Pandora vs. Spotify

There’s a debate that is as old as streaming music services themselves: Pandora or Spotify? Well, after using both for long periods of time, I’m going to give my opinion!

I started out using Pandora’s free service and signed up for the Premium account years later. Pandora offers a military veteran’s rate, so I jumped on it and paid only $7.99 a month. What I really liked about Pandora was the stations I could create. For example, I could create a Riverside playlist, and then I can edit the station to add similar artists that I wanted to fit in with that station. This is extremely useful when wanting to create a playlist based on a specific genre like progressive rock, progressive metal, or 70’s hard rock. Whatever algorithm that Pandora uses would pick songs by artists that were very similar, oftentimes adding songs by artists I never heard before which opened the door to some great new music! Another great thing that I liked about Pandora’s radio mode is that it would play forever, randomly picking songs, not limited to a specific number of tracks, all commercial free.

Other benefits of the Premium account were that I could download tracks and listen offline, very useful in certain situations where network connectivity is spotty, and the tracks were high-quality downloads. I’m not sure what the bitrate is, but if I had to guess I would say they’re the equivalent of 320kbps MP3 files. I could also listen to entire albums, something that I really love to do as there are so many great albums that have been released over the years. A lot of times, those albums tell a story, or take me back to a time in my life when that album was the soundtrack of the week, so the entire album is part of the musical experience for me. And besides, if I wanted to hear a single track of an artist I would just listen to FM radio (that is if I want to hear the same 8 songs over and over!).

I use an Android device, and the app is easy to use. It connected to my Pioneer AVH-601EX in my car easily using Bluetooth allowing me to control the app via the stereo. The app displays everything it should like artists I follow and stations that I have created, but what I think I like most about the app is that when I close it and then reopen it later, it picks up where I left off automatically. For example, if I’m listening to a station and close the app, when I reopen the app it reopens to the station and begins playing. No need to go searching for it. No pushy suggestions, either! I give Pandora major kudos for that!

Early in 2021, I received a 3 month promotion for Spotify and decided to give it a try. It is the most popular music streaming service and I wanted to find out for myself why that was. The first thing I noticed was the interface was entirely different and it took some time to get used to. Another thing I noticed was the app on my Android device wanted to connect to everything Bluetooth to the point that using it on my car stereo was a real pain if I wanted to listen to music already on my device or from Pandora. Later on I discovered the setting for that and disabled it.

One of the most annoying things about Spotify, in my opinion, is that when I open the app, regardless if it’s my phone or PC, the app opens on the Spotify “Home” screen. Yes, the previously played track is at the bottom of the app, but that’s not my real complaint. My complaint is that I can’t change that setting, nor can I turn off all of the stupid recommendations on that screen. I don’t listen to podcasts so don’t make recommendations on it. Give me the option to disable that section of the home screen if you won’t let me change which screen I land on when I open the app. Secondly, The “Made For You” daily mix playlists just seem to be curated out of my liked tracks; not enough variety in them, and I can’t edit them to add variety. And lastly, why does Spotify recommend artists and music that I don’t listen to EVER!? C’mon Spotify, I’ve been using your service for over 10 months now, you should know what genre’s I listen to and what artists I follow. You’re taking up real estate on that home screen. I have to scroll down further past the Popular New Releases just to get to my playlists and recommended albums of the day. I’m paying for the service, let me customize that stuff off the home screen, please.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that I do like about Spotify. Like the ability to follow artists and other playlists that I search for (pretty cool feature!) and whenever there’s an update by the artist, like adding a track or album to their catalog, I see it on the home screen. And if I’m following someone’s playlist, I get the most recent update to it if they add or remove tracks. Again, pretty cool feature! I can also create my own playlists which I do often. Spotify even gives me the ability to share my playlists with the various social media apps as well as sharing what I’m currently listening to. Pretty cool feature when I’m in the mood to share the day’s soundtrack.

I really like how Spotify added lyrics to tracks as they are playing using MusixMatch.com’s library! That was a nice addition! And the videos on the screen that some artists have while their track is playing is also really cool, even if it’s just a 15-second clip. The “stats nerd” in me likes that Spotify shows me what my most played artist and tracks are for a given month as well as a roundup at the end of the year. I also like how I can be playing Spotify on my phone, walk up to my computer or TV and continue playing from that device. Really cool feature! However, I’ve been experiencing an issue with other devices, including my car stereo’s Spotify App, seeing my phone. I’m not sure what that is all about but I’m holding out hope that Spotify resolves the issue soon.

Another bonus point to Spotify for attempting to level the music volume of all tracks in a playlist. Nothing drives me crazier than listening to a track that was mixed really loud and then a quieter mixed track (hello! Anything in the 80’s falls in to this category!) and I can’t hear it, and vice-versa, getting my eardrums blown out from having to have the volume higher on a quieter track, then switching to a much louder track! While Spotify hasn’t perfected this volume leveling technique just yet, it does make a difference.

So which app do I prefer? Great question! There’s pro’s and con’s of each app, as with all apps really, but when it comes down to it I like Pandora just a little bit better. Let me explain why.

The simpler user interface that I mention above seems less distracting. Also, the way stations are generated randomly that is more in line to what I’m listening to or interested in can’t be beat. And Pandora’s tracks just sound better to my ears than that same track played in Spotify. Yes, even without the volume leveling enabled in Spotify, Pandora’s tracks just sound “cleaner”. I’m going to assume that is due to whatever file compression that their stream is, but to me, it’s a noticeable difference. And, lastly, the Military discount on their premium plan is a big deal to me. As a veteran, that is important to me because Veteran’s deserve more benefits than we already receive!

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to some music. Now the hard question is what shall I listen to?!

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