• MOG v. Spotify Part I

    As fast as cloud based music storage services from Google, Amazon, and Apple became media darlings these services were yesterday's news. There is still value in each of these storage services but for music aficionados nothing comes close to music streaming services MOG and Spotify. The major difference between the storage and streaming services is access to content. The former allows access to music already owned by the user. The later allows access to a nearly unlimited music selection for a monthly fee. Many Computer Audiophile readers know that I consider the current crop of cloud storage services DOA [Linklink]. On the other hand the current crop of music streaming services, lead by MOG and Spotify, are just what the Doctor ordered. The aforementioned streaming services are not created equal in terms of features, user interface, selection, and sound quality. After nearly one month of use I've concluded what service I will keep and what service I will cancel.



     

    MOG

    MOGlink is an on-demand music subscription service that provides subscribers access to over 11 million songs. Former Gracenote CEO and MTV Interactive SVP of Marketing David Hyman founded MOG in June 2005. Focussed solely on music since its inception MOG has evolved from a music / social networking site to a leader among many subscription music services. MOG offers the highest quality music of any streaming service from all the major labels. At the time of this writing MOG is only available within the United States and to U.S. military personnel around the world.

     

    Features

    In layman's terms MOG enables users to easily select music from a vast library in the sky and play it on a computer, mobile device, a host of other devices and vehicles. What makes MOG an industry leader is simplicity, selection, and sound quality.

    MOG Desktop
    MOG's desktop/laptop Graphical User Interface (GUI) is incredibly intuitive. The newly redesigned HTML5 desktop GUIlink is a music lover's dream. This new interface does not require software installation or a special application. It enables users to dig into a giant music collection, create playlists, mark favorites, and most importantly listen to music without any setup or instructions. Using a modern web browser like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox a user can stream music to any computer anywhere in the world. Users who hop from computer to computer or work in a locked-down computing environment needn't worry about installing unapproved software. Simply open a browser and start listening. The lack of advanced options in the new MOG GUI will be a welcomed improvement for many users. With its Apple-esque approach, increasing usability by limiting options, MOG has created a simple yet sophisticated portal to more music than anyone could ever purchase in a lifetime.

    The four main features I used frequently within the web based GUI are Playlists, Favorites, Radio, and what MOG calls FastSearch. Creating Playlists is as simple as clicking "Create New Playlist", naming the playlist, and dragging a song or album over to the new list. It's very easy to re-order the tracks in a playlist by simply dragging and dropping to the new location. Potential users should note that playlists are a completely optional feature in MOG. I actually didn't start using them until a few weeks into my subscription. I was like a kid in a candy store with all the music available so I added album after album to the queue or simply played albums initially.

    Creating Favorites within the GUI is as easy as clicking a heart next to a track, album, or artist. The Favorites feature eliminates re-searching for one's frequently accessed music. Searching is easy but clicking on "My Favorites"link is a bit easier. Once viewing the favorites area it's possible to view and sort by track, album, or artist. The whole favorites experience using MOG is quite advanced compared to other players including Spotify.

    MOG's Radio feature is far more user friendly and unrestricted than other services. MOG Radio uses what's called Mobius Technology with a ten step continuum that ranges from a single artist only to similar artists only. For example selecting Pearl Jam radio and leaving the "station" on the default first steplink enables Pearl Jam only radio. Below the ten step continuum is the list of ten tracks in the order they will be played on the station. Moving the continuum slider to the fifth steplink away from Pearl Jam only radio, one can see MOG replaced five tracks with tracks by similar artists. Astute CA readers have likely done the math already and discovered that each time the ten step slider is moved an original Pearl Jam track is replaced with a track from a similar artist. Ten steps, ten tracks in the list, it all makes sense. When the slider is placed all the way to the right on the Similar Artists tenth steplink all ten tracks are similar to Pearl Jam's music. If this example has only caused confusion rather than clarity I highly recommend trying the feature once. That's all it takes to master the ten step slider. My one complaint about the MOG Radio feature for desktop is the lack of Genre based radio stations. I would love to select Grunge Radio or 90's Radio. The ten step slider may function a bit weird in such a scenario. I can envision Grunge only radio but not Similar Artists to the whole Genre. I'm sure the people at MOG will figure out the best way to implement this Genre based feature as it has been high on the user suggestion list for awhile.

