POSTING BY BIG ANGRY
Memorial Day weekend is the traditional kickoff to the summer season. Many of us will be taking part in our fair share of good food, cold beer, and good company. However, let’s not forget the one thing that helps to tie all of this together: great music. To say that one has a plethora of choices nowadays where to get their music from is an understatement. Gone are the days where the only choices are the local radio station and a mixed tape/CD you threw together while drunk one night.
Even though there are a multitude of music providers out there, none are created equal. I wish I could comment on all the ones I have used in the past, however, I have decided to narrow my focus to two: Slacker Radio and Pandora. Both are internet streaming services that are available either through your computer or smart phone. Personally, I use both of these services streaming through my phone hooked into my car or home stereo system. While both provide similar listening experiences, they are not the same.
Pandora seems to be the standard when it comes to the general public’s choice of streaming music, and there’s a part of me that understands why. Pandora provides a consistent stream of music and allows the user to either create a station based upon their favorite artist, or refer to their limited number of preset stations based upon a specific genre.
What I enjoy about Pandora is that it seems to perform consistently either with a wifi network or on the road using 3G services. There is a nice smooth transition between songs and the commercial interruptions on the free version are sporadic and bearable. I have as yet to experience Pandora crashing on me and it transitions from wifi to cellular data smoothly.
With that being said, Pandora is very limited in the customization of both user-created and preset stations. Basically, you type the band’s name in, or select one of the presets, and that’s about all you can do. Sure, you can like or dislike a song, but it’s VERY limited compared to its competitor, Slacker. The song selection is decent for the user-generated stations but he preset stations are horrifically generic music-wise. If I wanted the kind of mind-numbing predictability on Pandora’s preset stations, I would stick with the multitude of shitty, overly segmented terrestrial radio stations Indiana has to offer.
If you are one of the many people who insist on having things as personalized as possible and you’re not using Slacker, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Like Pandora, Slacker enables the listener to create stations based upon the artists you like. Slacker also offers an amazing selection of preset stations in all genres, as well as for holidays, music festivals, sports, news, and much more. On a side note, I highly recommend giving their “Great Songs You Forgot” channel a listen. Yes, it tends to span mostly the 90′s and 2000′s as far as forgotten songs (multi-genres), but I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying this channel. It’s a great drinking around the campfire with friends type station (in my opinion anyway).
Let’s get down to what makes Slacker the superior choice versus Pandora: customization. Every station, whether one of their presets or your own, has a plethora of choices as far as exactly how you want your music to be heard. Whether you like just the hits, prefer to go deeper, or simply discover similar bands, Slacker enables you to choose exactly how frequently you would like each category to appear in your music mix. Yet, hold on dear reader, it gets even better. I’m not sure how you prefer your music, but I enjoy a nice mixture of genres (though mostly hard rock and punk) from differing years. This is where the “create your own station” feature is absolutely amazing for this service. Instead of just entering one artist, you can enter several, providing you with a one-stop shopping for music variety. For example, on my own station, I will hear bands including The Cult, Dropkick Murphys, Susan Tedeschi, The Cars, The B-52′s, Disturbed, Crash Test Dummies, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Frank Zappa…I think you catch my drift.
Yet, even though I’ve been giving Slacker much deserved love, I have to admit, it isn’t perfect. My biggest beef with Slacker is its lackluster performance while using 3G. Transitioning between songs tends to lag on cellular network, especially when it transitions between songs and commercials. As far as commercials, well, its inconsistent. At times, it can seem like you get quite a few songs before you hear a commercial, while other times it seems like every three songs has an interruption. However, due to some snafu in their services that I missed completely, Slacker has given its subscribers a free one month Premium subscription. The premium version may be too hard to let go once the month trial is up for yours truly. I will also say that while the performance is spotty on cellular networks, I do not experience any hiccups on my wifi network. If Slacker can fix the 3G issues, make it comparable to Pandora’s performance via cellular network, it will be the premier player in the music streaming game.
Overall, Slacker will provide you with the best music selection, options, and fun for your holiday weekend; or any time for that matter. However, since cellular performance will vary from area to area, give Slacker a shot first. If you have the same hiccups I have, then I guess give Pandora a go. Hell, either way, it beats having to be subjected to listening to Bob Seger every other song like your standard classic rock station on terrestrial radio.