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What further goodies do the apps offer?
With the exception of Fidelia, all of the apps we tested respond to media keys on relatively modern Apple keyboards, and can go full-screen in Lion and Mountain Lion. Ecoute, Enqueue, and Swinsian also offer definable system-wide shortcuts for important actions. Sonora and Swinsian support Notification Center, and all except Album Flow and Fidelia will scrobble played tracks to Last.fm.
The Fidelia mini-player looks nicer than the overly bulky standard interface.
Going beyond the basics, Album Flow pulls in artist biographies, and Enqueue has nicely integrated top artists/songs bar charts. Ecoute and Swinsian have a desktop info window (the former also boasts themes), and Enqueue, Swinsian, and Fidelia have mini-players—Fidelia’s being particularly welcome, since the remote-like mini-player is far more appealing than the default hi-fi interface. Fidelia has “high-def” leanings, which involve optional AU plug-ins, processing, and resampling, although activating them all costs over a hundred bucks through in-app purchases. Its lack of more basic features is therefore baffling.
In an ideal world, we’d be praising Sonora. The application is elegant and simple, and certainly in a manner iTunes will never be. However, with its inability to import iTunes libraries with any degree of success and development having stalled, we’re forced to look elsewhere for our winner. Enqueue, also broadly impressive, similarly stumbles badly regarding importing iTunes data.
Of the remaining apps, Ecoute almost wins by default, largely in being able to seamlessly work with existing iTunes content rather than messing up an import, and additionally through having an interface that’s not only pleasant to use but that’s also not trying to clone iTunes in some manner. That it’s also free to use doesn’t hurt, either.
Although many people like owning music, many listeners increasingly rely on online streaming, either from paid subscription services or music-oriented social websites such as Soundcloud. Tomahawk is an ambitious attempt to pull together sources and services into a single player, but the result is a miserable experience. The interface is confused and cluttered; it’s too easy to get "lost" and, by comparison, it makes iTunes appear to be a bastion of minimalist design.
Spotify can play its catalog as well as your iTunes music.
By contrast, Rdio is sleeker, although it feels very non-native. The streaming service has a large catalog, which you can subscribe to for $4.99 per month ($9.99 if you also want smartphone access), and it aims to match your collection. This also proved disappointing, omitting many items and flagging others as unavailable, despite displaying the same album immediately afterward, fully accessible. Spotify is a better service in this regard. It costs the same as Rdio and the interface is a bit messy, but it reasonably seamlessly merges what’s available online with everything you already have in your local iTunes library.