A Take on Spotify vs Rdio

A while ago, I started researching the best streaming service. Initially it was a close call, so I spent a month on each service using the highest subscription tier. On both services, this enables unlimited add-free streaming and the ability to sync music to mobile devices for use offline. Here are my results.

Spotify

I went with Spotify first. This was probably my best option, as I had just become a student, and students are entitled to a fifty-percent discount on Spotify's highest tier in the UK. On top of that, the first month was free, so for my experiment it didn't cost me a penny.

Spotify is familiar, but not aesthetically pleasant. Without the adverts it felt like a new app, much cleaner, more elegant. Spotify's music library had most of what I wanted. Audio wise, I wasn't most pleased with the quality, although it reportedly streams at 320kbps, the highest for most MP3 files. The sound had too much low-mid and the volume was a little quiet and often inconsistent.

Going offline, Spotify was flawless. I have two mobile devices on Android and it picked up both. Spotify's Android app is nice to use, integrating well with the Android 4 environment. Perhaps a little heavy on settings and features. A win for me was the graphic equaliser which worked really well.

Spotify also enables offline listening on the desktop app, which is a great feature for me because my internet connection is awful and most of the time unresponsive.

Rdio

Rdio was twice the price that Spotify would cost me, but this won't affect you unless you're a student in the UK.

My first impressions were good. Rdio is primarily a web app, which usually knocks usability beyond acceptance. There are web app issues, ones that will only be resolved with the abolition of the W3C, such as slow responsiveness and partial loading, no right-click context menu and a deviation for standard native platform experiences (most of this is down to my slow internet connection though). However, the apps were far more elegant than Spotify's, despite Rdio using its own brand heavily too. Rdio's brand is clean, minimal and sophisticated, with a lovely use of light fonts and colours, which render well and usable on all platforms I tested. The overall design from Rdio is excellent.

The Mac app was a shell for the web app, using the Mac short-cut keys, a mini-player and a tastefully integrated Mac window shell. It shouldn't, but it works beautifully. The biggest loss for me was desktop offline mode, as this is often essential when my internet connection dies (which it does, often). Being a web app, it isn't really feasible that this could work offline. Offline works well on Android though, syncing without wires as seamless as Spotify.

Rdio doesn't allow integration of outside music into the player, a feature Spotify has. This means if you have music outside of the libraries, you can upload your own. This would be good for me, as I own a lot of music from unsigned artists, and some which I've created myself. With Rdio, you can't manage this. This is a stronger negative because I found Rdio's library was inferior to Spotify's.

Rdio's streaming quality was more pleasing to me ears. Another winning factor was it's portability and good use of 'cloud' based features. If the app was playing somewhere else, other instances would know, allowing you to remote control and manage with ease. As nice as this sounds I would guess it's also a DRM measure, preventing you from sharing your library. I found it really handy though. It even remembers what position in a song you were in when the app was suspended, regardless of platform (although don't expect this to work with offline mode).

My decision

Given my experiences with both platforms I have decided to pay for Rdio as my music streaming service of choice.

Despite no offline mode on desktop, no ability to upload your own tracks and a library that sometimes fell short, Rdio won me over because it is a far more pleasing user experience. The interface was always clear and smooth, even with the lag and jitter associated with web apps. With a cleaner interface it's easier to manage your music and discover new artists, so I wouldn't miss the ones I was unable to hear.

Mostly both services were similar, and I was perfectly happy using Spotify. I was happier using Rdio though, and I don't mind paying another fiver a month for what is in my opinion, a better more user-focused service. Elements like music search and music stations worked well across both apps, although I marginally prefer Rdio's, mainly because of its design. I can't state enough how pleased I am with Rdio's looks.

I will keep an eye out on Spotify and future possible services such as a rumoured new MySpace and Apple's inevitable iTunes based streaming. The great thing about a subscription model is I can drop it at any time and switch without loosing anything. You can't do that if you pay for digital media as there's no guarantee a service will let you export or import your own content. That aside, most services do, although I wouldn't like to upload all my music from Amazon to iTunes or Google Music. It isn't feasible if you have gigabytes of music.

As always, let me know your own experiences as well as anything else I should be looking out for. If you're on Rdio, feel free to follow me as jack7c4 but be warned, my music taste isn't a popular one