You know what’s great (supposedly)? Music in the cloud. With Google Music and iTunes Match both launching within the last few days, it really seems like everyone wants you to stream your music over the air. And really, it’s not such a bad idea as you’re no longer limited to whatever local storage is on your device.
But there are problems with both of those solutions: iTunes Match costs money and Google Music takes forever to upload your entire library. This is where a third option presents itself with Audiogalaxy.
Before we get started, I just want to point out that I’m probably super late to the party with this. A bit of research indicates that this service has been around for at least a year, but I never heard anyone talk about it. And connecting with Facebook shows that none of my friends are using it, so I figure it’s worth a mention in case anyone else is as in the dark as I was.
Audiogalaxy works thusly: You install a small client on your home machine where you keep all of your music. This runs in the background, catalogs your library, and reports back to their servers. This is a surprisingly quick process and my collection of 5400 songs was done in less than half an hour (compared to the three days it took to upload for Google Music). You can then stream any of that back either from Audiogalaxy.com or the iPhone/Android app.
Oh yeah, and it’s all free without any playback caps.
The web-interface is simple, elegant, and intuitive. The window is divided into three columns; on the far left is a list of your artists, the middle are the tracks available from your current selection, and the right is what is currently playing as well as your standard audio controls. There isn’t a lot to say about it other than that it “just works” (which I admit makes me feel like a tool). You can manually create playlists, turn on random shuffle, or activate the “genie” feature. This works just like the iTunes Genius, particularly in the sense that it doesn’t really. Like it’s similarly named cousin, I often question what it considers similar (for some reason it really loves Boston and recommends More Than a Feeling after nearly every track). But it’s a nice thing to have I guess. If I had to make one complaint, it’s that any podcasts in your music folder also get synced and that tends to clutter up your lists. Also, while most of your metadata stays intact, album artwork is sometimes incorrect and overridden with whatever Audiogalaxy thinks it should be. Overall though the interface is very clean, easy to use, and I really enjoy it.
I suppose I should also point out that it supports Last.fm and will scrobble your playlists if that’s important to you. There’s a social component where you can compare tracks and build shared playlists, but like I mentioned before, I don’t have any friends using it.
The mobile app is a similar story. It’s very reminiscent of the stock iPod app so once again usage comes naturally. Audio quality is compressed by default to save bandwidth, but that can be turned off to play in high quality. Streaming is very quick and even over 3G songs will start playing within a few seconds. While the free app is fully featured, a platinum add-on can be purchased for $8.99 that enables offline playback.
The obvious caveat to this system is that a) you need an active internet connection and b) your host computer needs to be on, also with an active internet connection . The former is a limitation of all cloud-based services, but the latter can be problematic if you like to be energy conscious. I, however, hate the environment and leave mine on 24/7 so my library is almost always accessible.
I mentioned Google Music earlier, so you might be wondering how the two services stack up. It’s hard to draw a real winner though, because each one succeeds where the other one fails. The biggest drawback to Audiogalaxy is the issue with the host machine that I just mentioned. It does, however, have a more usable interface than Google Music (it’s a bit more spartan, but in my opinion, much easier to navigate). If you’re an iOS user, Audiogalaxy wins hands down in the mobile department. I can’t speak to how well the Google Music native app works on Android, but the web interface is dreadful. But frankly, I’d say the issue is moot and that you should just use both services to compliment each other; Audiogalaxy for when your home computer is online, and Google Music for when it’s not.
That said, probably the best use-case for Audiogalaxy is when you have multiple machines you use at home. I recently got a netbook with a very limited amount of storage, and Audiogalaxy is absolutely perfect for listening to music in bed.
All in all, I love Audiogalaxy and I think you will too. Go give it a try at Audiogalaxy.com. Let us know what you think in the comments and maybe we can even be friends. We’ll make wonderful music together.