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Spotify

$5 per month and up; free version available
Reviewed
May 2012
by ConsumerSearch
Spotify

Pros
  • Very large music catalog
  • Unlimited free listening
  • High-quality audio for top- tier subscribers
  • Optional apps add expanded functionality
  • Personal music collection integrated into catalog
Cons
  • Average sound quality for non-Premium members
  • Requires stand-alone PC application
  • Basic, unattractive interface
  • New users must sign up with Facebook login
  • Lots of ads in free version

Experts say Spotify is a high-quality streaming music service, offering a well-rounded suite of features that few of its competitors can match. The 15-million-song music catalog contains something for everybody, and the stand-alone desktop client can integrate the music from your hard drive to add even more variety. Optional plugins -- called "apps" in Spotify parlance -- add functionality missing from Spotify itself, such as Rolling Stone reviews and lyric support. Even better, users can access all those features for free thanks to Spotify's unlimited ad-supported plan.

That free mode contains quite a few ads, however, and both experts and users dislike that new users are forced to sign up using a Facebook account. In fact, you can't even register without one. While $10 Premium plan subscribers receive music at a high-quality 320 kbps rate, everyone else has to settle for average-quality streams. Experts appreciate that the Spotify client inputs personal music collections, but they're less thrilled that there is no web-based interface for easy listening from any computer, and the Spotify client's interface is often called cluttered and unattractive.

Most experts give MOG (*Est. $5 and up; free version available) the nod in head-to-head comparisons against Spotify, citing its polished look, top-notch apps and best-in-class audio quality as the difference makers -- but MOG's free plan is much more limited than Spotify's all-you-can-eat musical buffet.

Several sources review Spotify as part of head-to-head comparison roundups. Somewhat surprisingly, two of the best come from a personal website and an enthusiast website, respectively, at BenjaminRose.com and ComputerAudiophile.com. Numerous technology-focused sources also cover Spotify, including excellent reviews from PCMag.com and CNET. Tested.com and TechCrunch.com examine how Spotify's mobile apps stack up to the competition, while InnerFidelity.com and Sound and Vision magazine each compare Spotify's audio chops against the other streaming music services.

Our Sources

1. ComputerAudiophile.com

Audio enthusiast Chris Connaker dedicates entire pages to both MOG and Spotify in this head-to-head comparison, detailing how each stacks up in terms of features, playlists and offline music, interface, mobile experience and more. In the end, he compares the two services directly in several additional categories. Unfortunately for Spotify, MOG emerges as the victor.

Review: MOG v. Spotify Part I, Chris Connaker, Aug. 24, 2011

2. BenjaminRose.com

Blogger Benjamin Rose doesn't review any other streaming music services or even any other technology products, but this head-to-head review of MOG and Spotify is top-notch, comparing the two services' interfaces, music selection and music quality. Winners are named for each category, and Spotify earns the title of best overall.

Review: MOG versus Spotify: Review of Streaming Music Services, Benjamin Rose, Oct. 20, 2011

3. PCMag.com

Spotify earns a 4.5 (out of 5) rating and a heap of praise from reviewer Jeffrey Wilson, who likes the streaming music service's deep catalog, playlist building chops and heavy Facebook integration. The lack of radio stations and abundance of ads are cited as two of the major drawbacks.

Review: Spotify, Jeffrey Wilson, March 30, 2012

4. CNET

Spotify is one of several streaming music services covered in this review, which provides thorough introductions for each service and details who should and shouldn't use each particular service. Karyne Levy says Spotify is a great choice for a lot of listeners, as long as they don't mind frequent ads in the free version and the lack of a web-based version.

Review: Which Music Service Should You Use?, Karyne Levy, Nov. 18, 2011

5. Sound & Vision Magazine

In yet another head-to-head comparison of MOG and Spotify -- this time from a major publication -- MOG takes the crown once again, sweeping all six categories tested. "Don't get me wrong -- I like Spotify, and I enjoyed using it," Al Griffin writes, but he just liked MOG more.

Review: Streaming Deathmatch: Spotify Premium vs. MOG, Al Griffin, July 19, 2011

6. InnerFidelity.com

Rather than a full-fledged review of each of the streaming music services covered, John Grandberg instead looks solely at how each sounds through home electronic devices and mobile apps. "Spotify is frustratingly inconsistent," he writes. "At its best I find it pretty good, approaching but not quite equaling the best out there. The problem is that a significant portion of their catalog does not perform at this level."

Review: Comparing the Audio Quality of Streaming Music Services at Home and Portably, John Grandberg, Nov. 15, 2011

7. Gizmodo.com

This article lists the highlights and lowlights of MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody, Grooveshark and Spotify. It was originally written prior to Spotify's U.S. launch, with Rdio beating out MOG by a hair, but Covert updated the article when Spotify became available to name it the new king of the streaming music hill. "This is a service that music nerds and n00bs alike will find value in," he writes.

Review: The Best Streaming Music Service, Adrian Covert, Feb. 4, 2011

8. MacLife.com

This stand-alone Spotify review is on the short side, and it doesn't include comparisons to any of the other streaming music services. Ray Aguilera gives Spotify a 3 (out of 5) rating, saying it works well enough, but that the catalog has some gaps and it is difficult to find music unless you know exactly what you're looking for.

Review: Spotify Music Streaming Service Review, Ray Aguilera, Aug. 9, 2011

9. TechCrunch.com

Reviewer Josh Constine looks at iOS apps from the three on-demand music services, comparing how they stack up in music playback, discovery, price and sound quality. Spotify fails to win a single category, and it's the only service covered that doesn't offer a dedicated iPad app.

Review: What's the Best iPad Streaming Music App? MOG's New iPad App vs Rdio vs Spotify, Josh Constine, March 26, 2012

10. Tested.com

What TechCrunch.com tests for the iPad, Tested.com tests for the Android operating system. Spotify's fast starting streams earn praise, but the interface costs Spotify big: Whitwam says it's "cluttered, laggy, and uses space poorly." He also says the Spotify app is unintuitive and "inconsistent."

Review: Rdio vs. Spotify vs. MOG vs. Rhapsody: Streaming Music Subscriptions on Android, Ryan Whitwam, Dec. 9, 2011

11. VentureBeat.com

Spotify heads Sean Ludwig's list of the top five streaming music services. The reviews of each service are limited to two or three paragraphs apiece, but Spotify gets the nod thanks to its deep catalog and its ability to integrate with users' personal music collections.

Review: Top 5 On-Demand Streaming Music Services Feat. Spotify, MOG and Rdio, Sean Ludwig, Sept. 17, 2011

12. About.com

Spotify earns the bronze medal in About.com's list of the top seven streaming music services. A relatively thorough five-page review discusses the major positives and negatives of the service, which are summarized in a bullet-point format that's handy for skimming readers. "Spotify is a well-balanced service that has enough options to probably suite [sic] most people's needs," Harris writes. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)

Review: Spotify Review: An iTunes-beating Music Service?, Mark Harris

Streaming Music Services Runners Up:

Spotify $5 per month and up; free version available

10 picks including: About.com, CNET…

Pandora $36 per year; free version available

5 picks including: About.com, Engadget.com…

Rhapsody *Est. $10 per month and up

4 picks including: Engadget.com, CNET…

Grooveshark $6 per month and up; free version available

3 picks including: PCMag.com, Lifehacker.com…

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