Spotify Review & Rating |

The highly competitive streaming music space gains and loses services every few years, but one thing remains certain: Spotify is one of the best music services around. Despite serious competition from everyone from the pioneering Pandora Internet Radio to the relatively new kid on the block, Microsoft Groove, Spotify is still a major player in this crowded category. Spotify lacks the live radio, sports, and in-depth artist retrospectives found in the co-Editors’ Choice award-winning Slacker Radio, but it makes up for those shortcomings in other areas. It’s an excellent music streaming service that delivers the goods.

How to Get Spotify

You can access Spotify by launching the web player, or by downloading the desktop apps (available for Linux, Mac, and Windows) or mobile apps (available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone). You can also find Spotify on TVs, set-top boxes, smartwatches, and home video game consoles.

The desktop apps have an advantage over the web player and mobile apps in that you can use the former to play MP3, M4P, and MP4 audio files that are stored in your computer. This is a particularly neat feature for people who want to play all of their music streams and audio files from one central location. The Android and iOS mobile apps, however, have an extra benefit, which I’ll explore later in this review.


Users can dive into Spotify using one of the two listening plans: Spotify Free or Spotify Premium. The free version serves audio and banner ads as you listen at 160Kbps, manage your digital music files, and connect with others using the built-in social networking features. The $9.99-per-month Spotify Premium lets you hear select albums before they’re released, play songs on demand, and cache songs for offline playback on your computer, phone, or other devices. It also increases audio quality to 320Kbps. Feature- and quality-wise, Premium is worth the extra moolah. That said, Spotify doesn’t let you record audio as SiriusXM Internet Radio, the Editors’ Choice for streaming services focused on live content, does.

Spotify’s Family Plan grants six people individual premium accounts for an incredibly wallet-friendly $14.99 per month. This directly competes with Apple Music and Google Play’s $14.99 per month family plans. Apple and Google’s offerings also let six household members subscribe to the service for $14.99 per month.

Tidal has two family plans, Family Premium ($14.99 per month) and Family HiFi ($29.99 per month), that let up to five household members sign up for the service. The difference between the two tiers is audio quality; Tidal Family HiFi boasts lossless, high-fidelity sound, while Family Premium does not. Sadly, Slacker Radio lacks a family plan. The co-Editors’ Choice really needs to step up in that area.


The Catalog

Spotify’s library boasts more than 20 million songs, plus audiobooks, comedy, radio dramas, poetry, and speeches. It’s a rich collection, and I was pleasantly surprised to find Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety. Spotify’s non-music extras act as a counter to Slacker Radio’s The Weather Channel, live ESPN, and lifestyles content, and Tidal’s in-depth music editorials and exclusive tour videos.

On the topic of Tidal, if you’re an audio fiend, you may want to check out that service. The streaming music platform, fronted by the music industry’s Illuminati, has a high-end $19.99 plan that delivers non-compressed, FLAC (at 1,411Kbps) audio that sounds absolutely incredible with a decent pair of headphones. That’s not to say that Spotify’s audio is spotty; it’s actually quite enjoyable, with decent audio separation.

Clicking an artist’s name pulls up additional songs by the artist, and an About tab that contains an artist’s biography, photos, and hyperlinks to related Spotify pages. I quickly killed quite a few minutes leaping from Alicia Keys to Isaac Hayes to Booker T. and The M.G.’s and reading the in-depth bios and sampling tracks. However, Slacker Radio’s DNA station does a better job of fleshing out artist profiles through the use of interviews and playing the music that influenced the artists’ sound.


The Spotify Experience

Spotify’s library didn’t let me down. I streamed the entirety of A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, Hannah Williams & The Affirmations’ Late Nights & Heartbreak, and Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin II. Spotify has a good mix of major and indie artists, including Taylor Swift, who once had a notable falling out with Spotify over money that saw her remove her catalog from the service.

You can build playlists with any of the tracks or albums in Spotify’s deep catalog. By default, Spotify streams tracks on your playlists with gapless playback. Spotify also gives you the option to crossfade songs, and even the ability to adjust the number of seconds (1-12) to fade. It’s not something I use, but DJs (or wannabe DJs) might find it appealing. If you want to build a playlist with a friend, turn on the collaborative playlist option to let your playlist be edited by others.

Besides listening to singles, albums, and playlists, you can create an Artist Radio station that plays music from your favorite musicians, as well as similar-sounding musicians. I was quite pleased with Harlem’s Artist Radio, as it served up tunes from Dum Dum Girls and other indie rock notables. Oddly, I was able to skip more than a dozen tracks in the little time I spent with Spotify Free before I upgraded to Spotify Premium; typically, streaming music services like Slacker Radio limit you to six skips. Not that I’m complaining. You can, of course, like and ban songs to customize the Artist Radio experience.

Spotify lacks Slacker Radio’s live radio and informative DJs who host particular playlists and the music history-filled Slacker DNA stations. Instead, it has Spotify Sessions, original artist recordings made in Spotify Studios. I tolerated Kelly Clarkson’s mediocre cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” but rather enjoyed John Legend’s “All of Me.”

Sadly, Spotify no longer serves up lyrics in its browser- or desktop-based apps. You can find lyrics on the mobile side, however.

Spotify (for Android)Spotify’s Mobile Apps

As previously mentioned, Spotify is also available on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. The version available for Microsoft’s platform does as advertised—it brings Spotify to your Windows Phone-based handset. The Android and iOS versions, however, add an extra feature that’s only available to Premium subscribers: Spotify Running.

Spotify Running matches your running tempo to a song with a similar beat to give you the perfect sound for your sprint. The music in Spotify Running is curated by Spotify, rather than based on your own playlists. Options for the style of music you can choose appear with short descriptions, like “Burn: Massive running beats by Tiesto” and “Blissed Out: Happy, blissed-out pop and indie.” You don’t have any control over the artists you’ll hear, and the options provided are on the vague side. The music tends to be pretty ambient.

When you launch Spotify Running, the app tells you to start running at your normal speed while it detects your cadence, which could take a minute or longer depending on how much variability you have in your footfalls. Once it detects the cadence, it announces it to you and starts playing the music at the right beat. Spotify Running rounds to the nearest multiple of five, and you can adjust the speed up or down by multiples of five as well. The music is divided into chapters rather than tracks, and they flow one right into the other seamlessly. If you skip a chapter, the change to the next one is barely noticeable.

An Excellent Streaming Music Service

Siimply put, Spotify is an excellent streaming music service, whether or desktop or mobile. It has tons of great music, exclusive tunes, and features for health nuts. Sure, Spotify doesn’t boast Slacker Radio’s live channels or lifestyles stations, but it’s a service that’s just as good, and thus our co-Editors’ Choice.

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