• MOG v. Spotify Part II

    In Part onelink of this streaming service comparison I covered MOG extensively. Part II is all about Spotify and a comparison of both services. What service has a better catalog? What service has better sound quality? How do the desktop and mobile clients compare? As former boxing referee Mills Lane would say, "Let's get it on!"



    Much like MOG Spotifylink is an on-demand music subscription service. Spotify was founded in Sweden by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. Since the company's founding it has moved to a new London, England headquarters. Spotify's public debut came in October 2008. Two years later the service had ten million users of which one million were paying members. Spotify has licensing deals with all the major record labels and offers a catalog of over 15 million tracks. These record deals are not universal thus content available in one country is not necessarily available in another country. The service is currently available in Europe and the United States. The U.S. was the most recent addition coming on-line July 14, 2011.



    Spotify offers access to its vast library in the sky via a desktop application, mobile application, and devices such as Sonos, Logitech Squeezebox, and Onkyo receivers.

    Spotify Desktop
    Spotify desktop is a free 32-bit application that's installed on the users computer. The company took a different approach than MOG when developing its desktop application. Spotify desktop is a bit more like a Windows or PC application as it offers more features at the expense of a slightly steeper learning curve. This is different from MOG and many Apple-like products that curtail options at the expense of customization to gain points in the usability category.

    Home Page
    Upon launch of Spotify's desktop application the user is brought to a What's Newlink screen. What's New displays new releases and the latest Spotify news feed. The New Releases section of this page contains two rows of four album covers and a More button. A logical assumption would be that the More button displays more new releases and likely eight more new releases (4x2=8). This assumption is incorrect. The More button functions more like a shuffle button, reshuffling most of the already displayed albums while adding one or two new selections. For example, I browsed five different New Release screens in an attempt to decipher Spotify's logic. Located on four of the five screens was the album Headlines by the band Drake. Located on one of the five screens was the album What You Want by the band Evanescence. After using the More button several times over several weeks I failed to follow its utility and quickly wrote it off as unuseful. I like being presented with new releases but would prefer a more intuitive and logical experience. See the five new release screens here -> Screen Onelink, Screen Twolink, Screen Threelink, Screen Fourlink, Screen Fivelink.

    The What's New screen also offers what Spotify calls Top Lists. The name of this tab should give users a hint that Spotify is all about lists, lists, and more lists. The default lists display the top 100 tracks and top 100 albums. The first three selections in each list are displayed with nice album art while the remaining 97 chart toppers are displayed as text only links. The lists remind me Excel Spreadsheets with numbered columns and a couple different sorting options. In addition to tracks and albums it's possible to display the top 100 artists. Despite the PC-esque look of these lists I did like the ability to change the locationlink of where the lists are derived. For example, my default listslink were based on the United States tracks, albums, and artists. I enjoyed the exposure to charting music from all over the world even if 40% if the top 100 Swedish tracks were listed but unplayable in the U.S.

    One beneficial part of an installable desktop application is the ability to offer the user preferenceslink. Spotify offers a very simple preferences window without too many options. The main preferences I used during my time with Spotify were related to the sources of music and the playback of that music. The application offers users the ability to select from a preset menu of local file locations and add more sources of local files. This is one feature that iTunes could really use as it only allows a single media folder location. Within the preferences window the first items I noticed were under the Playback heading. Two of the three options are audiophile-esque, at least on the surface. The option to set the same volume level for all tracks is wonderful simply because it allows the user to disable this feature. Enabling volume leveling reduces the dynamic range of the music as everything is played at the same volume. Again, the ability to disable this feature is wonderful. The other feature titled High quality streaming is more of a misnomer than the identical option in MOG's mobile app. The high quality option enables streaming up to 320 kbps. This sounds good on the surface, but user testing has proven many selection are not 320 kbps despite Spotify's statement in June 2009 that its entire library would be converted to 320 kbps in "the next few weeks and months." The word converted in that statement has me worried that 160 kbps material could be converted to 320 kbps instead of lossless material being converted to 320 kbps. I have no evidence that this has or would ever happen at Spotify, but experience tells me it's entirely possible.

