The Rhapsody music service has been in operation since December 2001 and has seen many changes over the years in how it offers digital music. It has also seen different companies own it, such as Listen.com and RealNetworks, Inc. However, since 2010 it has been an independent company providing a subscription-based cloud music service.
- A huge library of over 16 million songs.
- Unlimited streaming music via subscription.
- Good selection of mobile music apps for several platforms.
- The service is currently only available in the United States.
- The Rhapsody Software is only available for Microsoft Windows.
- The subscription music you have downloaded will cease to play if you stop your monthly payments.
If you're looking for a service that gives you the freedom to search through and play an entire digital music library then Rhapsody Unlimited will satisfy your needs. It costs $9.99 a month and gives you unrestricted access to over 16 million tracks and 250 radio stations. There are two ways in which you can use this vast library, either choose streaming audio to hear your tracks or download the music files to your computer. You can also listen to music on 1 mobile device.
As with all subscription services, you don’t actually own any of the tracks until you decide to buy.
Rhapsody Premier Plus:
Rhapsody Premier Plus is a membership plan that gives you the freedom to take your music anywhere. Subscribing gives you the flexibility to transfer music tracks on up to 3 mobile devices. The subscription fee is $14.99 per month and is exactly the same as the Rhapsody Premier service but with more portability bolted on.
As with Rhapsody Premier, keep in mind that if you stop your subscription then the music on your music player will no longer work. In addition, to be able to use this service your DAP must support the Rhapsody DNA or PlaysForSure DRM standards.
Customer service is excellent via the use of a large online help system. This is backed up further by the provision of e-mail, phone, and the particularly useful live chat.
Music Software & Formats
Now at version 4.0, the latest Rhapsody software organizes your music in a very user-friendly way. The new version has drag and drop navigation and integrates seamlessly with most MP3 players. The integrated jukebox has all the basic features you would expect such as a 10 band equalizer, playlist editor, random and loop play plus the ability to rip and burn CDs.
Although the Rhapsody software is very good at what it does there are no provisions for video or photo display. Many people have video and photo collections that they want to organize and showcase all in one place. This is only a minor gripe but it’s a shortfall that the company should address to appeal to the masses.
Rhapsody has its own DRM system just like the iTunes Store does to protect its music files. The DRM system that is used is known as Helix. The file format that is used with this encryption technology is RAX (AAC encapsulated in Helix). You can alternatively download WMA files if you prefer; these are protected with Microsoft’s WMDRM system.
Audio Bitstream Rates:
- Subscription downloads play at 160Kbps for WMA or 128 Kbps for RAX files.
- Purchased downloads play at 192Kbps
- WMA streaming audio plays at 128Kbps
Is it right for you?
There is no denying that Rhapsody is a top class service which delivers music in style. The software has a clean, user-friendly interface that makes it a breeze to navigate and choose your music without any fuss. From a beginner's point of view, this is good news as the whole experience doesn't require a steep learning curve.
Now the downsides. There are two issues with the software, the first concerns the supported operating systems; at present only Microsoft Windows is catered for, this leaves MAC and Linux users out in the cold. A non-Windows user has to use the web based Rhapsody.com service which only supports streaming audio. The second issue is multimedia support: the software has no video or photo capabilities. Even with these minor shortfalls, Rhapsody is a killer service that will appeal not only to existing users but newcomers too.