Rhapsody Review - Real Rhapsody

Rhapsody was one of the first commercial music services on the Internet. It started back in 2001 as the first music vendor to offer streaming audio to subscribers. It was acquired by Real Networks in 2003 and is currently one of the most popular music subscription services available, with more than 2 million members. Real Rhapsody is currently (May 2006) only available to users in the United States.

There are four types of Rhapsody memberships including the free Rhapsody 25 which allows users to listen to 25 radio stations and download 25 songs per month. This is a good marketing ploy as the free account allows users to try out Rhapsody and be enticed by the features available to paid subscribers.

The three paid services are Rhapsody Radio, Rhapsody Unlimited and Rhapsody To Go, all of which can be tried for 14 days free of charge. All accounts can be used to purchase music from the Rhapsody music store.

Rhapsody Radio

If your main interest is streaming audio Rhapsody Radio is worth a look. Subscribers get access to more than 100 streaming audio stations. Users can even create their own stations by specifying which artists or genres they want to listen to. All of this music is commercial free, and unlike your car radio, if you don't like the current song you can skip over it. This is a great way to hear old favorites or a variety of new music.

Rhapsody Unlimited

This service gives users on-demand access to the entire Rhapsody library of more than 1.6 million songs. Songs are arranged by artist and genre so you can browse through the collection or search for a particular song. Rhapsody Unlimited subscribers have access to an unlimited number of pre-programmed or customized commercial-free radio stations, and recommendations are available according to your previous listening choices.

Rhapsody To Go

This service includes all the options of Rhapsody Unlimited plus the ability to transfer music to your portable music player. There are currently a limited number of MP3 player models that are supported. Check the website. If you own one of the supported devices (or are planning to buy one) Rhapsody To Go is ideal. Otherwise you might be better with another service.

Rhapsody Software

To access the Rhapsody services you must download and install the Rhapsody software. This is a complete front end for searching, selecting, buying and playing your music choices.

Unfortunately, the software is hyper aggressive in ignoring your previous choices for default file associations and players. It also installs pervasive desktop and menu shortcuts.

You can choose to retain your previous file associations and limit the number of shortcuts by using the custom install method, but most users are just going to use the defaults and get stuck with Rhapsody all over their computer.

Besides this complaint, Rhapsody delivers in terms of music selection and ease of use. Downloads are fast, the software is well-designed and it is easy to save playlists and burn songs to CD.

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