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  1. #1

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    Default Streaming services compared

    Been meaning to write this for a while but I'm lazy. Anyway, a few months ago I decided to take the plunge and subscribe to a music streaming service. Only question was: which one? So, I signed up for a 1-month trial to Pandora, Google Play Music, Spotify, rdio, Rhapsody, and MOG. My goal was simply to find which one I liked best, with sound quality being the highest priority.

    I know a lot of people love Pandora for how easy it is to get started and get to discovering new music. I love it for the same reason, and have used it quite a bit in the past. So Pandora was a front-runner from the start. I expected the paid version would be just as good, but with better sound quality, being that it's 192kbps. If you do the free version, Pandora is 64kbps on the web, or 128kbps on home devices (Squeezebox, etc.).

    I'm not going to go into great detail on the rest here, because, again, I'm lazy. If you have questions about a specific service, feel free to ask. But for now I'll get straight to the results: MOG wins. The rest of the services were not bad, and some had some features I really liked, but I feel the reason so many people use Pandora is the fact that it is so simple to get to the music quickly, and most of the competition was not as easy.

    Speaking of features I liked, I did really like the ability to add your own tracks to Spotify, but based on the ease-of-use factor, I could really see Spotify or any of the other services becoming something I would end up paying for but not really using much. I do wish I could add my own tracks to MOG, but it's a feature I can live without, since their library is so encompassing.

    The real kicker is that everything MOG has is 320kbps, whether you do the free version or the paid version. If you have the MOG mobile app (which you must be a subscriber for) it will adjust the bitrate based on the bandwidth of your mobile device, but there is a setting you can switch on to force 320kbps all the time, if you are confident in your connection and want to ensure the highest sound quality. That to me was a huge feather in MOG's cap.

    MOG does have a radio service similar to Pandora to help you find new music. You can turn this on or off at will, so you can have MOG suggest stuff for you or you can simply build your playlist manually. When using the radio feature, you can adjust a slider to hear more music from your selected artist or more from similar artists. Or you can set it to hear nothing but music from your selected artist or nothing but similar artists, if you want to do that.

    It's a pretty great feature, although I will say it is definitely not as "smart" as Pandora's radio feature. It will sometimes come up with some really horrible suggestions. One day I was listening to Daft Punk and it queued up Back Street Boys next. So yeah. Hopefully they will improve that part. Usually it's pretty good though.

    But, sound quality is king, and the fact that everything MOG has is 320kbps simply cannot be beat. Of course that wouldn't matter if they didn't have the artists I wanted to listen to, but they have a truly huge library. There are very few artists I cannot find in MOG. Tool is a notable artist that is excluded, but they are excluded from damn near everything, the bastards. And they may sign them still. MOG recently signed RHCP. All in all, however, I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of artists/albums I am able to find in MOG, whether they're really big names like Muse or really obscure like Pigface. MOG has 'em.

    There is a MOG app for Squeezebox devices, and of course iOS and Android apps. I use the Android app on my phone, which I use to connect to my car stereo when driving (wired connection). That's where I get the most use out of MOG. Much better than FM or satellite radio. I actually cannot stand satellite radio but that's for another thread.

    Anyway, just thought I'd share that if anyone is considering subscribing to a streaming service. I don't know of any other service that offers a radio feature similar to Pandora's and 320kbps streaming. And since MOG doesn't seem to be as recognizable a brand as Pandora or Spotify, thought I'd talk it up a bit, since I feel it deserves it. Now that I have a MOG subscription, I rarely feel the need to buy an album any more. It's not HD, of course, but for everyday non-critical listening, it's a great service. It's quite nice to be talking to a friend or someone about an artist I might be interested in, search for and find them in MOG, and start listening to them right away at 320kbps, like I'm doing with Liquid Tension Experiment as I type this.

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    There are a couple you forgot that I'd like to hear your opinion of. Last.fm and Slacker! I vaguely remember Live365 too.

    Interesting read, thanks!
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    We will differ on some of this but as long as you found what works for you, cool man....fly with it.

    For me, I like using Rhapsody. They seem to have a lot more artists, song titles in their inventory. Plus when coupled with the Sonos, you can mix and match your personal library into the Q. You can get radio stations from every country on earth and even comedy albums too. It can keep track of your favorite artists and then give suggestions, or play whats popular.

    I've tried the others as you did for one month. For ease of use, available artists, no drop outs, Rhapsody wins in my book. Now for sound quality......lets just say that anyone using a streaming SERVICE.....isn't doing it for the sound quality. They do it for casual listening/entertaining experience and convenience.