    Over the years I've used Pandora radio extensively. Creating a radio station based on an artist and listening to music similar to the artist was really cool, a few years ago. Since I signed up for MOG and Spotify I haven't touched Pandora.

    The last and most important main feature is MOG's FastSearch. Without a good search engine finding music in MOG's massive music library would be like searching the Internet with Bing. OK that was a cheap shot. MOG's FastSearch and the ensuing display of search results are excellent. Continuing with the Pearl Jam theme, entering the incorrectly spelled Perl Jam into the search box results in MOG FastSearch suggesting Pearl Jam even though I mangled the spelling. Clicking on the suggested and correct spelling of Pearl Jam results in a simple display of limited but pertinent options. Nice size album covers are presented on the Albums tab while smaller thumbnail size album covers are presented on the tracks tab. All the albums and tracks can be dragged to a playlist or marked as a favorite. Pearl Jam Radio is a readily visible option as is a list of similar artists. Browsing similar artist from this Pearl Jam search results page lead me to one annoyance I have with MOG FastSearch. I'm sure FastSearch is operating as designed, but I think this is a design flaw. When searching for Pearl Jam the nice results page lists 1 Artistlink, 40 Albumslink, and 40 Trackslink on different tabs with the aforementioned extras. MOG users can see the live results by clicking here[Linklink]. Clicking around the similar artists list I eventual clicked on Pearl Jam thinking I would get back to the same page mention previously. However, I was brought to the Pearl Jam "home" pagelink within MOG. MOG users can see the live Pearl Jam page by clicking here [Linklink]. This dedicated Pearl Jam page is less user friendly than the search results page and offers less music. There are only ten Top Tracks versus forty on the search results page and there is no easy access to albums with Pearl Jam in the title like Lullaby Renditions of Pearl Jam, Deja Vu's 20th Anniversary Tribute To Pearl Jam, or Walt Ribeiro's Orchestral Tribute to Pearl Jam. As long as Pearl Jam is listed in the search box it's possible to toggle between the Pearl Jam dedicated page and the search results page, but this is an unlikely scenario under normal use. Again, FastSearch is working as designed. Finally, one unique feature of FastSearch that is very similar to Google Instantlink is the ability to predict and provide results while a user is typing. For example as each subsequent letter of Pearl Jam's name is typed the results are narrowed down. The list starts large with bands that have Pea, then Pear, and Pearl etc. As soon as Pearl Jam appears on the list the name is easily selected and a search commenced.

    There are a couple more features within the MOG HTML5 web app that enable easy browsing. One such feature is Editor's Picks. MOG has on-staff music editors who populate this list weekly. It's a great way to discover new music. The MOG desktop/laptop GUI isn't feature rich rather it has rich features. MOG took the quality over quantity approach that has also made Apple the most valuable company in the world. I'm not joking [Linklink].

     

    MOG Mobile
    Mobile is where the rubber meets the road for cloud based streaming services. This is where most of the action is in terms of user activity and how these services bring in money. MOG's mobile application for iOS (iPod, iPad, iPhone) and Andriod based devices was designed with the same principles as the desktop/laptop GUI simple sophistication. The mobile application is as intuitive as the desktop GUI offering additional features to enhance the mobile experience and nothing more. Opening the MOG app on an iPhone the user is presented a Home screen with large intuitive icons Home 1link, Home 2link. Like the desktop GUI MOG mobile includes FastSearch, Favorites, Playlists, MOG Radio, Editor's Picks, New Releases, and Charts by Songs link, Album link, and Artists link. In addition to these features the mobile app includes Featured Playlists, Moggles, custom settings for high quality sound, and most importantly Downloads. It's these added features and enhanced FastSearch that solidified MOG's mobile application as my preferred method of using the service.