    Spotify's desktop Search feature is pretty basic and continues with more text based list-mania. Searching for Pearl Jam I noticed immediately there was no type ahead or prefetch capability. Users simply type in a search term and hit enter. The ensuing results link are Wikipedia-like combined with a list of tracks that expands as the user scrolls downward. A link to Pearl Jam the band is listed at the top with an additional like to Cypress Hill;Pearl Jam. This additional link routes the user to an album in which these two bands collaborated on a single track. Next to the band names is a small list of album links. This list displays the band name and album name in a rather redundant fashion. The whole search results page reminds me of Wikipedia as it displays a bunch of words that link to other locations. Based on Spotify's popularity I'm sure many users like this type of search results page. I prefer results with a more engaging feel that display larger album covers rather than a link-fest. To each their own I guess.

    Selecting the Pearl Jam artist pagelink from the Spotify search results provides a good view of everything Pearl Jam and allows quick access to albums and tracks sorted by year of release. The album art is decent size allowing users to recognize an album by site even if the name can't be recalled. Selecting a track inserts the entire album, in numerical track order subsequent to the selection, into the Play Queue. For example, selecting the track 6 - I Am Mine from Pearl Jam's Riot Act album inserts additional tracks seven through fifteen into the Play Queue. I really like this feature as I listen to entire albums frequently. I also like the fact that the screen does not switch to the playlist after selecting a track for playback. The complete list of Pearl Jam tracks album by album remains on the screen. This is very nice when browsing an unfamiliar artist's catalog.

    Spotify search does take misspelling into account. As I did with MOG I searched for the incorrectly spelled Perl Jam in Spotify. The desktop application asked, "Did you mean Pearl Jam?"link Clicking on Pearl Jam launched a search for the correctly spelled band name. One search enhancement spotify could really use it the ability to combine band names like Big Head Todd & The Monsters with Big Head Todd and The Monsters into one result. Performing search for Big Head Todd & The Monsters provides both spellings as individual options. Selecting the option with the ampersand, as opposed to the word and, displays three BHTM albums. Selecting the other Big Head Todd and The Monsters option displays ten BHTM albums. None of the albums are displayed on both pages. An interesting note is that the official name of the band on all album covers in both search results uses the word and, not an ampersand. Searching with both spellings within MOG displays a single band name as the result and all albums are displayed. MOG also favors the ampersand in its BHTM results.

    "This is a list of music that you have starred." That's how Spotify describes the Starredlink section of the desktop application. Again, the word list comes into play and it's very accurate. Spotify enables users to Star tracks and albums but not artists. I like using stars, or favorites as MOG calls them, for quick access. However, the word quick is sometimes a bit off. Selecting Starred from the left panel of the desktop app displays the list of albums and tracks. Users have the ability to sort by the top columns track, artist, time, album, and added. As long as the list is not long and the desired selection is near the top or bottom of a sorting option then this feature works pretty well. If a user goes Star crazy this feature turns into a smaller version of the entire online catalog in a less functional list form.

    Playlists & Offline Music
    The Spotify desktop application has a somewhat confusing Playlist implementation but it does offer more functionality than competitors. Creating a playlist and adding albums and tracks to the playlist is very easy. Clicking New Playlist followed by dragging and dropping is all it takes. Viewing the Playlists it's possible to "View As Album List" within the app. This displays each album cover from the tracks in the list. Like MOG each track can be arranged in any order. Unlike MOG Spotify has an Undo function. For example, when testing playlists I rearranged a track and was able to select Undo from the Edit menu. This put the track back in its original position.

    Spotify's playlists can also contain music sourced from a local folder or iTunes playlist. This is a really nice feature unavailable in MOG. I created a test playlist mixing content from my iTunes library and the online Spotify "sky-brary" as it could be called. Then the confusing part comes into play. It's possible to synchronize playlistslink with an iPhone. Syncing apparently means offline, but only when it comes to syncing a playlist from the desktop app to a mobile device. This playlist will not be available offline on the desktop, even though it's synchronized, unless specifically enabled for offline access on the desktop. This level of granularity is great, but a bit confusing. For example, my Test playlist created within the desktop application says it is not available offline. When I view this playlist on the mobile app it says the playlist is available offline. The reason is that I enabled synchronization of this playlist from the desktop app to my iPhone. Got it? My mixed local and online content playlist became an offline playlist on my iPhone with Spotify even syncing my own purchased local content to the mobile application. I believe this can result in duplicate content if it's already synchronized with the iTunes app. Users should be cognizant of this possibility and only sync music in one application.

