Online streaming, subscription based music delivery services are making an attempt to become the golden ticket solution for music lovers everywhere. Having access to a gigantic library of music is well worth the subscription fee for a lot of people and as the music libraries of these services grow they continue to gather steam.
The two big competitors in this field right now are Rdio and Spotify. Rdio released a major interface update recently that is a big step forward to separate itself from Spotify (only paid subscribers get a sneak peek). The interface changed substantially for the better with new features added and others more prominently placed. Not only is the update quite beautiful, it makes discovering new music an even more social experience. Let’s take a spin through the new Rdio.
I’m going to approach this as a review of the entire Rdio new application. We’ll cover the new features along with some overlapping features that were available with the previous release as well. I think it makes most sense to focus on the app in its entirety.
Design and Interface
The first noticeable feature of the new Rdio design is the fact that it received a lightening. The interface that was previously a darker, sort of gun metal hue is now a lighter shade of gray.
It feels more like a native application even when using the web application. The desktop version feels like it completely belongs on a Mac. I’ve always felt like the design of Rdio was excellent, but they’ve taken it up a notch with this new version.
Controls and Navigation
The audio controls were previously placed at the top of the application window in a similar iTunes fashion. Now, you’ll find them at the bottom of the application window.
At the top of the display you’ll find browsing arrows, buttons to open up the settings panel and your profile. You’ll also find a live search field and a button to toggle a pane that shows the users you’re following.
Along the left-hand side of the application window you’ll find some key navigational elements to discovering music along with ways to browse your personal music stash. We’ll talk a bit more about these things specifically in a bit.
The interface has a very sleek and open feel to it. A majority of the application is dedicated to giving you a large amount of space to browse and explore.
Applications in this category all do a decent job at encouraging exploration and discovery of music, but with this redesign I think Rdio has taken a step ahead in this area.
A couple sections that you’d expect to see such as Top Charts and New Releases are ok for finding new music. Most of the time you won’t find anything to interesting and original here, but it’s a good area to have access to nonetheless. Where things get very interesting are with the Heavy Rotation and Recent Activity sections.
In this area you’ll see selections that are based on a combination of what you and those you’re following have been listening to.
What you’ll see here will be the music that your friends have been listening to most often. This is a very cool way to discover music. Relying purely on sharing songs via an email or some other method works to a certain extent, but this provides some automation to the process. What you listen to regularly would probably be the stuff you’d be sharing with your friends anyway so this takes care of that.
Recent activity is similar to the Heavy Rotation section, but a bit more granular. Here you’ll be able to see a stream of what your friends have added to their collection (more on this later) and synced with the mobile app right off the bat. You can also look at their listening history as well as everything they’ve added to their collection and any playlists they’ve created.
This may come off as a little be invasive at first glance. I thought the same thing. The more I thought about it and used it the more I really enjoyed this aspect. Music is something that should be shared and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about with regard with your listening habits. Ok, I may give my girlfriend a little crap if I see the Backstreet Boys in her collection, but that’s as far as I’d take it.
There’s no way to message anyone you’re following or anything like that right from the application. In general, I’ve discovered some really cool music this way and I hope others have discovered things from following me as well.
Top Charts and New Releases
These sections are pretty self explanatory and include just what you would guess.
One cool feature here is that if someone you’re following has recently listened to anything in either of these areas (as in all other areas of the app) you’ll see their name listed below the album or song.
Following others is a big part of Rdio. A toggle button will display or hide a sidebar that shows either your network (who you follow) or a list of suggested folks to follow. The suggested list will be populated with people you follow on Twitter and your Facebook friends (if you elect to connect these services). You’ll also see some Rdio suggested people to follow.
Those that you are following will display in a list with those that are online at the moment at the top. You’ll see what that person is actually listening to at that moment.
While Rdio is pretty incredible for fostering music discovery, it is an equally good tool to simply help you to better enjoy music.
Music makes it to your collection in one of two ways. It’s possible to have Rdio do a scan of your iTunes library and bring in that music into your collection. You also have the ability when browsing anywhere to add music to your collection.
Your collection will turn into essentially your entire music library should you chose to bring in your iTunes music. There are a couple different views and the collection can be sorted in several different ways. There’s also a live search field at the top of the list. With all that, it’s pretty easy to find the music you’re looking for in your collection.
For me, being able to refer back to my listening history is a really nice feature. I love to explore and eventually find myself listening to something I’ve never heard of. A couple days later I’ll try to remember what that was and will be at a loss. With my listening history easily at hand I can check that out and see exactly what that lost album was.
As you’re browsing you’ll have the ability to add any album or song to your queue. It works just like you’d think. Hop back here to see what you’ve got queued up.
As you’re browsing the Rdio music library, you’ll be able to add music to one of your playlists. These can be created as either published (everyone can see and even subscribe) or private playlists.
You can also create collaborative playlists. There are two options for who is allowed to collaborate on your playlist. Those you follow or all of Rdio.
Throughout the the application you’ll see this button that reads Play Station. This button creates a radio station based on the area that your browsing. If I’m viewing someones collection and play that button I’ll start to hear a custom music stream based on that individual’s musical tastes.
This yet another way to discover music. You can’t decide what to listen to, but typically agree with your friend’s taste in music. hit the Play Station button while in their collection and see where that takes you.
This would be a similar feature to a service like Pandora. You can also play a station based on a particular artists just like you can do with applications like that.
If you’re an Unlimited Rdio subscriber you’ll have access to the mobile application as well. You’ll be able to stream music from the app just as you would on your desktop and you’ll also be able to sync music with your mobile device that will be available when you’re mobile device is offline.
Rdio was an attractively designed application prior to this redesign, but I feel like we’re seeing some really nice improvements with this latest version. Some significant changes in interface design were made and most I feel like point to enabling multiple methods of music discovery.
I’m not going to get into the Rdio versus Spotify debate here, but I will say that from my experience Rdio makes music discovery easier and more enjoyable. Music is meant to be shared and Rdio provides so many different avenues for sharing and exploring. This combined with the fact that the app is beautifully designed has sold me and I highly recommend giving the new version a look.
This version of Rdio has not been released to everyone just yet. If you’re a subscriber and would like to check it out, you can hop on over to the new Rdio website.