    Same But Different
    Most of the aforementioned MOG desktop features that exist in the mobile version offer the same functionality. One feature offers what I call an enhanced mobile experience. FastSearch on MOG mobile is far faster than the desktop GUI. One would think a desktop version using a 105Mbps Internet connection and powerful computer should offer the fastest search type-ahead feedback and search results. Contrary to conventional wisdom and based solely on speed the mobile search experience is better.

    MOG's mobile FastSearch letter by letter [ Plink   Elink   Alink   Rlink   Llink     Jlink   Alink   Mlink] and ensuing navigationlink of Artistlink, Songlink, Play Listslink, Play Queuelink, and Favoriteslink.

    While using MOG's mobile Radiolink feature I thought I discovered the ability to listen to "stations" based on genre. I searched for Jazz and received a result that said Tap To Play Jazz Radio. Tapping that result played what appeared to be a Jazz radio station although I'd never heard of any of the tracks. I followed this up with a search for Grunge link. I selected the Tap To Play Grunge Radio result and two tracks by the band named Grunge were at the top of the list. Aha I thought I was on to something. Then I scrolled down the playlist to see tracks I'd never heard of that were not Grunge at all and a single track by Puddle of Mudd. After the single PoM track was an endless list of tracks from the band Blood Red Shoes. I scrolled for twenty tracks or so and believed I'd stumbled on to Blood Red Shoes Radio. Subsequent attempts to play Grunge (the genre) Radio resulted in different lists of music except the first two tracks from the band Grunge. Very weird indeed.

    Added Features
    MOG's additional mobile features such as Featured Playlists, Moggles, custom settings, and Downloads are what set the mobile app apart from the desktop user interface. Featured Playlists and Moggles are two features I don't use often, but they do have value. Featured Playlistslink are selected by MOG's editorial team from the thousands of user shared playlists. It's a good way to discover music. Moggles is a feature that I initially thought was superfluous. Fortunately I gave it a chance and ended up really liking it. Moggles enables the user to take a photo of an album from within the MOG application. The photo is processed by MOG instantly and the matching album is usually displayed. Using Moggles is a very quick way to navigate to a specific album (Moggles in one link, two link, threelink, fourlink steps.). MOG's album cover fingerprint engine works very well. During my testing I took a photolink of Ray Lamontagne's Gossip in the Grain album. I purposely did not include the album title and artist name in the photo as I wanted to see if the process recognized cover art or simply read text when available. Using only the photo on the cover MOG quickly brought me to Gossip in the Grainlink and gave me the same same optionslink as if I navigated to the album manually.

    MOG's custom Settings is a feature audiophiles can appreciate and one they've frequently wished for in mobile music apps. Settings link allows the user to turn on High Quality Streaming and High Quality Downloads. According to MOG, "High Quality Streaming uses 320 kbps MP3s when connected via WiFi [as opposed to] Normal Quality 64 kbps AAC+." The High Quality Downloads are 320 kbps MP3s no matter what type of connection is present as long as the option is enabled. Currently MOG is the only mobile service I know of the offers 320 kbps MP3s of all its music. Granted these are not lossless or even CD quality downloads or streams but 320 kbps is a step in the right direction and higher quality than every track available from the World's largest music retailer The Apple Store.