    Offline music is one of the features that I absolutely love in Spotify and MOG. However, the two application's offline implementations could not be farther apart. MOG currently does not offer offline playback via its desktop application. Spotify's desktop app offers offline playback through the use of playlists. Offline playback is great when an Internet connection is unavailable or spotty. My daily use of Spotify includes far more offline playback via the mobile applications than it does via Spotify's desktop app. I personally don't have much use for offline playback on my laptop however many users likely love this option while traveling.

    Spotify's offline implementation is less than stellar. In order to download music for offline listening the user must first create a playlist(s) and enable the Available Offline option. Then each album or track must be added to the playlist(s). That's certainly not the end of the world, but heavy use of the offline feature brings its subpar implementation to light. Spotify's playlists, as previously mentioned, are only navigable via lists not by a hierarchical menu driven system. This presents an issue for users who've downloaded a fair amount of content. For example, Spotify allows users to download 3,333 tracks and store them locally. Browsing 3,333 tracks via a long sortable list is unwieldy. Compare this type of navigation to MOG's mobile offline menu driven system. Users who download 3,333 tracks via MOG, although not limited to this number, can navigate this music via menus of Artists, Albums, and Songs. Spotify desktop could also use a search within playlists feature to at least make a large offline collection manageable. In addition to offline navigation troubles Spotify's method of downloading music is a bit convoluted. It's far easier to find an album or track and simply select a download button like MOG's mobile application. Spotify prefers users create a playlist, enable offline access to the playlist, locate an album or track, and add the selection to this offline enabled playlist. During my testing of Spotify I created a playlist titled simply Offline. I figured it would be easy to manage a single list of offline music. The long list of albums and tracks soon became undesirable. I created another playlist to contain a certain subset of content I wanted available offline. This method worked OK until I found an album that didn't fit this subset of content. Then I went through the routine of creating a playlist, enable offline access to the playlist, and adding the selection to this offline enabled playlist. Again, not something that's been the bane of civilizations the world over, but enough of an unnecessary hassle to turn users away from offline use.

    Spotify Desktop Notes
    Spotify's desktop application is not the same in all countries. Users in the United States do not have a Radio feature in the desktop or mobile applications. Strangely Spotify left the Artist Radiolink tab in the desktop application even though it only serves to confuse users. Browsing Pearl Jam's artist page one can see Overview, Biography, Related Artists, and Artist Radio tabs. The Artist Radio tab says, Pearl Jam Radiolink, featuring:" followed by a list of similar artists. There is no way to play this radio "station" and no text preventing users from seeking a way to play the station. After the first few minutes of searching many users will think they are doing something wrong or not seeing a Play button that must be right in front of their noses. Removing the Artist Radio tab or a little note saying the feature is not available in the US could save some confusion.

    The Spotify Play Queue has to be the weirdest queue implementation I've ever seen. As an example, I added Dee Dee Bridgewater's new album Midnight Sun to my Play Queue. The entire album was displayed in track order. Great, this is how I would expect and how I want a play queue to function. Then I wanted to add more tracks to the queue. I selected a track from Lil Wayne called She Will and dragged it to the Play Queue. What did the app do to the queue? The Lil Wayne track was placed directly after the currently playing Dee Dee Bridgewater track and the rest of the album tracks were removed! After this experience I added the new track What You Want from Evanescence to the queue. This track was place right after the Dee Dee Bridgewater track but before the Lil Wayne track. Continuing down this lovely Play Queue path I added the new self titled Jeff Bridges album to the queue. The entire queue after the currently playing Evanescence track was emptied and replaced by Jeff Bridges tracks. What happened to Lil Wayne? I know the guy just got out of prison but c'mon Spotify. The Play Queue is unusable for me and I'm willing to bet it's unusable for many users.

