Apple was the first company to offer an online music store, for users of its iPod music player. It isn't alone anymore. Which one will give you the tunes, versatility, and price/performance you want? John Aubrey checks out four of the most popular stores, and delivers his verdict.
You might think that MusicMatch Jukebox gave birth to the Rhapsody software. It has a futuristic look, with resizable boxes. The music starts playing nearly instantly after you click it -- no waiting for buffering as with other stores. Then again, Rhapsody is banking on streaming, so it better not have buffering issues.
Rhapsody offers fairly low prices. The price per track is 79 cents, 21 cents cheaper than its competitors. The standard monthly fee is $9.95, and this gives you access to stream any song they offer. While the other competitors both offer something on Internet radio, Rhapsody goes above and beyond the call of duty. They offer over 50 stations at CD quality, all of which can be customized to your likings. You can even skip over songs to which you’d rather not listen. The catch? This service costs an additional $5.95 a month.
The format of music in Rhapsody doesn’t matter. You can’t actually get the songs. All songs are either on the server, being streamed to your PC, or burned to a CD. There is no option to download songs to your computer -- or even to a portable player -- to listen to offline. While some customers may feel upset because they're paying money but can't actually get the songs, it does keep the recording industry happy. What users don't have, they can’t crack.
If listening to music in your home is a top priority for you, Rhapsody might be your answer. Rhapsody is ready to stream music to some home audio systems, such as Rockford's Omnifi DMS1, Prismiq's MediaPlayer, Netgear's MP101, and Linksys's WMLS11B, right out of the box. Of course, you can always pick and choose the songs you get from Napster or any MP3 you may have laying around, but if you want to listen to radio stations, or more like pre-determined playlists, then you can do so with Rhapsody without any configuration.