustic desktop speakers system as well as Apple's Earbuds.  In general, the free versions of these streaming services might not be good enough for purists and audiophiles -- you'll have to be your own judges on that -- but for my layman ears, even at louder volumes, Spotify and Turntable.fm sounded quite good.  I would estimate they were akin to a very clear connection to FM radio.

Turntable.fm Logo 

Pandora, via its free app, I've had the pleasure to stream to my living room system, a 7.1 Denon AVR running KEF iQ speakers.  Since I don't have Pandora One, I was at the lower bit rate for streaming, and again the music sounded quite good.  Nearly CD quality with very little signs of compression. Personally, I have not heard the higher resolution paid version.

CONCLUSION

The question, of course, is what are you looking for?  What do you need?  Each of these services provides something different.  Audiophiles and collectors might not need any of them, instead electing to create perfect playlists out of his or her personal collection.  But, if you're anything like me, you don't have every album for ever artist ever (even your favorites), and it's always fun to hear something new.  The question then, is do you already know what to look for, or do you need a little help?

The group experience -- the radio experience -- of Pandora and Turntable.fm, in very little time, have expanded my listening horizons to things I may not have previously considered.  Pandora is also fantastic for parties and, as I've noticed, restaurant and retail situations.  Pick a band or any custom channel, and away it goes with a near perfect playlist for hours on end.  I'm not sure exactly if Turntable.fm could be as useful; we'll have to see after its done Beta testing and when there's an app for that. 

Rdio logo


Spotify and Rdio were seemingly limitless in their respective music choices (to me; a more learned music lover is sure to find tons of missing tracks), which can be overwhelming.  Especially in the case of Spotify, which was missing genre browsing.  Then again, the like-artists threads can send you off in some surprising directions.  With Spotify, my favorite part was getting to hear live recordings or the one rare album I had never heard before, but it wasn't a place where I was able to learn more about music (without asking friends).

 
The real question for these services, should they remain legally and financially viable, is will they prevent people from owning music at all?  I personally like to buy certain albums so I can digitally encode them at a high bit rate, but for most stuff, FM radio esc is good enough for my ears.  Plus, I'm old and have old man Buying Things habits.  If I was a teenager today during the summer of 2011, and for the price of one iTunes album every month, I could have access to 15 Million songs any time I wanted…why would I ever buy music again?






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