    Spotify has attempted to provide a music hub with its desktop application. One central interface for cloud based streaming and a user's local purchased content is a good idea. Unfortunately the Spotify interface is not even close to iTunes in the user friendly department and is counterintuitive compared to competitors interfaces. Synchronizing devices within the app can be confusing and is really unnecessary when using cloud based streaming services. There is an argument to be made in favor of a single sync'd interface with local content, but when competing with iTunes the implementation must be flawless. iTunes is a requirement for users with iPhones. It's how the iPhone is upgraded (currently), backed up, activated, and synchronized with a host of other items. Learning an additional application that offers limited functionality may be desirable for some users. As the Brits say, it's not my cup of tea.

    Browsing via the desktop app I noticed at least one album without cover art. The Grammy nominated Mumford & Sons album Sign No More has a blank placeholder instead of an image. I checked the identical album on MOG to find it had the album art and the image was even downloadable at 800x800 pixels. Very nice quality.

    Spotify desktop does not support many formats in use by audiophiles or those that care about better sound quality. According to the Spotify website, ".mp3, .mp4, .m4a and .m4r files are supported, .m4p is supported, but these files are usually protected by iTunes. Spotify can’t play them, but will try to match them against the corresponding Spotify track. .m4v, .3gp, .3g2 and .mov files will be imported, but will only be playable if they were originally exported as audio files." No support for WAVE, AIFF, or FLAC. Apple Lossless is the only lossless format supported.

    As of Spotify desktop version there is no native AirPlay support. I was able to send audio wirelessly link using Rogue Amoeba's AirFoil link application ($25).


    Spotify Mobile
    Spotify's free mobile application supports iOS, Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile, and Palm devices. Not every platform is supported in every locale or every device with one of the aforementioned operating systems. Users are advised to check if a specific device is supported before purchasing the device or a subscription to Spotify. The mobile application is a slimmed down version of the desktop app. There are no additional features and some information has been removed such as access to artist bios etc.

    Spotify's mobile home page is whatever page the user last visited. I like this functionality. An option to enable it would be nice within MOG mobile. Like the desktop app Spotify mobile offers a What's New screen. Gone is the ambiguous More button. Ten new releases and ten top tracks are visible from this screen. Also included is a Spotify feeds area with the latest company news. I like the scaled down mobile What's New pagelink. Less is more especially when on the go. I'm not a fan of using technology just because it's newer and available. Thus I don't like Spotify's method of accessing all of the new releases and top tracks. Users are required to swipe/scroll the album covers to the left within a skinny horizontal space. The album covers must remain small as it is a mobile device. It's hard to scroll on the go or when multi-tasking. I won't even mention the difficulties other people must have when driving. I will give Spotify credit for using this same swipe functionality on the Now Playing screen. To switch tracks the user simply swipes the large album cover to the right or left. This method is much easier than the small traditional forward and backward arrows available in the MOG mobile app.

    Playlists & Offline Music
    Spotify mobile's playlistslink are identical to the desktop application sans the ability to easily create new lists. It's entirely possible to create a playlistlink on the mobile app, but it took me several hours to figure it out. This capability is not listed on the Playlist screen. This must be done via a pop-up menu that appears when selecting an album or track for inclusion in a playlist. Maybe I'm a bit slow, but I believe there are users a lot slower than I am who will have trouble with this feature. Starred, Local, and offline tracks are all available in lists without hierarchical menus. It's possible to edit a playlist by rearranging track order and removing tracks from a list.

    Users must place new offline music in one of the existing playlists or create a new playlist and enable it for offline contentlink. It's possible to enable offline availability in an existing "online" playlist with the simple swipe of a finger. The offline experience with Spotify mobile is even less desirable than in the desktop app. Setting aside the required playlist functionality for offline music and a long list of tracks to browse through, Spotify's main mobile offline problem is the lack of hierarchical menus. There is no way to browse downloaded content by Artist or Album. The last thing I want to do is scroll through a huge playlist to find music I've downloaded. Spotify's attempt to counter MOG's nice offline hierarchical menu is the ability to browse the online hierarchical menu that will play locally stored content if available on the device. For example browsing for Pearl Jam albums is easy and done by Artist then Album when using the online hierarchical menu. When the user selects an album such as Riot Act and that album has already been downloaded or is in the local library of purchased content (iTunes etc…) the local copy will play. This method of browsing is great when users have an internet connection, but we're talking about offline listening. Browsing offline music in the Spotify mobile app is unacceptable.

