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Rara.com review

Kat Orphanides
5 Feb 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
10
inc VAT

Rara has a large catalogue of music and an innovative interface, but it’s not as easy to assemble your own music as with Spotify and there’s too little variety to its curated playlists

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Specifications

Streaming music is something of a holy grail – a way for artists and record labels to make money out of users who expect everything to be available immediately at a negligible cost. It’s a lot to ask, but to many users, easy accessibility is often more important than price.

With this in mind, Rara.com has hooked up with the big three surviving major labels (Sony, Warner and Universal, which is in the process of absorbing EMI) as well as a massive number of independents to provide a huge catalogue of music for its paid-for, web-based music streaming service. Unlike rivals Spotify and Last.fm, Rara doesn’t have a free option. Instead, you can try the service for three months for 99p a month – the price then goes up to £5 if you only want to access Rara via your web browser, or £10 if you want to use the Android app to stream music to a compatible phone or MP3 player.

If you use a PC, Rara is a web-based service – there’s no option of downloading music to your PC to listen to offline, although you can cache music if you use the mobile version of the service on an Android device. Whether you’re using the mobile or web-based version, Rara uses Dolby Pulse, a variant of HE AAC v2 at bitrates of between 42kbit/s and 72kbit/s. Audio sounds very good, although Spotify Premium’s 320kbit/s Ogg Vorbis streaming takes a slight edge if you’re listening on a PC.

Rara Track List

When you click on an album’s artwork, you’re presented with a track list view, from where you can add tracks to playlists – we’d have preferred a resizable window here - click to enlarge

Rara focusses on curated playlists, called stations, based on genre, era, mood and other content. Although we were initially sceptical, we were almost immediately won over by the variety and quality of the playlists. The first punk list we got included a very credible combination of Bad Religion, Sham 69 and The Misfits, for instance. Most other stations produced equally high-grade selections, although some would benefit from slightly narrower genre definitions. The Electronica station is a prime example; although Ian Van Dahl’s Castles in the Sky and Portishead’s Glory Box both qualify as electronica, they aren’t necessarily the most natural of companions on a playlist. The Dance & House station is even more inexplicable, producing a playlist that included Cascada, deadmau5 and The Chemical Brothers before Rickrolling us with the original 1980s version of Never Gonna Give You Up, followed by well-known house music giants The Spice Girls.

None of the playlists change significantly from one day – or even week - to the next, which means that you’ll soon get bored if you listen to a lot of music. Fortunately, it’s easy to build your own playlists, either by searching for your favourite artists manually or by adding songs from Rara’s suggested playlists. A plus sign next to each track takes you to a screen which allows you to add it to your queue, to an existing playlist or to a new playlist. It’s not as convenient as creating playlists on Spotify, with its familiar click-and-drag interface, but it does the job.

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