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But its interface design borders on being dull and outdated, and its catalogue is lacking in some key areas.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.
Catalogue: 22 million
Bitrate: up to 320kbps
File format: Dolby Pulse
Mobile platforms: Android, iOS, Windows 8
Desktop app: No
Tablet optimised: iOS, Windows
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