    Far and away my favorite and most used feature of MOG is the ability to Download music and store it on a mobile device. This feature is only available via the mobile application. There is no synchronizing with a computer to transfer music in either direction. The ability to download as many tracks as one's mobile device can hold is fabulous and couldn't be simpler. Browsing music by track, album, or artist users will see a gray box with white arrowlink to the left of a track or album. Simply tapping the white arrow initiates the download to the mobile device. There is no need to create a playlist and enable offline mode for the playlist or anything other than tapping the download icon next to the music. Once music is on the mobile device it can be browsed by Artist, Album, or Song just like everyone is used to while browsing music in iTunes, J River Media Center, and many other applications. I use this feature extensively every time I travel without a solid WiFi connection, most likely at 30,000 feet in the air. I was recently turned on to Lucinda Williams' music. I must have been living under a rock or perhaps a laptop because I wasn't familiar with her music. Prior to leaving the house for a recent trip to Denver I downloaded every Lucinda Williams album. Twelve albums in total including Deluxe versions of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and her newest release Blessed. I listened to these albums during the entire trip. Upon my return I purchased ten of them at a local retailer. Streaming services have enabled me to hear more music than at any other time in my life. This has lead me to purchase more music than I ever thought I could consume. Previously I was hesitant to take a chance purchasing an album I hadn't heard or from an unknown artist. Using MOG downloads with hours of time on an airplane one can get a taste of everything from the newest releases, available on Tuesdays in the U.S., to old classics from long gone generations.

    Mobile Notes
    I tested MOG mobile extensively using its built-in Apple AirPlaylink capability. I had no trouble streaming music from my iPhone to my main system with an Apple AirPort Express. One quirk with MOG's AirPlay implementation is remembering where the AirPlay icon is located within the app. The only way to view the AirPlay option is to hit the volume up/down button on the side of the iPhone. This presents the volume slider and AirPlay iconlink on the bottom of the MOG mobile screen. Users must be fairly quick as the slider and icon disappear about two seconds after the volume button is pressed.

    The original non-HTML5 MOG desktop client allowed users to publish playlists and search for other users' published playlists. Soon this functionality will be introduced to the mobile app. The ability to create playlists on the mobile app is one feature I would enjoy. Whether I would share the lists is another story but I still want the choice. The lack of album release date is my single biggest gripe with MOG mobile. For example when browsing the artist Lucinda Williams' catalog of roughly twelve albums I had no idea when any of the albums were released. If I wouldn't have downloaded all the albums I might have wanted to sample some of her old and some of her new music to get a taste of her career. The only way to accomplish such a sampling of her music is to download it all. Once on the mobile device each album has the release date clearly visible next to the Artist name and Album name. This seems like a logical piece of information to list for user prior to downloading as they browse the catalog in the sky. Here's an example using Shelby Lynne as the artist before downloadinglink, after downloadinglink.

    UPDATE: Less than six hours after publishing Part I of this article MOG announced support for release dates in its Android mobile app. Here is the text of the annoucement.
    Get the new Android app update, now with album release dates!
    You've been requesting album release dates, and we're busily working on integrating them into all our platforms. The new update for our Android app adds 'em to the mix, and now you can sort an artists' albums by date, title, or popularity. We also rewrote the download queue for much improved reliability with your downloads.


     

    MOG Everywhere
    Music aficionados are never satisfied until music is available anywhere at any time. Thanks to MOG it's possible to enjoy this giant catalog of music on all new LG, Samsung, and Vizio TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as Roku and Sonos. Soon MOG will be in all BMWS and Mini's. Many of these options make for easy connections to one's HiFi or wireless music distribution system. Here is a video of what MOG will look like in the MINI Cooper.



     


    Wrap Up / Next Up
    MOG's desktop GUI and mobile app are a great way to listen to and discover more music. Both interfaces have enough features without the bloat associated with apps like iTunes. MOG has taken an Apple-like approach with simple sophistication. Eliminating options and features that might detract from the overall experience for most users. This lack of options may be seen as limiting for some advanced users more adept at application configuration and customization. MOG's desktop GUI is not as full featured as the mobile app, but mobile is where it's at right now for streaming music services. The better features of the mobile app, especially music downloads, really put the mobile app ahead of the HTML5 web based GUI. MOG's complete catalog is available at 320 kbps and streamable over a WiFi connection at this rate. When downloading the catalog the High Quality option ensures all music is at 320 kbps even over a 3G/4G wireless connection. The only time MOG's catalog is less than 320 kbps is streaming via 3G/4G connections. MOG's expansion into the TV, Blu-ray, Sonos, and automobile markets is good news for music lovers seeking the highest quality streaming service whether in the car, home theater, HiFi, or throughout the house.