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    I use Sony Music Unlimited, its only $60 per year, streams at 320kbps, offers offline playback on your android devices. Which basically allows you store 1000 songs on your device. Content is pretty much the same as the other top players. Mostly everything except the biggest names,ex.Metallica,Garth Brooks, Beatles etc. But more is being added all the time. The sound quality is fantastic I have compared it directly with some of the same albums I have on CD and its too close for me to tell a difference.
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    Agreed on Mog, I've been using it for a while and love it, and basically for the same reasons. I've tried the others as well, and the sq with Mog was just so much better.
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    Spotify is my favorite by a long shot. For $10 a month, I get unlimited music with no commercials. I am also able to store up to 2k tracks on up to 3 different devices. So I have offline playlists on my phone, ipad and work pc. And you can set your settings so that both your streaming and offline tracks are 320kbs. Or you can set streaming to a lower quality if you're on a bad 3G network. Having 2k tracks on my phone and having blue tooth streaming in my car makes my phone my primary music source for the car.

    You can make playlists however you like. I have some that are single albums, others that are compilations of a single artist, and even others that are genre specific.

    If you're on your pc, spotify has a radio option that is similar to pandora. Not as good, but spotify does so much on the playlist front that I don't need the radio side of things.

    All in all, I couldn't imagine being without spotify on a daily basis. Love it!
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    I alternate between Pandora and Slacker Radio on my Sony Media Streamer NS200, and when I'm streaming off my laptop or PC I use Spotify. MOG's semi-free service... well it lacks something. And honestly, I'm not sure my ears can hear the difference between 128K and 320K.

    But i think the OP write up is well researched and well written and I applaud him for taking the time to do it. If Spotify were on my Sony Streaming Box I might just sign up for it.

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    By the way, I really wanted to like Rhapsody the most since the Oppo supports it, but the sound quality was lacking for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jflail2 View Post
    Spotify is my favorite by a long shot. For $10 a month, I get unlimited music with no commercials. I am also able to store up to 2k tracks on up to 3 different devices. So I have offline playlists on my phone, ipad and work pc. And you can set your settings so that both your streaming and offline tracks are 320kbs. Or you can set streaming to a lower quality if you're on a bad 3G network. Having 2k tracks on my phone and having blue tooth streaming in my car makes my phone my primary music source for the car.

    You can make playlists however you like. I have some that are single albums, others that are compilations of a single artist, and even others that are genre specific.

    If you're on your pc, spotify has a radio option that is similar to pandora. Not as good, but spotify does so much on the playlist front that I don't need the radio side of things.

    All in all, I couldn't imagine being without spotify on a daily basis. Love it!
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    I don't recall Spotify having the 320kbps option when I tried it, would like to check it out again. So, those of you who have compared Spotify vs MOG and prefer Spotify, why?

    EDIT: Oh I remember what it was about Spotify now, when I tried it alot of the tracks weren't streaming at 320. They were advertising at 320 but alot of what I listened to wasn't in that nitrate. Has that changed?
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    I do like Pandora for a radio app. I also like torch music since video playlists can be made, but without the commercials like youtube.

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    Spotify and Rhapsody are two services I have actually been a subscriber of in the past, before this experiment, so I did have extensive experience with those two compared to the other services I only did a 1-month trial of. However I did make sure to try them again during the month to see if there had been any significant changes.

    There is a lot to like about Spotify. When they first came on the scene they were a game-changer in how streaming services operated, and I was an early adopter. But while there was a lot to like about Spotify, I never quite fell in love with it. Mostly I was disappointed with their Android and PC apps. Admittedly, some of that may just be my own personal taste being incompatible with their GUI design, with their gray/black wall-of-text layout. But whatever the reason, they just felt like a chore to use. Definitely not as friendly a user experience as Pandora or MOG. And like Assimilated said, a lot of their tracks are not 320kbps, but rather 160kbps, so that was the nail in the coffin for Spotify.

    Rhapsody was actually the first streaming service I ever signed up for, back in 2003. Back then sound quality kind of took a back seat to convenience, and the polish of the Rhapsody GUI was much better than the competition. However, today they are still limited to 128kbps, so in a comparison of streaming services with sound quality being of the highest importance, that makes them a non-starter. Which is a shame, because I still really like their GUI.

    Like Rhapsody, Last.fm and Slacker were also disqualified for having 128kbps tracks. Really the only ones I tried were ones I knew had 192kbps or higher, or ones I either did not know or could not confirm the bitrate of due to conflicting information on the 'net. Yes, a streaming service is a compromise by definition, but it doesn't have to be that much of a compromise. For my ears, 128kbps or lower is unacceptable in any listening environment, while 320kbps is acceptable anywhere except for critical listening sessions, which in my case equates to about 90% of the time. So a 320kbps streaming service is well worth my money. If you can't tell the difference or are able to tolerate 128kbps, more power to you, but definitely not for me.

