Rara review

A good option for newbies and technophobes, but there are better sounding services out there.

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A good option for newbies and technophobes, but audiophiles can spend their money better elsewhere


  • +

    Decent catalogue

  • +

    Strong playlist offering

  • +

    Simple interface


  • -

    Outdated design

  • -

    Playback niggles

  • -

    Sound lacks punch

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Rara launched in 2011 with one specific aim. Instead of going head-to-head with the big players in the market, its emphasis was on simplicity, targeting people its chairman Rob Lewis says “are either not technically literate, or like music but don’t know a huge amount about it”.




Spend a bit of time navigating through the web and mobile apps, and you’ll see what he means – this is no interface for a tech-savvie music fan.

Well-labelled icons, illustrated by some rather clichéd stock imagery, take you to a whole host of ready-to-go content, with a heavy emphasis on pre-loaded playlists and radio stations.

These cover everything from themes and genres to moods and chart compilations, leaving as little work as possible for the user.

Rara Radar is the section to go to for a heads-up on new albums and songs, while the cheesy-titled Just For You is a curated list of suggested songs based on your streaming habits.

While we weren't able to test it, it's worth noting that Rara is also available in a number of BMW cars from 2013 onwards, included Series 1-7 cars, the M Series and the X5. This is accessible directly through BMW's Online Entertainment System in the dashboard.




The catalogue is impressive at 22 million songs, though our tests did uncover some holes, finding only six out of our 10 test albums and missing ones from Stevie Wonder, The Verve, Led Zeppelin and The Libertines.

Songs take a while to load (more so on the web app than on the mobile apps), and are offered in 320kbps Dolby Pulse audio, aiming to offer near-CD-quality playback without the file size.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t our experience, and despite the impressive bitrate on paper, we found the streams to lack the detail and timing that we've heard in rival services, meaning it could sound a little flat.




It’s hard to knock Rara because what it does, it does well. Playlists are extensive and decently stocked and usability is super-simple.

But its interface design borders on being dull and outdated, and its catalogue is lacking in some key areas.

Above all for us, its sound quality doesn’t cut it in such a competitive market place, despite its 320kbps offering. Any consumer that puts audio quality first can find better elsewhere.

Tech specs:

Catalogue: 22 million

Bitrate: up to 320kbps

File format: Dolby Pulse

Countries: 32

Mobile platforms: Android, iOS, Windows 8

Desktop app: No

Tablet optimised: iOS, Windows

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test