Round 1: PC/Mac Support
Round 2: Mobile Apps
Round 3: Library Depth
Round 4: Social Features
Round 5: Device Support
Round 6: Audio Quality
Overall Winner: MOG
Sometimes the mere fact of something being inaccessible can enhance its value — a lot. Take Spotify, for example. For years we’ve wondered when music labels would finally allow the European online music service to make its supposed 15 million-track library available here. That day has finally arrived.
Those desperate for Spotify can now sign up for an Unlimited ($4.99/month) or Premium ($9.99/month) account via the company’s website. Sure, the free, ad-supported version Europeans currently enjoy is available, too, but cheapskate Yanks seeking to tap it first need to request placement on a waiting list.
Now that it’s arrived, does Spotify live up to the hype? To answer that, I compared it with MOG, a U.S.-based subscription music service that I’ve been using for the past several months. Like other pay-for-play services such as Rdio and Rhapsody (not to mention Spotify Unlimited/Premium), MOG boasts a deep music library (MOG claims around 12 million tracks) for streaming. Also like those other services, it offers both a mobile app and device support so you can listen to music away from your computer desk — a necessity from my perspective. Let’s see how MOG stacks up against its new, exotic competition.
Spotify’s app for PC/Mac has a straightforward interface that’s easy to navigate. You can search for tracks/albums/artists and browse new releases. Artist pages provide an overview/biography, along with both a main album list and any compilation albums the artist appears on. You can create playlists from Spotify’s library by dragging-and-dropping or clicking on a star icon, and a limited number of Spotify-published playlists are also available. Speaking of iTunes, your iTunes library can be “imported” into Spotify so that your stored tracks and iTunes playlists show up alongside any starred content in the main library window.
While Spotify’s clean interface gets a thumbs-up, the lack of any category listings for browsing, as well as the sparse sampling of extra content to guide the music exploration process means you’ll have to work hard to navigate those 15 million tracks. (A variety of third-party sites and browser plug-ins, many linked to on Spotify’s web site, can assist you in this endeavor.) And for U.S. listeners, the omission of a radio feature at present to serve up songs doesn’t help the situation any.
Compared with the Spotify app’s spartan interface, MOG’s web portal literally brims over with information. You can search for music in both the general MOG library and the playlists of other members. Browsing options include new releases, editor’s picks (with commentary), and a wide range of music genres. Searches take you to an artist page with extensive content (bio and album reviews from the Allmusic guide, photos, song lyrics, and artist-related news/blog posts). There’s also a ton of featured playlists to select from, including ones from guest DJs like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.
As with Spotify, MOG gives you tools to create playlists from its library. But its most significant feature might just be the Radio function. With Radio switched on, an auto-DJ queue kicks in with a slider bar that lets you vary the playback range from Artist Only to Similar Artists. (If you’ve ever listened to a streaming-radio service like Pandora and found yourself groaning as a Meatloaf song is inexplicably thrown into your Doom Metal station mix, this is one feature I’m sure you’ll appreciate.) The main downside to MOG’s site is that its look is somewhat busy — an issue that the new, stripped-down (Spotify-inspired?) MOG beta fixes to a large degree.
Al Griffin is the technical editor of Sound+Vision. When not testing TVs and other stuff, he can sometimes be found at his local multiplex.
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