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Rdio Review

A socially-rich streaming music service accessible from multiple mobile devices

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Rdio Logo

Rdio Logo

Image © Rdio, Inc.

The Background to Rdio

First launched in 2010, Rdio was initially developed by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis who are also the founders of the VoIP service, Skype -- now owned by Microsoft, Inc. Rdio has steadily rolled out its platform worldwide and is currently available in several countries which includes: The United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, and Spain.

With millions of songs in its library to tap into, a free account that doesn't have ads, and a mobile music option, is this the best cloud music service yet?

The Lowdown

Pros:

  • No advertisement interruptions even for Rdio's freemium option (unlike most other competing services).
  • Large library of songs that cover a good range of genres.
  • Unlimited streaming music (when subscribing).
  • Desktop app gives you Collection Matching for iTunes and Windows Media Player (similar to iTunes Match)
  • Option to listen to music offline (Unlimited subscription plan only).
  • Excellent support for mobile music apps (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7).
  • Strong social networking tools and integration with Facebook, Twitter, and Last.fm.

Cons:

  • Music streaming using the free account is limited.
  • Rdio lacks advanced search features -- e.g. by genre, year, etc.

Getting Started

To get started with Rdio, the only thing you'll need in order to sign up is either an email address or a Facebook account. Both sign up processes are very straightforward and you don't have to provide payment details up-front which can be the case for some online music services that offer trials rather than free accounts.

Rdio Desktop App

Rdio offers a desktop app for Mac and PC which enables you to use the service without a browser. It also adds more functionality too -- like mirroring your music library to the cloud and using your keyboard's media keys. The coolest feature is called Collection Matching. This scans the contents of your iTunes or Windows Media Player library to see if there's a match in Rdio's huge music cloud. Each track that it correctly matched is automatically added to your online collection without any uploading -- it's similar to Apple's iTunes Match in fact.

Music Service Options

Rdio Main Product

Rdio Streaming Music Products

Image © Rdio, Inc.

Rdio Free

If you like to test drive a service before you buy, then Rdio's free music offering will give you a good taster of how the platform operates without any financial risks. Rdio Free, like other services that provide a freemium option, is a basic version of the company's more full-featured subscription tiers (see options below). It's a streamlined version that showcases the essentials so you can decide if it's a service you'd like to use long term.

The first thing that you will probably notice compared to other music services that offer a free option is that streamed songs don't come with the usual advertisements. This contrasts sharply with the majority of cloud music services that offer an ad-supported free option -- for example: Spotify, MOG, Pandora, and others. Rdio has chosen not to follow this business model of slipstreaming ads into songs, and therefore provides an excellent free account that doesn't suffer from ad-induced interruptions. This single factor could be the killer punch that sways you into trying out Rdio over other freemium options.

The music quality is good and the streams we listened to were delivered without a hitch. One thing to point out though is don't expect an unlimited supply of music. How much you get is unclear, but you can get a rough indication by using the banner at the top of the Rdio screen.

Social features are plentiful on Rdio, but we especially liked collaborative playlists. This helps you to work in a group to make the ultimate compilation. This is a great two-way feature that really adds a social spark to Rdio.

Rdio Web

This is the first subscription tier up from the free account and is probably the one you'll want to subscribe to unless mobile music is essential. Using this subscription plan gets you unlimited streaming music so you don't have to worry about running out of listening time every month.

Rdio Unlimited

If you require maximum flexibility on how you listen, discover, and share music, then Rdio's Unlimited plan is the one. As well as unlimited music, there's good support for a range of mobile devices. Currently there are mobile apps for: iOS (iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad), Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7. You can also stream content in your home via Sonos and Roku systems if you prefer. For times when you want to be able to listen to music offline, the Unlimited subscription plan is a must. Not only can you download music to your mobile device for listening without an Internet connection, you can sync tracks wirelessly too.

Music Discovery Tools

Finding music using Rdio is easy with quite a few ways to go about it. The main ways are:

Search Bar
If your looking for something specific, you'll probably want to home in on the search box at the top of the screen. Hear you can type in an artist/band, album title, or a track name for example. However, there's no advanced search (like Spotify's) to drill down deeper if you want to filter results by genre or year for instance -- this would be a great addition for users who might want to compile playlists based on a year (retro) or type of genre. That said, this tool still does a good job and gives relevant results.

Rdio -- Heavy Rotation

Rdio -- Heavy Rotation Discovery Tool

Image © Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Heavy Rotation
Another way of discovering music is to use Rdio's Heavy Rotation feature. This displays a selection of albums based on what you have listened to so far and who you are following on Rdio's social network. Overall, it works well by providing accurate results to quickly find new music.

Top Charts & New Releases
Other ways of discovering music that you can click on using Rdio's menu system includes, Top Charts and New Releases. These two options are useful if you want to see the latest happenings on Rdio.

Conclusion

Rdio is similar to other mainstream offerings like Spotify, Slacker, etc., but one of the main differences is its strong social element. When you start using Rdio, you'll notice almost immediately that a lot of the tools have a social connection -- this adds another level of interaction for discovering and sharing music that can be lacking in many other services. We especially liked the tight integration of Rdio's own social network where you can follow others, share your discoveries and collaborate on playlists.

Finding music on Rdio is a breeze, but the absence of an advanced search option makes filtering results by genre, year, etc, impossible. Rdio's freemium option gives a good taster of the service and doesn't feel crippled. Song streams are ad-free which trumps most other freemium music services, but it's not clear how much music you actually get per month -- or how much is left!

With Rdio's flexible subscription options, unlimited music streaming, and great discovery tools, Rdio is certainly a heavy-weight contender worth considering.

Disclosure: The company provided free access to this service for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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