Today I joined the Google Music beta. I’m a big fan of most Google products, and get beta invites to most of Google’s new offerings. Generally most of them are pretty slick, and offer easy to use features that are technically difficult for the average joe to set up (like Google Voice’s personal virtual phone PBX) or are commercially expensive (like the Android Google Navigation app instead of a dedicated GPS or the browser-based Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office). Unfortunately, Google Music doesn’t have anything new to offer feature wise and isn’t really any less expensive than alternatives. I’ve been using Subsonic music streamer myself, and find it to have much better features, easier to use and it covers many more phone and operating system platforms.
So what makes Google Music inferior to Subsonic? Quite a few things, actually. Here’s a feature breakdown:
- Google Music has a maximum of 2, 000 songs. [EDIT: my account has a limit of 2, 000 - apparently for some others it's 20, 000; the size of music files is apparently irrelevant, just the total number matters]
Subsonic is unlimited.
- Google Music only allows one registered device to play music at a time, and there is a maximum of 8 devices that can be registered.
Subsonic allows unlimited devices to stream music simultaneously.
- Google Music only has an app for Android.
Subsonic has apps for Android, iPhone and Blackberry.
- Google Music’s web interface only plays music using Google’s custom flash music player, and playlists can only be controlled from the web interface.
Subsonic lets you choose between the web page custom flash music player, an external player like Windows Media Player, or even play directly from the music streaming server’s speakers. It also lets you manage playlists through external players.
- Google Music only supports audio streaming.
Subsonic supports both audio and video streaming.
- Google Music is single-user oriented; you can only access music from a sole Google account.
Subsonic is meant to be used by any number of people to share music and playlists simultaneously, and lets users see what other users are playing and chat with each other.
- Google Music’s management software only runs on Windows and Mac – which is surprising, given that Android is a Linux-based system!
Subsonic’s management software is completely platform agnostic; you can run it on any operating system that has Java installed.
- Google Music controls which “free song” streams you can access, and doesn’t offer an internet TV or radio stations.
Subsonic lets you add any other streams or internet TV or radio stations to your music manager.
- Google Music displays the song title. album, artist, genre and cover art.
Subsonic lets you choose which attributes to display for each user, and also offers track #, bit rate, duration, year, file format and file size.
- Google Music doesn’t have last.fm integration.
Subsonic has last.fm integration for each user.
It can’t be all bad, though! So what features make Google Music more attractive than Subsonic? Well, there aren’t actually all that many:
- Google Music is 100% free for both browser and device based music streaming.
Subsonic is 100% free for browser based streaming, but requires a donation (of any amount) for more than 30 days of mobile device based music streaming.
- Google Music won’t use up your internet service’s bandwidth when streaming music.
Subsonic uses up your internet service’s bandwidth to stream your music to a mobile device or computer outside of your home network. However, most standard ISP broadband packages should offer enough bandwidth for the average user’s needs.
- Google Music stores your music on Google’s servers, so you don’t need to worry about backing up or data loss.
Subsonic runs off of your home computer or server, and you have to manage your own backups.
- Google Music doesn’t require that you know your IP address to set up the streaming service.
Subsonic requires you to know your music streaming server’s IP address, and you’ll have to change the IP address in your phone if your ISP changes your IP address (say, if you have a regular home service internet package and you reboot your modem). However, if you donate then Subsonic will provide you with a domain name like “mymusic.subsonic.org” to use instead of an IP address and the Subsonic server will update this for you automatically.
All in all, Subsonic is a clear winner in my book. A complete noob might have a little bit of trouble setting it up, but no more so than any other new program. Plus Subsonic’s help documentation is quite good, unlike Google Music’s. I’d only recommend Google Music over Subsonic to (1) someone who has a very limited bandwidth internet plan, (2) doesn’t have their own computer but has 2, 000 or less songs that they can’t store on their phone because they have a 4GB or less sized SD card, or (3) someone who just wants to stream a few of their favourite songs to a remote computer (like at work or school) that they can’t hook up to their phone or portable music player. Other than that, Subsonic or a similar solution is definitely the way to go!