Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.
Age Rating: 4+
$8.90 p/m basic, $12.90 p/m pro
Rdio puts a music library in your pocket, but you don’t ‘own’ it. Instead, it’s one of several new all-you-can-eat subscription music services arriving in Australia this year.
The basic service works with Mac and Windows, in a browser or using Rdio’s desktop software. The Pro service adds iOS, including AirPlay support, along with Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 and the awesome Sonos multi-room audio system. Rdio offers a seven-day free trial of the Pro service.
Type any artist’s name into Rdio and within seconds you’re presented with a list of his or her albums and popular tracks. Music lovers unacquainted with such freedom will feel like kids in a lolly shop, but keep an eye on your data usage. The bit rate varies ‘up to 320kbps’, depending on your device and connection, so it sounds good but you could chew through more than 100MB an hour.
Access to a massive music library is great, but Rdio’s real strength is in ‘music discovery’. You can follow the listening habits of your friends along with ‘Influencers’ and ‘Suggested Users’. You can also subscribe to other people’s Rdio playlists.
Music junkies could find Rdio an invaluable way to discover new music.
One surprising omission is that Rdio lacks ‘stations’ according to genre, and you can’t even search via genre. There is, however, a Play Station button on almost every page, offering a mix of that artist and a handful of related artists. It’s a poor substitute, and fans of other streaming services might be frustrated with this limitation.
What is handy is that Rdio can examine your iTunes library and recreate it online in your Rdio collection, making it easy to find your favourite albums. Unfortunately, it can’t recreate iTunes playlists, but you can create new playlists within Rdio.
Unlike Apple’s iTunes Match, Rdio won’t upload unknown songs it finds in your library. As such you’re going to encounter missing tracks, especially as some albums are greyed out for Australian users.
As for mobile devices, you can search for music and stream over mobile broadband but Rdio’s strength is that it can cache music on handheld gadgets. Every Rdio interface offers a drop-down menu alongside each album, track and playlist which includes the option to sync to mobile.
If Rdio is running on your iGadget (even in the background) it will automatically download synced tracks if you’re on Wi-Fi. Auto-syncing over 3G is disabled by default. There’s no option to sync songs to a desktop, which is frustrating if you travel but want Rdio to be the heart of your music library.
Another of Rdio’s limitations is the way it handles multiple devices using the one account. In terms of the browser, desktop and mobile clients, if you press play on one device the music stops on all the others (unless your mobile device is offline).
Competing services such as Songl (formerly Anubis.FM) let you play different songs on different devices at the same time.
Sonos is exempt from these limitations, as it lets you listen to different Rdio tracks in different rooms. Even if you start playing music on a desktop or mobile it doesn’t cut off the Sonos service – which is great for people back at home if you’re using Rdio while you’re out and about.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice.
If you buy more than half a dozen albums per year then Rdio seems quite economical, assuming it offers the albums you want. But it’s more likely to appeal to music tragics and will complement their music collection rather than replace it. The great thing is that there’s no lock-in, so there’s nothing stopping you abandoning Rdio if something better comes along.