Pandora, a Better Music Service

The first time I heard about Pandora, I was intrigued. The streaming music service analyzes music using 400 different factors and attempts to create playlists that will work with the performer or song you use to seed the playlist.

Pandora Radio title screenI’m a math geek, so the idea that computers could analyze music using a 400-axis spectrum blew my mind. And when I began to stream Pandora on my Mac, I understood that it really worked. While Pandora will sometimes include a song you don’t care for in its playlist (but far less frequently than iHeartRadio), it usually does a very good job picking music.

Personalized Radio

As with iHeartRadio, you begin by selecting a genre, artist, or song and then let the service create a playlist. If you really like a track, give it thumbs up and it will come up more often. If you dislike a track, giving it thumbs down takes it off your playlist and jumps to the next song. A word of warning: If you give two tracks by the same artist thumbs down, it will block the artist unless you’ve already given at least one track by that artist thumbs up.

After a couple months using iHeartRadio, Pandora was a big step forward. Pandora doesn’t have the variance in volume that sometimes plagues iHeartRadio, and that alone makes it worth listening to the ads on Pandora’s free service. Besides that, Pandora usually creates better playlists than iHeartRadio. Starting with Johnny Cash, for instance, you’ll get a lot more contemporary country and maybe even some Bob Dylan.

More Personalized Radio

Want to really mix things up? Seed your personal radio station with more than one artist! This is one thing Pandora offers that iHeartRadio doesn’t, and it can really improve your music mix, giving it more focus or more diversity depending on the artists you choose. For instance, I have one with Francesca Battistelli, Billy Sprague, Mandisa, and Newsboys as seeds.

Pandora via browser

Pandora on Your PC

We’ve looked at the Pandora iOS app, but the original way of using Pandora was with your web browser (right).

Options

You can use the same account on the app and with your browser, so you can use the same playlists on as many Macs, PCs, iDevices, and Android devices as you have access to. You can also share playlists so others can use ones you’ve created and named.

You’ll find more details on your playlist by selecting Options on the app’s playlist screen, including a list of tracks you’ve given thumbs up and thumbs down on each playlist. In your browser, this same information appears on each playlist page, along with the data you gave the track thumbs up or down.

Pandora playlists and optionsOf the two streaming music services I’ve used thus far, Pandora has it all over iHeartRadio thanks to:

  • Generally better music mixes.
  • Letting you seed more than one artist or song.
  • Consistent volume.

The Ads

Because of that, I think it’s worth listening to a few short ads now and then. I don’t care about onscreen ads, because my iPhone is across the room connected to a stereo. And the ads aren’t as annoying as they were this summer, when they only seemed to have two different ones – a loud Toys ‘R’ Us one and one from Burger King. In fact, the ads now seem appropriate to the type of music you’re listening to, such as promoting Billy Graham’s last message when you’re listening to Christian music.

Ad on Pandora iPhone app Pandora promoting its Pandora One program

Overall, Pandora provides a great listening experience. It will be interesting to see how well iTunes Radio compares, especially since the iTunes app has access to my music library and song ratings. I should have enough experience with iTunes Radio to review it in December.

Pandora is only available in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

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