Pandora is the leader in streaming music mostly because it got there first. But use it for a while, and you realize the service's catalog—not to mention its features—are limited. On paper, Slacker Radio is superior, and today, the five-year-old service is launching an overhaul aimed at proving it's superior.
Slacker Radio is Internet radio by people not drones. That's the pitch anyway. It's got some 250 DJ curated stations plus a slew of specialty and genre channels. The idea is that regardless the on-demand offerings of services like Spotify and Rdio, users don't really want to think too hard about listening to music most of the time. They want radio—and radio in the truest sense, which means you put on a station you like and let a DJ who knows what they're doing take care of the rest. Slacker thinks it can deliver a satisfying experience where all you need to do is press play.
In large measure, the site's overhaul is cosmetic. The old outdated look, has been replaced by a fresher design in blue and grey. The navigations of the apps and web interface is intuitive and easy. There are also some new additions including a "Fine Tune" feature that allows you to skew what you're hearing using sliders and some instantly intuitive tag-cloud logic.
As with Pandora, you can favorite songs, create stations based on certain artists. There's a free, ad-supported radio membership that allows you six skips an hour as well as a $4 per month plan that lets you cache your radio for offline play, and does away with the ads. As with Spotify, there's an on-demand music plan so that you can listen to whatever you want for $10 a month. Where's Pandora's on-demand option, anyway?
I've been using the new Slacker for about a week now, and so far, it's the best internet radio experience I've tried. Specialty stations like "Dive Bar Jukebox" that mix up contemporary indie, with soul classics and 80s new wave are just way more fun than anything Pandora, Spotify, or anyone else has to offer. But we'll see how it holds up after some long-term use. More importantly, we'll see whether it's enough to sway people from the comfortable experiences they've already got. [Slacker Radio]