Pandora, one of the oldest and most recognizable names in the online music streaming category, continues its evolution. In the early days, Pandora simply hitched its wagon to the recommendation engine of the Genome of Music Project, but as competent competition entered the fray for digital music, the company adopted new features to stand out in a crowded field. In 2020, Pandora has podcasts, album reviews and artist tour information. These features are not enough for Pandora to challenge LiveXLive Powered by Slacker Radio, Spotify, Tidal or even its own parent company SiriusXM Internet Radio, but the service is capable and has applications connected to various ecosystems.
The once pioneering music streaming platform finally has the feature set to compete with rival services, although it is nowhere near to dethrone major players.
- Free plan.
- Pandora Stories offers insightful commentary on the album.
- Displays information about the artist’s tour and ticket.
- Strange listening requirement with free level.
- Creation of the playlist behind the Premium layer.
- Site occasionally slow to load.
- The interface lacks visual cohesion.
- High resolution audio tracks are missing.
A new plan
Pandora has free and premium service levels, so you can explore music, whether or not you want to sign up for a subscription. Free account holders enjoy personalized ad-supported stations, as well as podcasts and the ability to play music on demand. Pandora is similar to Spotify, a choice of PCMag editors in that regard.
Still, Pandora occasionally makes you jump in circles to listen to free music. For example, in order to listen to the Dirtbombs’ Top Songs playlist, I had to watch a video ad and then, redeem a temporary Premium account unlock that would last a few minutes. A Pandora representative stated that the length of the Premium bonus may vary. Unlocking the Premium layer is as simple as clicking an icon, but the whole process is a little awkward.
On the other hand, the $ 4.99 a month Pandora Plus is a more traditional plan that is based on the free tier, adding personalized stations without ads, unlimited skips and offline listening. Pandora’s top tier plan, Premium, costs $ 9.99 a month and adds playlist creation and sharing to the Pandora Plus feature set. The fact that the creation of the playlist is blocked behind Pandora’s most expensive level is a drag. Editors’ Choice’s award-winning LiveXLive Powered by Slacker Radio has a similar annoying limitation, but Spotify does not.
Pandora also offers discounted premium plans for students ($ 4.99 per month), active military and veterinary members ($ 7.99 per month) and families ($ 14.99 per month, covering six people).
Good features, odd GUI Pandora
You start your musical journey by browsing through the various categories of Pandora or typing the name of an artist or song in the search box. For example, my “Prince” search caused Pandora to display results that included albums, songs, an artist page and a Prince-based station. This is typical of what you would find on competing music streaming services.
Pandora, however, has an interesting feature developed by its Music Genome Project. When Pandora played “Let’s Go Crazy”, a song that the service notes as an example of Prince’s musical style, he listed highlights of what you might expect from Purple One, including “basic rock music structures”, “R&B influences “And” dancing grooves “. Bullet points are not a game changer, but they are a nice touch that offers ideas about music.
The music player displays album art in the middle of the page, with easy-to-access lyrics, player controls, favorite icons / song bans and information about songs and artists just south. The Pandora website is one of the most barebone interfaces I’ve ever seen in the music streaming space, but that’s not an insult. Many other services provide content to you through panel-controlled interfaces, but Pandora reduces things and focuses on what you want to hear.
Unfortunately, Pandora’s web interface also has many different appearances. There are at least three different color schemes that I encountered during testing and another set of page layouts that differ greatly whether you are in the Artist, Album, Now listening, My collections (listening history and saved albums or stations) or another page. It is highly, very irritating.
In addition, Pandora’s website occasionally loaded pages at a snail’s pace over several days of testing.
The music was transmitted satisfactorily over the home and office network connections in my tests. Unless you are an audiophile, Pandora’s sound quality should be satisfactory, especially when audio is pumped through a telephone or desktop speaker. On the desktop side, Pandora does not list the bit rate, but you can enable the “best audio quality” that the company offers.
Paid subscribers enjoy three tier bitrates for mobile devices that affect the sound quality of music. You can select audio settings from Low (32Kbps AAC +), Standard (64Kbps AAC +) or High (192Kbps MP3). The Low setting is good for people who do not want music streams to analyze their data plans, while the High setting is all about sound quality, data limits must be broken. The default setting, of course, is a balance between low and high.
Unfortunately, people with more demanding ears should look for other songs. Pandora does not have high resolution audio, a class of music with higher quality than the CD. Only a few music streaming services have high-resolution audio catalogs, including Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal, but the category is growing.
Mobile apps and cool extras Pandora
Pandora offers apps for Android, Android Wear, Apple Watch, Fitbit, iOS, Kindle Fire, Mac, Nook and Windows. I tested the Android version on my Google Pixel XL and found it a pleasant experience. The application is easy to navigate and also very attractive. I much prefer to web version.
If, like me, you haven’t activated Pandora in a while, the new features of the service may come as a surprise. Like Spotify, Pandora has a rich podcast that features popular programs, such as The Breakfast Club , Serial , Sway in the Morning , This American Life and Welcome to Night Vale . Curiously, The Joe Rogan Experience , one of the most popular podcasts in the world, cannot be found anywhere. That said, Spotify also lacks the presence of the program, so the absence of the program may be in Rogan himself.
If the live music experience is more of an option, Pandora lists the dates and links for artists’ tours where you can buy tickets. It is no different from iHeartRadio in that respect.
Our favorite Pandora resource is Pandora Stories, which shows artists revealing information about creating an album. For example, the Mary J. Blige episode celebrates the 25th anniversary of her classic album My Life and highlights the processes that led to its creation. Among her reflections are the tracks on the album. Pandora Stories is similar to Slacker Stories, except that artists provide information instead of DJs.
Pandora has some cool things, including good mobile apps, reasonable plans, Pandora stories and information about artist tours. Either way, light it up if all you want is an incredibly simple listening experience – just avoid Pandora’s mediocre website.
Still, this expanded iteration of the service is not exactly at the level of the best in the competition. As a result, LiveXLive Powered by Slacker Radio, Tidal, SiriusXM Internet Radio and Spotify remain the overall Editors’ Choice winners among music streaming services, thanks to their incredibly deep features.
This publication was last modified on July 13, 2020 11:50 PM