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Review: Rdio streaming at its best

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by Danny Kaey on September 27 '11

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Spotify, Mog, Rdio… each of these are gunning for your charitable $10 a month contribution. For about the price of 2 cups of fancy designer coffee you can have access to 12+ million songs on each of these streaming music service providers. Read on to see why I picked Rdio as the winner.
It was inevitable: beginning with Napster in 1999 (holy cow folks, that's like 12 years ago…), I knew that traditional radio and music retailing was going to fall apart. Add to that Apple's iPod / iPhone / iTunes phenomenon and its not difficult to see how we go to where we are so quickly. While I still have some issue with renting my music (in essence that's what any of these services really are) as opposed to owning it, I am warming up to the dawn of a new age mostly due to Rdio's incredibly intuitive and easy to use interface.

Sure, for comparisons sake I downloaded and played with all of the 3 major music streaming players, alas, Rdio quickly set itself apart from the rest with these fine qualities (in no particular order):

* intuitive & clean interface across all my devices, iPhone, Mac and iPad
* quick access to on demand music
* no crazy double-triple clicks to to get to the track you want to hear
* no bugs or hiccups to distort the user experience
* fantastic (no really) iPad app
* native OSX desktop media client
* functional music discovery
* AirPlay compatibility on iOS

The list could go on, suffice is to say that what impresses me mostly about Rdio versus all others is their polished look and feel that I simply don't see with any of the other clients and streaming apps. Where I see room for improvement is content and music playback quality, something us audiophiles obviously care a great deal about. No doubt as Rdio gets more music publishers on board, content will continue to grow. Having said so, it is rather sad that certain stuff simply is no where to be found. Why is it that I can't stream any of Bob Seger's classics (you won't find it on iTunes either)?

Music quality on the other hand is one of those hot button topics, polarizing as ever. To most people, the stuff that comes out of Rdio's bag of tricks sounds good enough. Is it any surprise that Bose has become synonymous with good quality sound? How about Beats by Dr. Dre? Anyone seriously interested in music quality will obviously look elsewhere, but you are at the mercy of Rdio's backend. Though I was unable to get any confirmation as to what specific quality level Rdio streams music at, my guess is that it is some sort of mp3 compression scheme at around 190k.

RdioForiPhoneRdioForiPad Good enough? You be the judge for that. Personally, as I mostly utilize Rdio for background music playback and on the go, via my iPhone and iPad read: cycling, hiking, driving, etc., it is good enough for me and the perceived quality enhancements I would get from say raising the mp3 throughput to 320k would not necessarily make for a deeper musical experience. Then again, I know plenty audiophiles who would pick Mog's service for that very reason. I'll stick with usability and the user experience, thank you very much.

Traditional radio is getting less and less popular and for obvious reasons. Rdio is a great tool for playing back all sorts of music and discovering new titles on the go. Will Rdio be around ten years from now? Who knows (Netflix has been in the news as of late…), it is a very quickly changing market and one slip can cause you to fall mightily. Alas, I like it and hope for days when all content will become available at varying quality levels that I can pick. Imagine Rdio streaming your favorite tracks at Apple lossless? It's all possible! Thumbs up and an A+++ rating from SonicFlare.
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