Higher Bit-Rate Music Streaming - There Is Hope

groove.jpgWe all know about medium and low-rez streaming music services such as Last.FM, Pandora, Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, and iTunes, but what if you want to hear higher-quality streamed music? By higher quality I mean at least 128 kbs and hopefully even a 320 kps stream. Most of the Internet is a wasteland when it comes to full-rez streaming music.

Sure, more and more Internet radio stations are broadcasting at or above128 kps (especially NPR affiliates such as Minnesota Public Radio), but sometimes you want to make your own choices rather than rely on the radio schedule's. So what's an audiophile to do?

Here are two higher resolution music stream sources that offer hope that music from "the cloud" will be listenable after all. First there's Grooveshark. This is a free site with no monthly or yearly charges. You can build and save playlists. One of favorite obscure bands is Patrick Leonard's "Toy Matinee." Grooveshark not only had Toy Matinee's only conventional album, but also the special edition and Unitone versions of the album. Not bad for free.

Grooveshark also had three different versions of "We Always Come Home," and the quality was good enough to hear the subtle differences in the mix and mastering between the three takes. One last musical bon-bon I discovered was a live cover by Third Matinee of "Love Lies Bleeding" performed live. Elton John, eat your heart out.

If you want, Grooveshark can play its own mix from a number of genres. When I picked classical I got Bela Bartok's "Bluebirds Castle." When I clicked on the selection I was shown all the selections by Bela Bartok in Grooveshark's library. When I selected the rock channel it offered up XTC, REM, and Velvet Underground. Not exactly the usual boring stuff of top-40 rock and roll.

Grooveshark had some problems with occasional interrupted streams, occasionally these pauses lasted for more than a few seconds Those of you handicapped by slower DSL lines, such as myself, may find Grooveshark less than completely satisfying due to these sporadic dropouts.

A second source for uncompressed music is MOG.com. This is a pay-for-use site, which charges $9.99 a month for mobile and computer use and only $4.99 per month for computer only. But it offers new users a free trial to see if you like it enough to pay for it. Like Pandora you can make your own "stations" featuring particular artists or genres and personal playlists.

Frankly, I don't know how it stacks up against Grooveshark because to get your free trial 14-day subscription you must sign up for a full subscription, which goes into effect after your free time is up. I'm not a big fan of pay first and then cancel if you don't like it. I'm also not fond of giving out my charge card info to every site that requests it. Too bad they don't take Paypal.

So my advice is to get Grooveshark. It's free and sounds way better than Pandora. Did I mention it's free?

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