REVIEW: RDIO MUSIC STREAMING SERVICE

FOR: Sounds good; wide device compatibility; impressive app; no Facebook sign-up required

AGAINST: No extra ‘app’-style content on desktop; library not quite as huge as Spotify

VERDICT: Sounds good, looks good, works well – a fine alternative for music streaming

Streaming is the new downloading, for many. It seems likely that for music, in the long run, ‘access to everything’ might beat ‘ownership of a limited amount’ hands down, and for obvious reasons.

And the competition is hotting up. The basic premise of Rdio is nigh-on identical to Spotify: listen to millions of songs, on-demand, on your computer or mobile, for a monthly subscription. You can trial the service for free for a limited time, after which you pay £4.99 or £9.99 a month.

The former gives you access to unlimited tracks, with no ads, on your desktop or within Rdio’s browser client. Either way, the ‘Web’ option limits you to listening on  PC or Mac. Pay the extra for the ‘Unlimited’ service and you also get music on your mobile, and on any other devices you might have, such as Roku or Sonos.

Getting started, many users will be pleased to learn that a Facebook account is not required (as it now is with Spotify), though you can link to Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm should you want to. After a recent update, the interface is certainly clean – a neat white design – and there are few dividing lines between menus.

More after the break

 

Rdio: Easy-to-use interface

You can browse music by new releases or charts, or based on what you’ve been listening to previously. Your own ‘collection’ is where you can build a library, by saving albums/tracks to your collection. Or you can use ‘search’, which works well and auto-fills with suggestions as you type.

The library is billed as ‘15 million songs and counting’ (Spotify claims 18m and adds 20,000 a day). While Rdio is clearly substantial, some time spent cross-referencing against Spotify found Rdio more likely to be missing releases (though they did tend to be quite obscure).

Rdio promises 320kbps streaming quality for the majority of tracks over web and mobile, though the latter will change depending on your connection, and we’re impressed by the sound (with the caveat that, through a decent system, we’d prefer higher quality).

Stream mobile with the Rdio app

What's more, Rdio prides itself on its compatibility with a range of devices, so as well as Mac and PC software you can run Rdio directly in Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari web browsers.

Take it mobile, and there are apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS – iPhone and iPad – and Windows Phone 7. As mentioned, Rdio is also integrated into Roku and Sonos kit.

The app experience is broadly similar in terms of features but, predictably, has a different layout. Three rows of three icons take you into your music, with the same option to look through your collection, playlists, recently listened to music, charts and more. There are plenty of great ways of discovering new music, each with a subtle twist.  

Crucially, you can listen to music offline, too – so you won’t hammer your mobile data connection – by syncing your content to your phone’s memory (which we’d recommend doing over wi-fi). Album artwork looks good, controls are clear and intuitive, and all told it’s a great-looking, easy-to-use app.

Verdict

Rdio is a fledgling service in the UK, and it doesn’t yet have added extras such as Spotify’s apps from the likes of The Guardian, nor the wider support of remote apps and other ‘hacks’. But as a streaming alternative that offers a big library, smart interface, impressive connectivity and decent sound, Rdio is well worth a look.

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