Rdio in 2013: Beautiful Social Music Streaming

I’ve got a serious problem: I’m addicted to music. It’s unusual for me to not be listening to music, especially when I’m working. The stereo is always on when I drive. Headphones are on when I walk the dog or go the gym. I’ve been in and fronted multiple musical groups, from alternative indie to heavy metal. I own hundreds of CDs, but made the transition to going all-digital over my university career, when I valued portability over all else.

These days, I’ve got multiple devices, each with a finite amount of hard drive space. I’ve got an iPod Classic that can hold everything, but my iPhone and iPads are both much more limited. My Android devices have even less room to spare. Rdio recently saved the day. We reviewed Rdio in 2011, but a lot has changed since then. Read on to find out what still makes Rdio worth the subscription today.

What’s Changed Since 2010?

I’m glad you asked. There’s a ton of new features in Rdio, but what it really comes down to is that it’s the most beautiful of all the streaming services I’ve seen in action. The design has improved over the years; comparing 2010’s Rdio to 2013’s Rdio feels like comparing two completely different products. In fact, I’d go so far to say that Rdio has the best-looking web/desktop apps and mobile apps for any music product, period. On all my mobile devices, the apps are beautiful. And in Chrome, Rdio runs flawlessly and looks gorgeous to boot.

Rdio’s social functionalities and search abilities have also improved. Instead of following people’s playlists, now you can follow what they’re frequently listening to and keep up with all the latest trends. If you’re looking for ideas as to who you might want to follow, that algorithm has been greatly enhanced. It’s easier than ever to find people from Facebook or Twitter. You can search for music labels now instead of just artists and songs, which makes it even easier to find music you’re looking for.

It's easier than ever to find people to follow.

It’s easier than ever to find people to follow.

Rdio now learns the kind of music you like as well. You can give a song a Thumbs Up rating or a Thumbs Down, and the more you do this, the more Rdio learns about what you like and dislike. If you choose to create a “station” (which is like commercial-free music radio) based off one song, the service gets better at figuring out what you like with time. It’s brilliant, because it means that the longer you’re a subscriber, the better the service gets.

One feature that I have a love/hate relationship with is the collection-syncing feature with iTunes (or Windows Media Player) libraries. It requires downloading the desktop app and only takes a couple seconds. I have almost 10,000 songs, and it took about thirty seconds for Rdio to match my collection with its database.

I thought this would take forever, but it took all of thirty seconds. Completely painless.

I thought this would take forever, but it took all of thirty seconds. Completely painless.

I love it because it means I can really listen to almost anything in my iTunes library even if I’m on a mobile device or a different computer. That being said, I hate it because there’s tons of duplicates, skipped tracks and a lot of unavailable music from my iTunes library. It’s not a flawless part of the service. But my struggles might not be yours: I’m not American.

International Rollout

Because I live in Canada, I have a hard time finding any streaming service to fit my needs. Rdio is the only great subscription service we have available, but there are tons of artists I simply can’t listen to. Some big bands like AC/DC are nowhere to be found, but smaller indie bands like Groenland aren’t available either. Beyond that, there are some records I can stream but I can’t purchase (like the new Queens of the Stone Age album). There’s clearly a lot of reasons why this is the case, but I know that every American I follow on the service is listening to music I can’t stream. (And to make it worse, Rdio’s beautiful interface, through no fault of its own, ends up rubbing it in.)

It's only the debut record from Vampire Weekend. Not like I'll ever miss it anyway. (In case you can't tell, I adore that album and can't live without it.)

It’s only the debut record from Vampire Weekend. Not like I’ll ever miss it anyway. (In case you can’t tell, I adore that album and can’t live without it.)

That being said, there’s also a ton of music I can listen to. I have no problem finding something to entertain myself with. And if I do want to purchase music from Rdio, it will download as an MP3 and often be cheaper than buying it directly from iTunes (sometimes by a couple dollars). I’m not disappointed in the service’s choices by any stretch of the imagination, but it is worth pointing out that it’s not quite as strong in other countries as it is in the States.

