With so many options for music lovers out there, it can be hard to figure out what music streaming services work best with their listening habits, tech preferences and how much they’re willing to spend to listen to practically anything they want. Here’s a comparison to two of the most popular music streaming services, Rhapsody and Spotify, and how each enhances your listening experiences.

Background

Launched in 2008 by Swedish startup AB, Spotfiy has come a long way in its four years of existence with 4.3 million daily active users and 12.5 million on a monthly basis (global figures), and not to mention 1.6 million paying subscribers across the globe. The DRM-based music streaming service likes to think of itself as your “new music collection” with millions of tracks available on a variety of platforms. While Spotify might be the new kid on the block, Rhapsody has been around since 2001 and is only available in the U.S. Claiming to be the “No.1 online music subscription service,” Rhapsody was the first streaming on-demand music subscription service to offer unlimited access to a large library of digital music for a flat monthly fee with 800,000 paying customers.

Compatible Devices

Both Spotify and Rhapsody are available on Mac and Windows, as well a variety of various devices.

Rhapsody can also be used on the iPhone, iPod touch, Android and Blackberry via downloadable apps and even download music directly to your iPhone or Android phone. Home audio systems can also play the device, such as: Sonos Multi-Room Music System, Logitech Squeezebox Duet, Sonos Play:5, Sonos Play:3, Yamaha MusicCast2 System, Control4 in-wall touch screen, Russound Collage System and many more in-home entertainment systems. Then there are various MP3 players that are compatible with the service, which include the Philips GoGear, SanDisk Sansa Clip and Fuze and Clip Zip.

Spotify is also available on iOS devices, Android phones and various home devices like Sonos wireless music systems, Logitech’s Squeezebox Touch or Radio, Onkyo home cinema receivers, TeliaSonera digital TV, Boxee, WD TV Live or WD TV Live Hub media player and Philips Streamium Wireless Hi-Fi component systems.

Winner: Rhapsody.  They have a bigger selection of compatible MP3 players

Computer Application

Getting started with Spotify is really quite easy, especially if you’re a Facebook fanatic, given the service allows you to connect to your FB account so that others can see what you’re listening to and vice versa. All you need to do is create an account by choosing a username and password then specify if you want the premium, unlimited or the free version (which has certain limitations but more on that later). Download and install it on your Windows or Mac computer, then search and play million of songs. You can easily do a trial run on Spotify for free, but you’ll have to endure ads and can only play it on your computer.Rhapsody works pretty much the same, except it provides a free 14-day trial before you start paying (Spotify remains free unless you subscribe to its premium service but, again, has limitations). Enter your username and password, account information and begin listening to all your favorite tunes. After 14 days, you’ll be charged on a monthly basis.

The user interface on the computer application for Spotify is fairly easy to navigate and use, given it looks like the iTunes jukebox with preferences to your left side. Searches are fast and music streams without delay given you have good Internet service. You can also connect the app to Facebook so that you can easily listen to what your friends are listening to as well as check out their personal playlists or subscriptions if they have any. The homepage of the app shows new releases and top feeds of info of any of your friends and their playlists. This is the closest thing to a recommendation engine, but you can still view related artists by going to their page. Once on an artist’s page, you’ll see tabs that include sections like Overview, Bio and Related Artists. The interface does feature a dark grey color scheme that some might not find too easy on their eyes, though. Spotify has recently added various Apps that allows users to enhance their listening experience. These various include everything from music selected by Rolling Stone editors, personalized concert listening based on your playlists and the ability to sync lyrics to your favorite songs. The computer application is also available for free for non-paid users to enjoy.

The desktop interface for Rhapsody offers easily accessible features, info and listening recommendations right on the homepage. Where Spotify features a darker screen, Rhapsody’s is white and clearer so it’s easy on the eyes. It features genres to the top left, featuring more than 15 various genres, has a music player all the way to the right, new releases at the top, featured blog posts and charts way at the bottom. There’s a “Connect to Facebook” link at the very top so you can share your listening habits online. Overall it’s very clean and easy to navigate. There’s also ad-free radio that allows you to pick a station by artist, genre or theme. All Rhapsody interface panels (Now Playing Mixer, Play-lists, Artist, Album, etc.) are resizable, and the user controls the metadata panels they see in their library.

Winner: Tie: Rhapsody has more metadata on artists so it’s easy to discover new music, while Spotify’s new apps really enhances users’ experiences

Mobile Application

Rhapsody’s mobile application home page is pretty simple and easy to use. It features things like Queue, Genres, New This Week, Charts, Rhapsody Radio, Listening History and Settings with smaller buttons at the bottom that have Search, Playlists, My Library, and Downloads. Everything is fast and responsive, including searching for an artist, but you have to make sure you spell the name right because it will take longer if you don’t. Pretty much everything from the desktop app is provided on the mobile one, except the featured blog posts.