    Sony's music service is one I actually had not been aware of, surprisingly. I may have to give it a try, but honestly I'm so happy with MOG right now I don't feel very motivated to do so. But if they have the radio feature, 320kbps streaming and a decent GUI for $60 a year, I guess I should. Ah, wait a second:

    "Sony notes that the higher quality stream isn’t available for offline listening, so it’s an either/or proposition at this point. And Sony told me that the bit rate for downloads is an abysmal 48 kbps."

    From: http://www.macworld.com/article/2044...ed-on-ios.html

    My mobile bandwidth isn't always good enough for 320kbps, and besides, if I favorite an album or track and download it to my phone, it's so I don't have to use up said bandwidth or wait for a buffer to fill when I listen to that particular album or track. Doing that at the cost of listening at 48kbps? Nope. No way. If that is something Sony fixes in the future (which does seem likely, IMO) then I may give them a chance. They just recently added the high-quality streaming, so I would imagine high-quality offline listening is the logical next step for Sony.


    You can download tracks for offline listening with MOG, and they are 320kbps. Pretty much any time I favorite a track or an album, I tell my MOG app to download it to my phone. I'm not aware of a limit to how many tracks I can download, if there is one. I've just been going on the assumption that it will let me download as many as I have room for.

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    I love my mog. having the ability to listen to full albums whenever I want is great. I still use pandora for its radio feature. When I find something I I like on pandora, I research the artist on mog. I do the 4.99 pc plan
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    I'm surprised RDIO has not been mentioned. I singed up for a free trial and was amazed. They don't publish the bit rate, but sate it is tailored to your connection. They have had most every album I have tried and a very friendly interface.

    That said, I have used it primarily to compare the tracks to lossless on a good set of headphones and find the streaming is good for background music, or just to see if an album is worth buying in a format worth listening to in a serious audiophile manner. Even if tracks are 320k they are still lacking IMHO.

    I'll have to give the others services a try.....meanwhile I'm with Neil Young wanting a flac portable player, either his or a Fiio X3.
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    I did try Rdio, as I mentioned in the original post. The sound quality was very poor on the tracks I sampled. Definitely not 320kbps. I'd guess at least half that, maybe even just 128.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syndil
    Yes, a streaming service is a compromise by definition, but it doesn't have to be that much of a compromise. For my ears, 128kbps or lower is unacceptable in any listening environment, while 320kbps is acceptable anywhere except for critical listening sessions, which in my case equates to about 90% of the time. So a 320kbps streaming service is well worth my money. If you can't tell the difference or are able to tolerate 128kbps, more power to you, but definitely not for me.
    That's my take on it as well. Everyone will have a different threshold where they tolerate music and there's really no point in arguing about what the number should be, mine sits at 320kbps. Anything below that I just won't listen to, 320kbps is fine for background and on the go, and for checking out new albums that I may be interested in. So I use MOG for background music and mostly to find new music I want. Any time I sit down to listen though, which is quite often, lossless it is.

    Back when Apple created iTunes, Steve Jobs predicted (incorrectly I might add) that people wanted to OWN their content vs paying for a subscription service where your favorite albums can be taken away at any time. Given the popularity of these services he was wrong, and to make matters even worse Apple went and effed the whole iTunes up by selling compressed music, but I digress. However, I am one of those people who DOES want to own the content, so there are still some of us around.

    I view MOG the same way I view Netflix streaming, it's a great service and well worth the cost but it'll never replace my personal media collection. Speaking of which, I'm about to set a milestone with my music collection: 5,000 albums. It's nothing compared to the larger collections out there, but it's taken taken me 20 years to put together and I'm strangely proud of my music collection even though I didn't do anything but buy the albums.
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    I use xBox Music. $9.99 and I get huge collection. I get to download and play it on my Windows Phone 8 (Nokia Lumia 1020). And I can also download songs on my computer or play it through xBox. Since my xBox is connected to my AV I can play all the songs through my AV + Speakers.
    OH and it has a cloud player which is accessible through browser. Any playlist I make is available through on xBox,Phone and PC. And since I have access to all the tracks it allows me to experiment before I buy CD.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rohitharsh View Post
    I use xBox Music. $9.99 and I get huge collection. I get to download and play it on my Windows Phone 8 (Nokia Lumia 1020). And I can also download songs on my computer or play it through xBox. Since my xBox is connected to my AV I can play all the songs through my AV + Speakers.
    OH and it has a cloud player which is accessible through browser. Any playlist I make is available through on xBox,Phone and PC. And since I have access to all the tracks it allows me to experiment before I buy CD.
    That means all your music is MP3's......my ears hurt just saying that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    That means all your music is MP3's......my ears hurt just saying that.
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    As I said that means I get to try EVERYTHING and buy CDs of the one I like.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rohitharsh View Post
    As I said that means I get to try EVERYTHING and buy CDs of the one I like.
    Yeah, we get that. But do you then download the cd into the computer ? Do you use a lossless format ? If you can play music from the computer to your stereo, why on earth would you use MP3's....if that's the case ? Create playlist....yeah cool, but you need 2 different formats, MP3 for the phone, lossless for the stereo. You can do that with a click of the mouse on most any computer these days. Read up my good man, we are just trying to steer you to better sound.

