Radium: Beautiful Internet Radio

I’m a huge music geek. I run a music blog, have over 10,000 songs in my iTunes library, and am always listening to new music on Rdio. Despite all that, though, I still find the music discovery process to be a really difficult and involving thing. I’m subscribed to email lists, I follow a bunch of bands on Facebook, and I use whatever services I can to keep up with new releases (surprisingly, Wikipedia is amazing for that).

Internet radio is one of those things that could be a great tool for music discovery if it had the right app to go with it, though. And Radium is exactly that right app. It’s been recently updated for iOS 7 and is one of the best audio experiences you can have on the platform. Read on to find out why this is a must-try.

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Internet Radio Galore

I wish I knew where I could find a list of all the different stations that Radium includes, but I have no idea where to look. Frankly, I have no idea where to begin. Since the music and radio portions of the app are most important, I’m going to spend a good amount of time here talking about my experiences with those.

This app looks beautiful.

This app looks beautiful.

First, the sheer number is overwhelming. There’s a reason it’s easy to mark a station as a favourite for easy access — it’s because it’s going to be difficult to find it again.

That being said, finding a station is really easy. I was in the mood for some indie, so that was what I selected for. This was my first experience with Radium, and I continued to listen to some more stations after that. I had no problem finding some amazing music content, none of which I’d ever heard — and I think I’ve heard my fair share of music!

The app's tutorial shows you how easy it is to find new stations to listen to.

The app’s tutorial shows you how easy it is to find new stations to listen to.

More impressive to me, though, is the quality of all the stations themselves. Not only did I not feel like I was overrun by advertising — ads were pretty infrequent — but the pure quality of the stations wowed me. If I had to guess, I’d imagine they’re probably running at about 192kb/s. They sound very, very high-quality to me.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. They could be running at a much lower bit rate than that, but I would never know. I don’t think anybody could know, and it’s likely station-dependent, so we’re not going to have an answer any time soon. Regardless, as a whole, everything sounded stellar and I have zero complaints.

There's integration with some other popular radio providers.

There’s integration with some other popular radio providers.

It’s worth noting, of course, that this isn’t just about music. It’s as easy to find talk shows as it is to find music on the app, so if you’re the sort of person who can’t get enough podcasts or news updates, this could very well be the app for you.

There are some bizarre choices made in the app, though. For example, there’s no easy way to sort through genres of music or talk radio. Everything is done by search, which means that the app half-embraces browsing, but half-doesn’t. I’d like to see a list of genres somewhere, but have no idea how they’d fit it into the interface. Speaking of which…

The Design

Despite that, the interface is simply stunning. I mean, this is one of the best interfaces for music that I’ve seen on an iPhone. It’s simple and elegant, but also extremely powerful — especially considering that this is “just” Internet radio. Before I start sounding like Jony Ive in an Apple commercial, let me walk you through a couple little touches I really like.

I love the way the app changes with the cover art.

I love the way the app changes with the cover art.

The big thing for me is the cover art. Not unlike iTunes on your Mac or PC, the cover art in Radium has an effect on the rest of the app. The colours all match. In actuality, Radium does a better job than iTunes does. These colours are spot-on, and they look amazing.

Sadly, the colour matching doesn’t carry over to the lock screen. There’s no way it could; after all, there are significant barriers to an app getting total control of the lock screen in iOS, but that would have been pretty neat. Regardless, the information about the track you’re listening to does appear on the lock screen, so it’s easy to find out more about the song at a glance.

It's easy to purchase a song or add it to your wish list.

It’s easy to purchase a song or add it to your wish list.

Because it’s Internet radio, all that information is readily available to the app. Even better, Radium has figured out a way to integrate it with iTunes and Last.fm. You can love a track on Last.fm or purchase it in iTunes. If you’re like me, you might just want to add it to a Wish List. You can do that too, and it syncs with your iTunes Wish List just like you’d expect.

Speaking of syncing, the app also delivers iCloud syncing of your favourite radio stations with the Mac app, which is a great reason to get both. I don’t listen to a ton of music at my desktop, so I haven’t got the app, but I can appreciate Radium going the extra mile.

There are a couple things that I wish Radium did do. I wish that it integrated with other apps and services, like Spotify or Rdio. I wish that there was some way to display lyrics, but I’m not sure how that would work without the service becoming tacky.

I do wish that there was a list of genres instead of just making me search for things.

I do wish that there was a list of genres instead of just making me search for things.

My biggest wish list item is definitely the integration with other services. I’d love to be able to find an artist, album, or song in Rdio, or even just add a track to my Queue in the service. These are deeply integrated parts of the API of Rdio (I don’t use Spotify, so I can’t comment on it), so they’d likely be more difficult to implement than I could imagine, but it would make my year if it could happen.

My Final Recommendation

I have to say this: I recommend a service like Radium over a service like iTunes Radio any day of the week. iTunes Radio is all about presenting something you’ll probably like in an effort to make you purchase it, while Radium is all about expanding your musical palette and your boundaries. And that’s Radium’s greatest strength: I heard more music from artists I didn’t know in an hour of using Radium than I did in a month of using services like Rdio. That’s not even mentioning the sheer quality of these stations, which is so much better than anything I grew up listening to locally.

The bottom line is that Radium is an amazing iPhone app that any music geek should pick up. Right now, it’s free on iPhone, but I think it’s worth a lot more than that and an absolute steal if you can grab it now. Radium is the Internet radio I’ve always wished I had.


Summary

Radium is nearly the perfect Internet radio app for iPhone; I just wish it integrated with other streaming services.

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