Music streaming services (checkout out our other music comparisons) are becoming quite popular these days, providing music junkies their fix of their favorite artists, while allowing them to discover new ones. While many of the big ones out there share many features, they each provide listeners and members with a unique experience. 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. See how newcomer Rdio measures up to Rhapsody’s service.

Background

Rdio (pronounced ar-dee-o) and  is a combination of the words radio and audio.  It was actually founded and created by Skype’s founder back in 2010, so it’s still growing as a music streaming service. The  ad-free music subscription service is available in several countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Spain, Portugal and New Zealand. Rhapsody has been around a lot longer than Rdio (since 2001), making it one of the earliest music subscription services around.

Compatible Devices

There are a plethora of devices that you can use Rhapsody on. Of course, it’s available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android phones (with a downloadable app), while its computer desktop interface works on both Mac and Windows computers. You can also use Rhapsody on a number of home audio systems, including:  Russound Collage System, Yamaha MusicCast2 System, Control4 in-wall touch screen, Sonos Play:5, Sonos Play:3, Sonos Multi-Room Music System, and Logitech Squeezebox Duet. There are even some MP3 players that work with Rhapsody like SanDisk Sansa Clip, Fuze and Clip Zip, as well as Philips GoGear. Rdio’s list isn’t as long, but it does include Android, Blackberry, iOS devices, Windows phones, PC, Roku and Sonos devices. Expect more to be available as the service grows.

Winner: Rhapsody has more devices

Computer Application

Rhapsody’s computer desktop application is easy to use and laid out in such a way that you’ll be navigating around within minutes of joining. The white with blue accents layout is easy on the eyes and has everything you need on the home screen. Genres are located at the top left (with more than 15 genres listed), a music player at your right and new releases at the top. Featured blog posts and music charts are at the bottom (you have to scroll down a bit). Sharing your songs to Facebook is easy, too, with a connect link at the very top of the homepage. It also has a ad-free radio player that allows you to pick a station by either artist, genre or even theme. The interface panels, such as Now Playing Mixer, Play-lists, Artist, Album, etc., are all resizable, with users controlling the metadata panels they see in their own library. You can also opt to buy tracks you like. Discovering new music is awesome via the radio stations, top music charts and new release listings. Also, organizing your collection and creating playlists is simple.

Rdio also features a blue and white scheme and makes navigating around simple and concise. The landing page features artists that are heavy in rotation in your network of friends, which you can follow and listen to what they’re listening to. With Rdio, you have the ability to import your collection from iTunes and Windows Media. But it doesn’t scan music that the service doesn’t have. Also, songs that have parenthesis in their title aren’t included since it Rdio uses brackets instead, so some songs won’t show up. Browsing your music can be done in a couple of ways: a chart of frequently listened to artists, album grid, song list or searching the Rdio catalogue. Music discovery is pretty good with the Browse Music button that shows new releases and displays what’s popular on Rdio. It also gives you recommendations based on what’s in your collection.

Winner: Tie, both offer easy-to-navigate computer apps

Mobile Application

Like Rhapsody’s computer app, it’s mobile one is just as simple to navigate and use. Everything is pretty fast and responsive, like searching for artists (only when the name is spelled correctly, though). Buttons included in the mobile app are: Genres, Queue, New This Week, Rhapsody Radio, Charts, Settings and Listening History. At the bottom of the main screen are smaller buttons that display Search, Playlists, My Library and Downloads. The only thing it doesn’t carry over from the desktop app is the featured blog posts.

Rdio’s mobile app is full-featured and highly intuitive, as it provides full access to Rdio as if you were online, pre-loads tracks in your queue for uninterrupted playback, and lets you load music directly onto your phone for offline playback. It also features a modified version of the desktop’s +Button that adds things to your local storage over 3G or Wi-Fi. You have access to their entire catalogue when using 3G or Wi-Fi. One cool features is that the mobile app changes colors when you’re using it offline.

Winner: Rdio’s color-changing offline feature is cool and it provides full access to Rdio as if you were online

Sound Quality

The sound quality for Rhapsody isn’t the best and many members have a problem with this. They’ve talked about it numerous times on forum, asking them to enhance this issue. Right now, sound quality is as: 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. Rdio’s streaming capability is at 256kbp over Wi-Fi in the browser/desktop/mobile apps. But the 3G streams are of a lower quality that the company will not disclose and users can generally notice the difference.

Winner: Rdio has a higher bitrate for mobile devices

Social Capabilities

Rdio has a social layer built into their service so you can share songs via a message blast that goes to Facebook, Twitter or other Rdio users. It’s possible to find your Twitter or Facebook friends who are also on Rdio and follow them. Rdio also allows you to stream what you’re listening to via Facebook. Rhapsody allows you to link what you’re playing with Facebook, but it’s not an integral part of one’s listening experience as other music streaming services. However, not many people use both on Facebook, diminishing the effect of the social features.

Winner: Tie

Catalog

According to Rhapsody, they have more than 13 million titles in its music catalog. They also teamed up with MTV Networks so that members get music before it hits stores. Members have had sneak peaks at tracks from Lady Gaga, Green Day, Jay-Z and more. Rdio is said to have about more than 15 million songs, with new releases on point, but older jams might be harder to find.

Winner: Rdio has more tracks

Membership Perks

Rhapsody’s MP3 Store sells all the tracks and albums on the site and they’re DRM-Free and can be used on other portable music devices, unlimited computers and can be burned to CDs. Tracks cost $.99 and alums sell for $9.99. In Rdio, you can browse through artists similar to those you like, see what’s in heavy rotation among your friends or all Rdio users, browse new releases or top charts, review recommendations, making music discovery so much better and easier. It also has a free version (with restrictions, of course) so those who don’t want to pay the monthly fee can still use it.

Winner: Rdio’s music discovery enhances your musical tastes

Limitations

Rhapsody’s Premier membership only allows one mobile device to access the account, while streaming is limited to one home device at a time. To use it on three devices, you have to buy the Premier Plus. Also, there’s no downloadable app for Macs yet. You have to use it via the Internet on your Mac. There’s no podcasts available in Rdio and the services takes a while to start streaming music instead of streaming immediately.

Winner: Rdio works with Mac

Pricing

There are two pricing plans for Rhapsody: Premier for $9.99/month and that offers: access on one mobile device, online streaming via rhapsody.com or Windows PC Client Software and unlimited home audio listening. The Premier Plus Option is $14.99/month and that includes: access on 3 mobile devices, online streaming via rhapsody.com or Windows PC Client Software and unlimited home audio listening.

Rdio breaks their membership pricing into three tiers: $4.99/month for unlimited web streaming with no ads, $9.99/month for unlimited web streaming with mobile access, and $17.99/month for 2 unlimited subscriptions (three for $22.99).

Winner: Rhapsody’s Premier Plus allows for three devices and is cheaper than Rdio’s $22.99 for the same amount of devices

Overall Winner

Even though Rdio is the new kid on the block, it seems it offers more than veteran Rhapsody. Rdio offers members a pretty robust music library with lots of current stuff, pretty good sound quality, easy-to-use mobile and computer apps and has social capabilities for you to share your musical tastes with friends.



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.