The most interesting aspect to Rdio though is its Twitter-esque ‘following’ network. Subscribers can browse Rdio users’ profiles and follow them to get an insight into their listening habits. Rdio can recommend users to you as well based upon your listening habits and there are respected titles like Spin Magazine with profiles that are a great way to discover music. We wonder if celebrity Rdio profiles will come next. Of course what Rdio lacks is dedicated Spotify-esque apps, though we still found the Rdio network an original way to broaden your musical horizons.
Your first port of call using Rdio will likely be a computer and Rdio offers both downloadable and browser-based clients. This latter aspect is a key differentiator to Spotify and alone will be a deal maker for many. Both clients look like Spotify/iTunes hybrids with a navigation column down the left, main screen for displaying search results and viewing content and a right panel for showing the activity of fellow Rdio users. So far so very normal, but we do have a gripe that the downloadable client (on both Mac and PC) is essentially a web app which doesn’t do a lot of caching so there is little speed benefit to using it which really shouldn’t be the case.
Where Rdio does excel is mobile apps. Currently it has native iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Roku and Sonos apps and where each impresses is the effort made to integrate them into the interface styles of their respective platforms. In particular the iOS versions of Rdio impress with its clean grid-like arrangement of the iPhone/iPod touch edition proving far more intuitive than the cluttered mess of its respective Spotify counterpart. In addition Rdio gets brownie points for fast syncing of offline downloads and the manner in which unavailable content in your Collection is automatically hidden when the apps are offline.
In addition all Collection and playlist content syncs across platforms through the Cloud, though like its rivals each Rdio subscription is only able to play content on a single device at any one time.
Despite being a crucial aspect to any streaming music service, it is virtually impossible to draw any universal truths about Rdio’s audio quality when compared to rival services. What we do know is Rdio offers standard and high quality streaming options, the latter up to 320Kbit but it does not reveal the bitrates for individual tracks or albums. This means we don’t know what percentage of its collection is available at what standards and with 15 million tracks available there is no way to sample a wide enough cross section.
In fairness all streaming services are in the same position and as bandwidth and storage costs are not sizeable cost elements related to a company’s overheads there is no benefit to any of them in scaling back quality. Ultimately then what we found is there were times when audio quality was truly excellent, but it could also occasionally be fuzzy and indistinct. In a direct comparison with Spotify the two traded victories fairly equally. From our samples all but the most stringent audiophiles should be pleased most of the time.