    Fortunately for consumers MOG doesn't exist in vacuum. MOG has serious competition from Sweden based Spotify with its 15 million song catalog and over 10 million strong user community.

    Coming up in MOG v. Spotify Part IIlink.

    • Spotify Background

    • Spotify Desktop

    • Spotify Mobile

    • Catalog Comparison

    • Sound Quality Comparison

    • Overall MOG v. Spotify Comparison

    • Conclusion: What app is kept, what app is canceled?


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    Comments 35 Comments
    1. wgscott's Avatar
      wgscott -
      I just cancelled it after a month. No objections. I just wasn't using it.
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      thanks.<br />
      <br />
      I am currently listening to Spotify, and liking it. The every song in higher quality rather than some of the songs in higher quality is drawing me in.
    1. new_media's Avatar
      new_media -
      I'm liking Spotify more since I signed up for the premium service and discovered I can stream to AirPort Express from my iPad. I had been using AirFoil, but that seemed a little kludgy. I do wish there was a dedicated iPad app instead of the zoomed-in iPhone one.<br />
      <br />
      I'm still not sure I'm using it enough to get my money's worth, but I'm going to try it for a few months.
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      I do think it is a great service, but even with premium, not every song on Spotify is 320kbps, some are still the standard res.
    1. Murph's Avatar
      Murph -
      I'm trying Mog as I type this...and am impressed so far. I'm also anxious to see your thoughts on Spotify. I think Apple has a challenge to enter the "streaming music" market with features or sound quality comparable to what I'm hearing. On the other hand, sheer market presence could make their (eventual) product a slam dunk-even with lesser capability/performance. Hoping competition will continue to drive quality higher!<br />
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      at the same time, so may have this for my son's iPhone at college, and he'll just not be able to d/l albums when I am on, or vice versa (it's ok, we have VERY different schedules ). Once d'l'd it doesn't matter. Seems like a no-brainer at $10/month. I've already d/l'd (high quality setting) about a half dozen albums to my Touch. They sound more than fine on IEM's. Way better than Rhapsody or iTunes, of course...plus you can add/delete, etc and no synching needed.
    1. matt123's Avatar
      matt123 -
      Hi,<br />
      <br />
      Been using MOG for about 3 months and love it. <br />
      - Sound quality is noticeably good, considering.<br />
      - I had no idea about the AirPlay feature until reading this, thank you for pointing that out in the review.<br />
      - Playlist feature needs a bit of improvement<br />
      - Search is good, but sort order of results is a bit weird.<br />
      - Discovering new music on MOG has increased my CD buying.<br />
      <br />
      In response to the comment about Apple needing to catch up, I agree. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple, Amazon, Google, Netflix, Facebook...bought them up in the next few months. I would love to own a bit of MOG or Spotify, fun bidding war there. One of these guys will "built it" then the others will scramble to "buy it" or vice-verse.<br />
      <br />
      Apple may seem to have a lot to lose in iTunes revenue by offering streaming, but they appear to be struggling desperately to get people to pay $/month subscriptions (witness the death of Mac.com) As these services get more popular, they will lose iTunes revenue anyways. And, there's really not much risk for Apple - pretty high chance you'd sign up for $4.99 or $9.99 a month for unlimited music as you are about to pay $0.99 for one song or $9.99 for an album.<br />
      <br />
      I agree with Chris's review that the upload services from Apple/Google/Amazon are DOA in comparison.<br />
      <br />
    1. Desk Jockey's Avatar
      Desk Jockey -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Great Review. Please post MOG vs. Spotify Part II ASAP. The drum roll is killing me. <br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
      <br />
      Greg
    1. rompadomp's Avatar
      rompadomp -
      Can anyone invite me to spotify? basinfishin at gmail dot com ?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Done.<br />