Let’s Talk Design and Function

I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend some time talking about the merits of Rdio’s design. They’ve worked hard on creating a web device that looks great on the desktop. They call the album view “immersive,” but I call it jaw-droppingly beautiful. It also looks great on my Retina MacBook Pro.

Rdio's interface is just beautiful.

Rdio’s interface is just beautiful.

And everything is easy to access. There aren’t many hidden buttons in the interface that you have to go digging for. The little touches are what make it really shine: As you listen to an album, songs you’ve already listened to are greyed out instead of white. Text is consistently readable, regardless of the blurred album art behind it.

I can’t give the web app a better compliment than to say that it’s good enough that the desktop app features is nearly identical, but doesn’t feel compromised. I like the web app for convenience, but on my Mac, the desktop app integrates with the media controls on my keyboard. It supports Notification Centre and even has a Mini Player.

One more, for good measure. Look at the background: it's an out-of-focus, zoomed version of the album art!

One more, for good measure. Look at the background: it’s an out-of-focus, zoomed version of the album art!

It doesn’t matter what app you use though, really: Rdio remembers what song you were listening to and you can carry on from anywhere. As long as you’ve got the Internet, you’re never going to miss out. And even if you don’t have the Internet, you can sync music straight to your mobile devices and take it with you if you want to leave the LTE connection at home.

Final Thoughts

I still haven’t figured out how Rdio fits into my habits as a collector, but it does fit into my lifestyle. It makes it easier than ever for me to keep my fragmented technology synced and try new music out as I please (and I can stop worrying about outgrowing my phones’ and tablets’ hard drives). Not only is it starkly beautiful and simple, it also makes it easy for me to keep up with my friends.

Pricing hasn’t changed since we last reviewed it: At $4.99 a month for the web subscription or $9.99 a month for the Unlimited subscription (which includes both mobile and web streaming), Rdio is one of the best deals out there for music junkies. And if you have doubts, you can give the two-week trial period a shot to assuage your fears. I can’t recommend it more highly.


Summary

On an international level, Rdio doesn't have the same catalog as it does in the US, but all of its social features and its still-immense catalogue make up for it. It's also an unbelievably gorgeous experience, no matter what device you use it on.

  • Rdio  | 
  • Free (limited streaming); $4.99/month (web/desktop streaming); $9.99/month (streaming everywhere and sync to mobile)  | 
  • Rdio
9
  • Novi

    I’m using rdio from outside the us for quite a while as well now and I love it. It looks so much better and cleaner than .. let’s say spotify

  • http://paldumais.me/ Pierre Alexandre

    Because I live in Québec and the UI on the rdio website is WAY better than the Deezer website. The Android app for rdio is also way better than the Deezer app. Specifically, the notification controls look and work better on rdio.

    Canada = Rdio > Deezer, Sony Music Unlimited…

  • matt0815

    still – no local files playback. Spotify isn’t that pretty but still my nr.1 streaming service.

  • Brian Clegg

    Their pricing is ridiculously more expensive in the UK – straight dollars for pounds so that around $7.80 for web/desktop and around $15.60 for the full. We are being ripped off!

    • Novi

      It’s the same for euros – so I pay 6,6$ .. but I don’t care much. It’s easily worth just as much.

  • IB

    I have used Deezer for about a year, and Spotify for a month. Now I have been using Rdio for six months now, and I can conclude that Rdio is way better than Deezer and Spotify. The only downside of Rdio is the music catalogue compared with that of Spotify. But, personally, I prefer a better user interface than a slightly better music catalogue.

  • Ak

    I’m not sure what you guys are talking about at AppStorm. I’ve been using Rdio since it’s early adoption in Canada, and ever since lead Wilson Miner left for Facebook, this UI has gone to shit. The last iteration prior to this major bump was actually decent, and made sense. Now they’ve removed Queue from the side bar and buried it in the bottom bar that has this HIDEOUS blurred artwork, that does not correlate whatsoever with the minimalistic look they’re going for. In fact the whole bottom bar has made Rdio a player within a player. Being a UI designer, this makes the whole experience less enjoyable for me, and hence my use has dropped dramatically in the past while.

    Clean it up Rdio, you’re tripping and over thinking your design.

    7/10

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