    Mobile Notes
    Spotify mobile lacks distinguishing enhanced features that set it above or part from the desktop application with one exception. AirPlay functioned well with an AirPort Express connected to my main audio system. The search capability is identical, without type ahead results. (Album Resultslink, Artist Resultslink, Track Resultslink). Incorrect spellings lead to a correct spelling suggestionlink during all my tests. A major design flaw, or something I could not figure out, within the mobile app is the inability to add tracks or albums to a play queue and manage that play queue. Spotify mobile begins playing material immediately after its selection by the user. Once this selection is over the music stops. There is no way to add a track or album to the end of a play queue or anywhere within a play queue. The only semblance of a play queue is when a complete album or playlists is playing. Then a user can enter the Now Playing screen and make adjustments. According to a MacStories.netlink May 24th, 20?? article Spotify added the capability to add a songlink to the play queue in the very next position, not the end of the queue. It appears this pseudo-play-queue may only be available in some versions of the mobile app in some countries.

    When discussing the Settings feature of MOG's mobile app I made a bigger deal of the high quality settings than I will make of the settingslink in the Spotify app. This is only because Spotify's High Quality Stream and Sync settings max out at 160 kbps. That's half the bit rate of the High Quality music available in MOG mobile. I suppose 160 kbps is better than the default 96 kbps, but it's not good enough.


    Spotify Everywhere
    Similar to MOG, Spotify has made a push into home audio via devices such as Sonos, Logitech Squeezebox, Onkyo receivers, and to TeliaSonera digital TV customers in Sweden and Finland. Talking to a couple manufacturers of high performance audio components leads me to believe they may be leaning toward integrating Spotify more so than MOG simply because Spotify is available in the US and EU. However, the products mentioned are still in early design stages. It's nice to see both MOG and Spotify available via Sonos.


    Spotify Wrap Up
    Spotify desktop and mobile applications are a decent way to listen to music from a catalog of 15 million tracks in the cloud. The long lists of charts within the desktop app are a good way to see what others are listening to and sample some of that music in search of new musical treats. This desktop application appears to be designed for a more PC-like group that favors additional functionality at the expense of usability and intuitivity (I think I just made up a word). Many of Spotify's desktop features have awkward implementations. The requirement of playlists for offline music and the favoring of long lists instead of hierarchical menus is counterintuitive. Based on its popularity I'm willing to bet a lot of users are satisfied with this approach or haven't been exposed to the other implementations. Spotify mobile offer less features than the desktop app and no improved features. Search and playlists are the same while lack of a queue is a major drawback. AirPlay functionality is nice within the mobile application. The current high budget marketing push into the US has contributed greatly to Spotify's media daring perception. The feel of exclusivity by requiring user invitations was made popular by GMail back in 2004. I hope Spotify continues to improve its product the way Google has in the years since Gmail's launch.


    Comparisons That Count: Catalog & Quaity

    All successful music formats over the years, vinyl, cassette, CD, downloads, and now streaming, have done well because of a large selection of music people want to hear. It doesn't matter how good something sounds or how convenient a technology is, if the only thing one can listen to is Scottish Nose Whistle the format will fail. Both Spotify and MOG have extensive music catalogs between ten and fifteen million tracks. Deals with nearly every major record label are paramount in the streaming business. Amazon and Google skirted around the major labels simply because they don't offer streaming services. Those two offer access to music users already have access to at home. The size of the catalog is but one predicate of success. Nobody wants a service with fifteen million versions of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue or The Eagles' Hotel California. OK that's a stretch but it's illustrative nonetheless. Content is what counts. Researching the catalogs of Spotify and MOG is not easy. I started by scrolling through my iTunes library and searching the two services for the same music I currently own. Much of the time both services had the exact same material. I followed up by browsing the Album of the Eveninglink thread and searching Spotify and MOG for Computer Audiophile readers' favorite music. The results were interesting and swayed my choice for the better catalog in favor of MOG. I also read as many articles as possible that discussed the two catalogs. It appears that the music selection varies from country to country due to licensing restrictions. One artist missing from the UK version of Spotify is Oasis. Something tells me the Gallagher brothers are just being jerks on this one. Other writers have suggested Spotify has a limited Classic Rock selection citing a single Pink Floyd album, Pulselink, on Spotify versus the complete catalog on MOG and a single Bob Dylan compilation on Spotify versus nearly 75 Dylan and Dylan related albums on MOG. The two catalogs are very close when it comes to relevant content and by relevant I mean music CA readers including myself want to hear. That said there are differences that elevate MOG over Spotify in the catalog category.

