Rdio (pronounced are-dee-oh), since its August 2010 American and Canadian debut, has managed to carve out a niche of its own in the streaming music space for those who prefer discovering new acts through social connections. The company’s recently revamped iPad apps brings the service to Apple’s slate with a new, panel-driven interface and a catalog that boasts nearly 18 million songs. The $14.99 per month in-app subscription fee is rather pricey, but if you fancy mashing up music and social networking it may be worth the cash.
Signing Up and New Interface
Rdio is free to download, but unlike services such as Slacker, you’re required to fork up a relatively pricey $14.99 per month to access music—five dollars more than the unlimited desktop Web streaming plan. Rdio blames this price difference on Apple, as Cupertino demands a 30% cut of all subscriptions (if you want to save dollars, sign up via Rdio’s website). There’s, thankfully, a 7-day trial period that lets you try before you buy.
If you’ve used Rdio for iPad in the past, you may be surprised to see that the app’s interface has undergone significant changes in this 2.0 release. Gone is the dark interface and menu bar; Rdio for iPad’s interface is now more streamlined and resembles its desktop counterpart. I’m keen on the simpler navigation and consistent layout as you move from area to area, but I preferred the darker color scheme.
The Rdio for iPad Experience
The “Heavy Rotation” is where you begin. It’s a collection of recommended albums based on artists you’ve listened to and the fellow users you follow on the music site (yes, it finally syncs with the online queue). If you haven’t listened to any songs or followed anyone, Rdio will display a list of recently added albums. Tapping an album icon opens a window that contains the tracklist. Bringing a finger to the “+” symbol next to each song lets you Add to Collection, Sync to Mobile (offline caching), Add to Playlist, Play Later, and Share This Song. Swiping from the left edge of the screen toward the right reveals a column that lets you tinker with settings, view new releases, check out your listening, history, and more.
The new layout is very easy to navigate, but lacks a dedicated volume slider like other iPad streaming music apps That normally wouldn’t be an issue, but I recently damaged my iPad’s physical volume key, so I had no way of raising the music volume from within the Rdio app; I had to adjust the loudness within the iPad’s settings. Annoying. Rdio for iPad features light social networking elements that lets you follow other users. Doing so lets you see the music they’ve listened to and users they’ve befriended. Tapping a music artist’s opens a window in which you can listen to songs. You can’t, however, build collaborative playlists using the iPad app—that’s a feature reserved for the desktop.
Rdio streamed crisp, hiccup-free audio over my home and office network connections. Unless you’re an audiophile, Rdio’s sound quality will satisfy even when the audio is pumped through computer speakers. A pair of Razer headphones revealed bouncy bass and a good separation of high and low sounds when I listened to Adele’s 21 album. Unfortunately, Rdio doesn’t support song lyrics, which is a significant flaw for listeners like me who like to read along—especially to songs that are unfamiliar. It’s easily one of my favorite Slacker features as I could view lyrics from within the app instead of opening a lyrics site (many of which are pretty shady). Worse, Rdio only has two Dirtbombs (one of my favorite rock bands) albums available. It’s unfortunate that the band isn’t a major part of Rdio’s catalog as it forces me to visit Slacker or Spotify instead. There are over 18 million songs in the Rdio catalog, so if you have more mainstream tastes, there’s plenty to like here.
Rdio for iPad has a new “Remote Control” feature that needs a bit of tweaking. When you fire up a track on one device, you’re prompted to “Play Here Instead,” such as from iPad to PC for example. It’s a fine idea in practice, but the song started from the beginning of the track and not at the point where I hit the button. Plus, I had to press the play button on the iPad again. Should this feature be streamlined into a seamless experience, it would a standout feature among the sea of iPad streaming music apps.
Tune Into Rdio
Music fans who want a dash of social networking in their streaming music experience will find a lot to like in Rdio. It may lack song lyrics and a few of my favorite indie albums, but what it does offer—a rich library, offline playback, and very respectable sound quality—makes it one worth consideration.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc