It started in 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the phonograph; it was the first recording device that could play back sound. Next came the gramophone, a device that gave birth to the world’s first mass produced audio disc called a “record.” But then records evolved too, from glass to zinc to vinyl, and soon it was eight-tracks and cassettes and then CDs as the digital music age dawned. Next came Napster, then the iPod…
Now fast forward to 2014, and there are more streaming devices than we can even count. To make your listening experience as underwhelming as possible, we’ve narrowed it down to our favorite four.
Spotify – Pay for Premium
Why we love it: For $9.99 a month, you can stream almost any song you want without having to download anything and you can make your playlists available offline. You can follow Facebook friends and artists to see their playlists. You can create collaborative playlists with friends, send songs via Spotify messaging, share playlists on other social media forums, and utilize an array of other apps inside the program for an interactive experience.
What we could do without: Spotify Radio just doesn’t live up to Pandora’s song selections. And while most albums are available on the app, there are some notable absences – it’s hard to compose any sort of rock n roll playlist with no Beatles songs available. Mix tapes and bonus tracks are also hard to come across.
Pandora Internet Radio: Most Popular for a Reason
Why we Love it: A poll of over 2,000 Americans found that Pandora was the most popular audio streaming program by a landslide; 31 percent said they had used the app in the last month. The next device, at 9 percent, didn’t even come close. Pandora introduces users to new music by utilizing technology dubbed the Music Genoma Project. You input a song or artist you’d like to hear, and it plays back similar music. You can then “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” the selection to let the Pandora know whether it’s doing a good job.
What we could do without: If you’re looking for the most diverse library, it isn’t here. Pandora has a much smaller song database than most of its competitors. Pandora also doesn’t allow users to create playlists, download songs, or request specific tracks.
iTunes: Guilt-free Listening
Why we love it: Apple iTunes is the most artist friendly of all the digital streaming devices, so not only does it allow users to download and stream music guilt-free, it also gets exclusive content. Albums are often available on iTunes and iTunes Radio before they are even sold in stores, and popular artists create featured playlists for users to access.
What we could do without: We hate to say it, but it’s expensive; $.99 a download sounds cheap, but to passionate music lovers with thousands of artists in their music queue, it adds up. And while iTunes ad-free radio is $24.99 a year, compared to Pandora’s $36, the Music Genome Project is nearly impossible to beat. Even with a larger database, iTunes radio doesn’t do as good of a job.
Vinyl: Back to Basics
Why we love it: It’s easy to get nostalgic for the simplicity of vinyl records, even if most of us weren’t alive to see them in their prime. When your dad told you everything sounded better on Vinyl, he wasn’t lying. Records play analog recordings (original sound waves) whereas digital devices play digital copies (incomplete analog waves). And while records only stream a few dozen tracks per disc, they encourage listeners to appreciate an album in its entirety. Digital database users, on the other hand, seem to develop “ADD” listening habits.
What we could do without: They are more inconvenient, it’s true. And you can’t play them in your car. And they aren’t as portable. And they scratch. And they melt. But they are worth collecting. We swear.