    The following search results displayed differences between the services. Most of my searches produced no differences.

    Search term(s): Pink Floyd
    MOG - Complete Catalog
    Spotify - Single album Pulse from 1995.

    Search term(s): Minnesota Orchestra
    MOG - Complete Reference Recordings catalog
    Spotify - Two RR titles

    Search term(s): Bob Dylan
    MOG -> All
    Spotify -> A single compilation

    Search term(s): Vladimir Spivakov
    MOG - Six albums
    Spotify - Two albums

    Search term(s): Jennifer Warnes
    MOG - Five albums
    Spotify - Two albums

    Search term(s): Minnie Driver
    MOG - One album
    Spotify - None

    Search term(s): Karrin Allyson
    MOG - Thirteen albums
    Spotify - Two albums

    Search term(s): Jun Fukamachi
    MOG - One album
    Spotify - None

    Search term(s): Hallucination Engine by Material
    MOG - Album is available in its entirety
    Spotify - Album is available with the exception of track seven

    Search term(s): Divertimenti by TrondheimSolistene
    Mog - None
    Spotify - Complete album available

    Search term(s): Hadouk Trio
    MOG - None
    Spotify - Six albums


    Sound Quality
    Listening to both Spotify and MOG through my main audio system was not the most pleasurable experience as neither service offers a remote app like Apple's Remote. I used Screen Sharing to control both user interfaces. I connected my Mac Pro via USB to the Audio Research DAC8 for listening comparisons using the desktop versions. I also use my iPhone connected to a Ray Samuels Audio SR-71A headphone amp and Etymotic ER-4P earphones when conducting listening tests with the mobile applications.

    MOG offers its full catalog at 320 kbps MP3 quality. 320 kbps audio is available on the desktop and the mobile app whether streaming or downloading content for offline listening. MOG's 320 kbps files use contain a Constant Bit Rate (CBR). Without user intervention MOG attempts to determine the highest quality a user's bandwidth can handle before streaming. On the desktop MOG attempts 320 kbps. The mobile app allows selection of high quality. When this is enabled streaming is at 320 kbps via WiFi and 4G connection while downloading remains at 320 kbps, no matter the connection speed, as long as high quality is selected.

    Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis format for streaming its content up to 320 kbps to its desktop clients and up to 160 kbps to mobile clients. Spotify users can enable high quality on both desktop and mobile clients. Desktop high quality enables up to 320 kbps while mobile high quality is not better than 160 kbps. In June 2009 Spotify stated its entire library would be converted to 320 kbps in the next few weeks and months. As of this writing the complete catalog is still unavailable at 320 kbps.

    User Experience:
    Since the announcement in June 2009 Spotify customers have complained about the lack of content available at the promised 320 kbps bit rate. On July 25, 2011 Business Insiderlink ran a story titled Less Than One Third Of Spotify's Library Is Available In High Quality For Paid Users. The story links to Spotify fan Ulysses Shi'slink random tests of Spotify tracks published July 18, 2011. While Shi's method would not pass the rigors of a true scientific study but his results don't lie. According to Shi, "I tested five tracks each from Spotify’s new singles/albums, and currently most popular singles/albums, taken from the official playlists and Top Lists in Spotify's desktop client. The results are very disappointing. The majority (13 out of 20 tracks) of the newest and most popular stuff are only available in 160 kbps, even the latest high profile release, Beyoncé’s 4, which was a Spotify Premium exclusive pre-release, is not in HQ." Shi followed up this limited selection test with additional randomly selected tracks and concluded only 35 of 115 tracks were available at 320 kbps.

