ThrowDown Showdown: Pandora Vs. Slacker Radio

POSTING BY BIG ANGRY

Which Will You Choose?

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

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.

Slacker

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.

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17 Comments

Filed under Mishmosh Ranting, Music, Technology

17 responses to “ThrowDown Showdown: Pandora Vs. Slacker Radio

  1. You can add variety in Pandora by adding “seeds” to any of the stations you’ve created. Example: Create a station using the artist Massive Attack then edit the station to add another artist, Antonio Carlos Jobim, for a nice chill out station. You can add multiple artist and song seeds to a station. The “thumbs up & down” also help tweak the station. Slacker may have more direct options but Pandora isn’t as simplistic as noted in the article. Also, Pandora uses the Music Genome Project to determine what music plays on your station, which provides a much deeper personalization than creating a Metallica station on Slacker and simply playing other artists that generically fit into the Metal genre.

  2. Also, I haven’t noticed songs repeating often in Pandora and have been using it for a few years. I listened to their 80s Rock station recently for several hours this weekend and did not hear one song repeated.

  3. Nando

    You haven’t heard or noticing repeating songs with Pandora?? That’s just impossible! I finally left pandora about a month ago because I got sick and tired of listening to the same music over and over. In fact I complained to Pandora support about a year ago and they replied ” we know of this issue and we are working on it” Well a year passed and absolutely nothing changed! I am in love with Slacker! Pandora is a thing of the past and it is their own fault! You can’t sit around and hope for the best….you need to keep up with technology!

  4. Tom

    I ditched Pandora for Slacker because I was sick of their damn Obama ads. Can I please listen to music without the political BS?

  5. Randy S

    I started with Slacker in 2008 over that of Pandora because at the time – you had to know artists to start Pandora but you only needed to select a Genre in Slacker. And the Genre’s are as General or as Drill down as you want. I am not the type that remembers artists that well. So for me Slacker actually picked the music PERFECTLY for me. I then started remembering artists. I actually stopped listening to music for 5-10 years and “SLACKER BROUGHT ME BACK TO MUSIC”. – Thank You! and Good Luck Slacker!

  6. Mike

    I just got the Slacker Premium, but one thing sticks out immediately.
    Can I fast-forward songs or not?
    The whole point for me was rapidly discovering music I like, and then creating playlists from that.
    But if I can’t FF to see if I like a song, this might well be a deal-breaker.
    Can I, and if not, are there any other good streamers that allow FF?

    Equal measures thanks and argh.

    • steve

      Slacker is the only premium service that lets you view all the songs of any given station, artist or album and let you play/rewind any at will. However, Fast forward is not a feature available using any of the free or premium streaming services as its not allowed in their music licensing. You have to actually own the song to do that, hence the “buy now” at the bottom of each song being played. To consider this a deal breaker is simply silly.

      • dick durbin

        Spotify allows you to skip to any point in a song! I was going to switch to Slacker until I realized this.

  7. kieranmullen

    How much effort did you put in this article really? No mention of price comparisons either? Lazy!

    • You know what, I’m gonna field this one personally. Angry put so much effort in this article that it’s become one of our most popular posts, Slacker even linked to it, and THOUSANDS have now read it, unlike your stupid, yet pathetic excuse for a comment. If you wanted prices push the app button on your smart device and take the initiative for once, you condescending rube. What else would you like us to do, chew your food for you?

    • Well, considering both services offer a free basic service, I decided that I’d focus on what was really important and what people want MOST from music providers: content. I spent time listening to both Slacker and Pandora, explored their features, and gave my personal opinion.

      However, had I known that after nearly a year of steady reads by scores of people (some of whom offering some good insights and questions), I would cause such chaos in YOUR life by not including prices, I certainly would have. Forgive me for not thinking of YOUR individual needs while writing this nearly a year ago.

      Oh, in case you missed it, that was sarcasm.

      Call me lazy, attack my writing style, but back it up with something tangible. That’s all I ask.

  8. Gary L

    You can use slacker offline and that’s huge for me since I don’t have inet access at work.

  9. porchsong

    I don’t know if Slacker offers this, but what I mostly do with Pandora is shuffle all of my personally created stations. That way if I’m not in the mood for reggae on a certain day, I can just unclick my “Legalize It” radio station. It also allows me to keep my stations in genres or groups that make sense to me (Classic Rock, New Wave, Jam Bands, etc.) but still listen to a variety of genres when I want to mix things up.
    Another thing about Pandora that a lot of folks don’t know… thumbing up a song with SEVERELY limit your variety, because it thinks you like those songs so much that they’re all you want to hear. You are much better off using songs you really like as seeds, and not thumbing up ANY songs, unless they are songs that you REALLY REALLY like and don’t mind having repeated. If you shuffle stations and don’t thumb songs up and DO thumb down stuff that you hate, you should not get too many repeats. I listen all day every day at work, so 40 hours a week, and I don’t notice songs repeating much as long as my stations have at least a few seeded artists.

  10. Daniel

    My issue with both services is that neither has a “play only uncensored music” option. They have a “play only clean version” option but for me personally if a song has expletives in it I want to hear them as I hate edited songs.

    Case in point: Listening to “’80s, ’90s, & Today” on Slacker Plus, it just played the radio edit version of P!nk’s F**kin’ Perfect. This should never happen IMO. In Slacker the only option is “Play Explicit Content, When checked, Slacker will allow explicit content on your stations” which I have checked but it still occasionally plays edited songs. So annoying. I am afraid to ban or skip the song for fear that it might block both versions, not just the edited one, so I just suffer through it instead.

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