Spotify’s app is also pretty straightforward and an extension of its computer one. However it doesn’t include the apps option the desktop one has and the searches can take a while. More than one device can access the account, but only one person at a time can use it. But in offline mode (which allows you to download music to your device) negates that issue provided you go into offline mode in the app…but then again, you can only have so many devices that can download music in offline mode so don’t think you can have like five at a time. There’s also no related artist tab. In fact, it lacks a lot of the tabs from the computer app, which makes music discovery a bit more challenging on the iPhone app.  Spotify can also harvest your iTunes catalog and lets you play your locally stored iTunes music from the Spotify interface, but you have to store this locally on your device and you can’t access it from the cloud.

Winner: Rhapsody since it provides more metadata on artists, making it easier to discover new music

Sound Quality

Members have a problem with the sound quality of Rhapsody and have asked numerous times on forums for the site for the service to enhance it. Currently, sound quality for Rhapsody goes as follows: 256kbps CBR MP3 for purchased tracks; 192 kbps CBR MP3 for streaming to home audio devices; 128kbps AAC when streamed through PC via Rhapsody software; and 64kbps AAC + or 192kbps AAC for streamed or downloaded to Android devices and 64kbps AAC + for iOS ones.

Spotify provides better sounds for its premium members only, who can stream music at a higher bitrate of up to 320kbps on your computer (but they’ve noted that not all tracks are currently available in high bitrate). For mobile, Spotify says music streamed through their services is 160kbps for desktop and mobile (but there is a “low bandwidth” option of 96kbps for mobile).

Winner: Spotify offers better all-around sound

Social Capabilities

Spotify easily integrates with Facebook seamlessly so you can interact with friends and check out what they’re listening to both in Facebook and in the desktop app (not the mobile app). You can easily subscribe to their playlists and email your own playlists to friends who might be interested. While Rhapsody has playlist sharing with Facebook, it doesn’t provide an immersive social sharing experience.

Winner: Spotify given its focus on social interaction whereas Rhapsody doesn’t seem to be focused on its true social network integration strategy at this time

Catalog

Rhapsody is said to have more than 13 million titles in its library, offering excellent search capabilities, and quick, convenient downloads. Rhapsody and MTV Networks team up to bring you music before it hits the stores. In the last year alone, members have had sneak previews of Jay-Z, Rob Thomas, Green Day, Lady GaGa and more.

Spotify is said to have  15 million songs with more than 99.9% of them available in high bitrate for Premium users. Their catalog also adds an average of 10,000 new tracks daily and they add them as quickly as possible. Both don’t have tracks from the Beatles, Metallica, Led Zeppelin and others that have opted out from bands not wanting to participate in licensing agreements. But enter a name for one of these bands/artists in Spotify and you’ll probably get some U.K.-only releases, album covers or live albums.

Winner: Spotify has 2 million more songs

Membership Perks

The newest addition to the Rhapsody family is the MP3 Store. All tracks and albums sold in the MP3 store are DRM-Free and can be used on iPod, transferred to any other portable music device, loaded to an unlimited number of computers and burned to an unlimited number of CDs. Individual tracks cost $.99 and albums sell for $9.99. Spotify may be free to those who don’t mind apps, but subscribing to the Premium subscription allows for mobile use, exclusive content not available on the free version and you can play Spotify via music systems (as you can with Rhapsody, too).

Winner:  Spotify offers a free version

Limitations

Rhapsody Premier allows only one mobile device to access the service for $9.99/month and streaming is limited to one home device at a time (to use other devices you have to deauthorize the device).  For extra cash ($) Rhapsody Premier allows up to three devices to access the service and at the same. Rhapsody doesn’t have an official iPad app, but its iPhone one will suffice.

While you can access Spotify from any device with the correct login credentials, you can only stream to one device at a time and don’t have the option to purchase a multiperson subscription.  However, up to 3 devices can download music in OFFLINE mode for the same low price of $9.99.  They too don’t have an official iPad app, but have an iPhone one that works on the iPad, too.  Spotify’s only real limitation is that it doesn’t have a great have a great music discovery system.

Winner:  Spotify allows you to put the offline music on more devices

Pricing

Rhapsody has two tiers for memberships:

  • $9.99/month for its Rhapsody Premier, which includes online listening, home audio listening, mobile app or MP3 player access for one device, subscription downloads for MP3 players and mobile apps
  • $14.99/month for its Premier Plus, which includes online listening, home audio listening, mobile app or MP3 player access for 3 devices, subscription downloads for MP3 players and mobile apps

Spotify’s also has two tiers for membership:

  • $4.99/month for Unlimited, which includes add-free listening on your computer ONLY
  • $9.99/month for their Premium service, which includes ad-free listening, better sound quality, and mobile app accessibility on one device at a time.

Winner: Spotify’s most expensive membership package cheaper

 Overall Winner

Rhapsody might have been around longer, but the new kid on the block is quickly taking over with its various perks and services. Spotify knows what music lovers want and seems to be all about innovation given the many upgrades and improvements it has added since first launching. They’re all about social integration, which is important these days, and even offer non-paid users a pretty good taste of their services.










Kristie Bertucci

 
Kristie Bertucci is an L.A.-based writer, who can't live without her MacBook Pro. When she's not writing, she's either reading or shopping (online, of course) and loves lazy days so she can catch up on her DVR-recorded shows and movies. She's definitely a Mac girl, she loves music and is currently on a mission to to have an insane and enviable iTunes library.