    Spotify uses the GetSatisfaction link website for its community powered support. On that site is an interesting thread where Spotify users have been discussing Shi's test and their own experience with Spotify's music quality. It appears that users have had more recent success streaming 320 kbps material. Until all music is available at 320 kbps users will be unaware of what they're getting unless they conduct tests of all their Spotify music.

    My listening experience mirrored the technical details very closely. MOG downloads and streams sounded better on both my main and mobile systems. These results are not surprising considering both services offer lossy content and some of the Spotify material was only half the bit rate of the MOG material. When using lossy codecs every bit counts. The lower the bit rate the lower the quality. I'm not talking about the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem or whether audio above a certain sample rate is audible. I'm talking about removing bits of music to decrease file size using a lossy codec. This lossy conversion is clearly audible without a doubt. Comparing Ray LaMontagne's Are We Really Through and This Love Is Over, among others, with my iPhone via earphones and via AirPlay yielded results as expected. MOG simply sounds better.


    Conclusion: What app is kept, what app is canceled?
    MOG and Spotify are the streaming industry leaders. Both offer millions of songs to users at home and on the go. In this review I only considered the best subscription offering available from each service. Both charge $9.99 per month for complete desktop and mobile access to their "Sky-braries". At first blush both streaming services appear to be very similar. Upon further review major differences come to light. The feature set, user interface, song selection, and sound quality are what separates MOG and Spotify. Spotify has attempted to be all things to all users with it's "Jack of all trades, master of none"link desktop application. Counterintuitive features and truly unusable queue functionality in both mobile and desktop apps are unacceptable from a subscription service that's been around since 2008. In my experience MOG has nailed it with simplicity, a relevant song selection, and better sound quality. The MOG desktop interface and mobile application are incredibly intuitive and without distracting features. MOG's catalog is not only more relevant it's streamed and stored in higher quality. MOG has made the deliberation over what service to keep and what service to cancel very easy. It's really no contest. I've sacked Spotify and selected MOG as my single subscription streaming service. Welcome to the C.A.S.H. Listlink MOG.

    Editor's Note (09/11/2011): MOG has increased its lead over Spotify by releasing a desktop application that embeds its HTML5 interface and offers integrated AirPlay wireless audio transmission.