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    I run Spotify and have never seen the bitrate below 320. Will need to keep an eye out for that. Haven't tried MOG. I was a Rhapsody subscriber for many years and always hated the interface. Though these days I mostly just stream via the SBT. I switched to Spotify because of the better SQ which to me is very noticeable. Plus Spotify simply has more music, at least in the genres I listen to.
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    Oh god. Let me explain again. You are not getting it.
    Music subscription like xBox Music or Spotify etc allows one to listen to all the music in the world. So when I go to threads like "What Are You Listening To? " here in Polk Forum I can check for those music on xBox Music to see if I like it? Music discovery is amazing through these services. The ones I really like, now I can go buy the CD. These are artist I want to own and listen to over and over again. There is no way I can buy CD just to try it. Too expensive. Just last night I was able to try at least 15 different artist on xBox Music and ended up buying two CD.
    The CDs I buy are now of artist I really like and want to listen to it over and over again. I rip it in lossless and enjoy them in good quality.
    The world just cannot be CD or nothing.
    Last edited by rohitharsh; 09-08-2013 at 10:49 AM.

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    It is anticipated that Apple will announce iRadio at their Tuesday event (Sep 10) which would be a direct competitor to Pandora. Just another one to add to the mix.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jetmaker737 View Post
    I run Spotify and have never seen the bitrate below 320. Will need to keep an eye out for that. Haven't tried MOG. I was a Rhapsody subscriber for many years and always hated the interface. Though these days I mostly just stream via the SBT. I switched to Spotify because of the better SQ which to me is very noticeable. Plus Spotify simply has more music, at least in the genres I listen to.
    I did a trial of both Spotify and Rhapsody about 3 years ago. Couldn't tell the difference in SQ between the 2 and Spotify had less music/artist than Rhapsody at the time. Also the drop outs from Spotify was just annoying as hell. Maybe they've changed ? I dunno, but they seem to be spotty on reliability still judging by user reviews. No pun intended there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rohitharsh View Post
    Oh god. Let me explain again. You are not getting it.
    Music subscription like xBox Music or Spotify etc allows one to listen to all the music in the world. So when I go to threads like "What Are You Listening To? " here in Polk Forum I can check for those music on xBox Music to see if I like it? Music discovery is amazing through these services. The ones I really like, now I can go buy the CD. These are artist I want to own and listen to over and over again. There is no way I can buy CD just to try it. Too expensive. Just last night I was able to try at least 15 different artist on xBox Music and ended up buying two CD.
    The CDs I buy are now of artist I really like and want to listen to it over and over again. I rip it in lossless and enjoy them in good quality.
    The world just cannot be CD or nothing.
    Relax dude, the reason I wasn't "getting it" was because you didn't say you rip to lossless. You said you shared the music between devices, which I'm not aware of any phone that plays lossless audio. Hence my question about MP3.

    All good anyway, moving on....

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    I did a trial of both Spotify and Rhapsody about 3 years ago. Couldn't tell the difference in SQ between the 2 and Spotify had less music/artist than Rhapsody at the time. Also the drop outs from Spotify was just annoying as hell. Maybe they've changed ? I dunno, but they seem to be spotty on reliability still judging by user reviews. No pun intended there.
    The drop out issue was mostly the first few months Spotify was in the US; they had some glitches in the how they stitched together songs from different servers. Admittedly, I mostly listen to music that I downloaded to my phone on Spotify or over wifi, but I never have any issues. I had the opposite response when I tried out Rhapsody (it was probably over 3 years ago). Rhapsody used to be more focused on mainstream music and had a really bad indie catalog, but I get the impression it has improved.

    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    You said you shared the music between devices, which I'm not aware of any phone that plays lossless audio.
    All of the apple products play apple lossless, and I believe all the new Android phones will play FLAC.

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    And all Windows Phone plays WMA Lossless

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    Sorry..did not intend to come across strong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rohitharsh View Post
    And all Windows Phone plays WMA Lossless
    I believe some of the samsungs as well.

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