      <br />
    1. Rollin's Avatar
      Rollin -
      Please include a cost comparison in your summary.
    1. cookiemarenco's Avatar
      cookiemarenco -
      Thanks for writing an amazing review. Much appreciated. <br />
      <br />
      Cookie
    1. jhbpa's Avatar
      jhbpa -
      To Spotify, jhbcpa at gmail dot com.<br />
      <br />
      Can the the 320kbps option be set in Listen From your Computer mode.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
      <br />
      JB
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      sent :~)<br />
      <br />
      The 320 option is a setting in the mobile version as of right now. I believe if you are on a computer it's 320 already.<br />
      <br />
    1. bfishernc's Avatar
      bfishernc -
      Very well done. *Like you, I have just recently spent significant time with all the providers, and settled on 3 for more analysis (Mog, Spotify, Slacker). *I'd be interested in your feedback if you've tried Slacker. *At this time, I think I've settled on it as my main solution, but it's still not perfect.<br />
      <br />
      - they have the best portable app of the 3, both on iphone and iPad. *Mog and Spotify do not have an iPad app, and their iPhone app has some challenges (crashing, features that don't work mobile but do on PC, etc)<br />
      - they have excellent "radio stations" covering a wide variety of music. *They have staff that monitor and maintain these stations. *I think this is one of Slackers biggest strengths.<br />
      - caching of stations, playlists, albums, songs is very simple and elegant. *I can listen to 4 or 5 (or whatever) stations or playlists, and then refresh the cache and it replaces songs I've listened to, updates my ratings, etc all in 1 step.<br />
      - news channel. *I know, it's not music, but it's great to turn on the news any time you want and get caught up.<br />
      - Their premium plan allows you to pick songs, create playlists, etc. *I admit, this is their weakest point against the other 2 options - they have some holes in their offering. *I hope/expect this will improve over time.<br />
      <br />
      I think if I could combine all 3 services, I'd be happiest!
    1. jmudrick's Avatar
      jmudrick -
      Spotify is making good progress in converting their library to 320. That progress is discussed right about here:<br />
      <br />
      http://getsatisfaction.com/spotify/topics/why_so_little_music_available_at_320_kbps#reply_62 24104
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      thanks!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      <a href="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/MOG-v-Spotify-Part-II">MOG v. Spotify Part II</a><a href="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/MOG-v-Spotify-Part-II"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> has been publshed.<br />
      <br />
    1. Johnll's Avatar
      Johnll -
      Nice review, I love MOG. I am going to have to disagree with the evaluation of the search capabilities, at least pertaining to classical. They actually have a decent classical catalog but it is a easter egg hunt to find it. Ex. looking for a particular recording of a Beethoven symphony. You would assume typing "Beethoven" would bring up all Beethoven - no. If you are looking for a particular recording you need to try these variations "Beethoven Symphony", "Beethoven symphony 5", " Beethoven Conductors Name", Beethoven Orchestra Name" and others. These will all bring up different recording as well a load of pop and jazz recordings.<br />
      <br />
      I have corresponded with MOG and they are aware of the problem and are working on it. They let the record companies tag these things and they are tagged very inconsistently.BTW I can find recordings on the old version of MOG that I cannot find on the beta. It is a bit of trouble but I think MOG is still a keeper.
    1. Enicar's Avatar
      Enicar -
      That's what it says on mog.com.<br />
      http://mog.com/promos/overview <br />
      <br />
      Isn't that a lie?<br />
      <br />
      I can't find any information about bitrate on mog.com?<br />
      <br />
      Spotify were also hiding the truth when they stated 320kbps for Premium subscribers.<br />
      <br />
      ( I really hate sales talk. You understand that, don't you)