    Comments 115 Comments
    1. jmudrick's Avatar
      jmudrick -
      One big advantage of Spotify for some is the ability to use it outside your country of subscription. With my U.K. premium account I can access Spotify anywhere in the world. With MOG I can't. Perhaps with a US proxy server but that's an inconvenience and might impact download speed.
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      one's HD.....?<br />
      <br />
      JHPA,<br />
      In MOG the only offline tunes are ones you download onto your mobile device. They reside there, inside the app's db structure. They are unplayable if you cancel your subscription so their location is moot.
    1. jhbpa's Avatar
      jhbpa -
      Is also available on my desktop.<br />
      <br />
      Where are they going, I can't find them.<br />
      <br />
    1. slowdown5646's Avatar
      slowdown5646 -
      Thanks for the reviews Chris. I actually didn't even know about MOG really before this and was considering using Spotify, but from what I've read I'd agree MOG seems a lot better, especially for me since with Spotify I'd have to buy the mobile version just to get the high quality music (I don't listen to music on my phone which isn't even 3G compatible...)
    1. BobH's Avatar
      BobH -
      Yet another USA-based music service either choosing not to, or prohibited from, engaging with the rest of the planet. I wonder which it is?
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      the 320kbps content is available for streaming to a desktop client in Spotify...<br />
      <br />
      I do not get how that is not clear?
    1. ksjeff's Avatar
      ksjeff -
      Terrific job, Chris, for the thorough comparison of the two services. I've been using MOG for a couple of months now, and I love it.<br />
      <br />
      Now, if we can just get them to develop an app for my Squeezebox Touch, I'll be all set.
    1. Dalib's Avatar
      Dalib -
      Am I correct in that both services offer social functionality? Did you find the social features of each site engaging? <br />
    1. jrobbins50's Avatar
      jrobbins50 -
      I've been using MOG since March 2010 and am very happy with it. At the time, I had compared MOG against Rdio, another competitive service that was not offering 320kbps downloads or streaming (I don't know what Rdio offers today).<br />
      <br />
      Unless MOG has negotiated a new arrangement, its licenses with the music content companies do not allow users to transfer their downloaded content, or even a list of it, to a new device. I found that out when I transitioned from my iPad to my iPad2 and contacted MOG customer service. MOG tracks and information are not backed up onto a PC when backing up an iPad. I had to manually select and download all of the albums and tracks, which was time consuming, of course. I do not know if Rdio or Spotify offer any better service in this area.<br />
      <br />
    1. bart.gerritse's Avatar
      bart.gerritse -
      Thanks Chris - great review.<br />
      <br />
      I have been subscribing to Spotify Premium since the day it became officially available in the Netherlands, and generally have been quite happy with it. One major downside for me is that tracks that are supposed to play continuously, are played with a pause (sometimes even truncating music on either side of the track change). Try Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody by Yuja Wang if you want to hear what I mean.<br />
      <br />
      Is MOG doing the same?<br />
      <br />
      Any idea if and when MOG will become available in Europe?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
    1. bart.gerritse's Avatar
      bart.gerritse -
      <br />
      ... another observation is that the Spotify iPhone app continues to consume battery also when music is paused (at least on my old-generation iPod Touch). To save battery, the app must be closed down completely, but then upon restart it does not remember what was being played before shut-down.<br />
      <br />
    1. bart.gerritse's Avatar
      bart.gerritse -
      <br />
      <br />
      I do not recognize the problems Chris found with the play queue (Lil Wayne disappeared). Could be this is a bug in the US app.<br />
      <br />
      In the Spotify desktop interface, Ctrl-F allows to refine search results.<br />
      <br />
      Last, but not least, a frustrating experience is that occasionally material disappears from Spotify (e.g., they used to have all Pain of Salvation albums available but that is no longer the case).<br />
      <br />
      Cheers,<br />
      Bart<br />
      <br />
    1. Erwin S's Avatar
      Erwin S -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      No Spotify here in Belgium. Belgium is a (admitedly very small) country (for now anyway, I will let you know whenever Flanders and Wallonia/Brussels split up finally) that lies on the origin of the European Union. By now, I think those bloody Swedes can stick there Spotify bs up their "bleep"... Language cannot be the problem since they are in the Netherlands and in France.<br />
      <br />
      Hehe, that feels better. What am I whining about anyway? Got 40,000 tracks of which the vast majority is ALAC or AIFF. Life's to short to listen to the music I already own anyway. So forgive me if I only have read your conclusion. I hope MOG kills Spotify in a big way. That will teach them Vikings for ignoring my little nation. <br />
      <br />
      BTW, MOG also not avalable in B, but I can understand they stick with their home turf.
    1. Part-Time Audiophile's Avatar
      Part-Time Audiophile -
      Chris -- thanks for this comparison. Been toying with this for a while, but based on your write up, I'm gonna sign up for MOG. Much obliged.
    1. carelessethiopian's Avatar
      carelessethiopian -
      Excellent thorough review that answered all my questions and saved me a lot of time. Thanks Chris. Well Done!
    1. jhbpa's Avatar
      jhbpa -
      Seems one cannot shuffle play their playlists with the MOG mobile ap.<br />
      <br />
      Maybe that's a little too limiting, or more likely, I missing the obvious?<br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi JB - You can shuffle a playlist by tapping on the album artwork in the Now Playing window and selecting Shuffle.<br />
      <br />
    1. jhbpa's Avatar
      jhbpa -
      on my iPhone 3GS seems to just toggle a play time bar on and off.<br />
      <br />
      Actually found a tutorial on the MOG site that visually demos what you describe but the repeat and shuffle buttons are not showing up on my phone.<br />
      <br />
      JB<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi JB - I'm using version 1.7.3 Release Dalí.4. Do you have this version?<br />
      <br />
    1. realhifi's Avatar
      realhifi -
      Where is Rhapsody in all this? Is it the resolution that takes it off this list?