Who Can You Count On?
One of the most important features of a streaming music service is reliability. All of the other stuff doesn’t matter much if the music keeps stuttering and dropping out or the site’s navigation flakes out all the time.
How Am I Rating this Category?
Interface and Navigation – How clean and usable is the interface? Can I quickly get into my playlists and stations? Does everything work; quickly and without hiccups?
Streaming Quality – When I click Play, what happens? 1 or 2 seconds, then music or do I get hypnotized watching a loading graphic? Does one song flow smoothly into the next or am I stuck in the waiting room?
How Did I Test?
I already use some of these services a lot, but I gave each one at least a half hour on my Desktop (Ethernet cable), Laptop (Wi-Fi) and my iPhone (over AT&T’s lousy 3G network). Let the games begin…
iLike.com – I used to use this service a while ago, but I needed to go back and reacquaint myself before I could render judgment.
Interface and Navigation In a word, iDon’tLike. The interface is just a mess. It takes too much work to figure out how to get a simple song to play. Then, when you click the wrong thing, you get this shuffle mode that only lets you listen to 30 seconds of a song before skipping to the next one. Huh? (2 Stars)
Streaming Quality: Once you figure out how to work iLike, the music streaming is great and the audio quality is also. Not much to say here other than good job. (5 Stars)
Rating: Could have been better if not for the crappy interface.
Jango.com – I dabbled with Jango a while back and generally liked it. Let’s see how it fares against the rest.
Interface and Navigation : Jango has a decent interface that allows you to figure out things pretty quickly. It does not have all of the features of a Last.Fm, which is exactly how they help keep the interface under control. Very nice! (4 Stars)
Streaming Quality: Songs play quickly and jump from one track to the next very quickly (aside from the occasional commercial). The audio quality is also crisp. (5 Stars)
Rating: Jango has a nice mix of straight forward interface and solid streaming performance.
Last.FM – I use Last.FM just about every day and really enjoy it a lot.
Interface and Navigation : Interface is not Last.FM’s strong suit. They have so many powerful playlist, social networking, and music discovery features that it gets a little overwhelming. Still, it’s not as bad as iLike or Slacker. (3 Stars)
Streaming Quality: When you finally figure out how to get a song playing, it sounds and works well. At times, I do catch the occasional slow down, probably due to the huge amount of members that could be tuned in at a given time. (4 Stars)
Rating: If they did an interface design they could easily break into the 4 Star group. Still, I really like this service.
MusicStrands.com – About 2 years ago, I loved MyStrands (MusicStrands?). Since then, they seem to be making serious efforts to destroy the service. I think that they are trying to replace it with Strands or something. Whatever!
Interface and Navigation : The site is a mess. Everything is disorganized and a mystery. (1 Star)
Streaming Quality When it works, which is rare the streaming is OK. (3 Stars)
Rating: This service needs to take a long swim in the dead pool.
Pandora.com – I listen to Pandora every single day. On my Desktop, Laptop, and iPhone. I love it!
Interface and Navigation : This is absolutely the service with the fewest features of the group. Somehow, they make that work for them though. This has the cleanest, simplest, slickest interface of the entire gang. (5 Stars) If you’re listening Last.FM, please rip off their design approach.
Streaming Quality The streaming quality is excellent. Every now and then there is a pause between songs, but it never seems that bad. (4 Stars)
Shoutcast.com – This actually stream other online radio stations through it’s player or your favorite desktop player. It is owned by WinAmp (AOL), so it integrates best with that player.
Interface and Navigation : The interface is easy enough to get used to. Pick a Genre, then Sub Genre, then a Station. (4 Stars)
Streaming Quality: Fast and Clear, not a whole lot to say there. (4 Stars)
Rating: Pretty good with tons of choices.
Slacker.com – Slacker is also a collection of online stations that you can customize. They sell their own player that you can download your favorite songs to.
Interface and Navigation : Slacker has a simple player that lets you select from a bunch of online stations. Even simpler than Shoutcast; Select a Genre, then a Station and it starts playing right away. (4 Stars)
Streaming Quality: Songs play right away and come in loud and clear on my computer or iPhone. (5 Stars)
Rating: I really like Slacker.com, especially on my iPhone.
Have Your Say
Well, you know what I think, let’s hear what you think. You can select more than one choice below if you have a tie for your most reliable service.