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Imagine a mashup of podcasting, Twitter, and YouTube for audio files, and you’ll have an idea of what SoundCloud is all about. It’s a social media service that lets you share original music, rambling diatribes, drunken party chatter, and other sound recordings with eavesdroppers across the globe. It’s a cool idea, but SoundCloud’s desktop Mac application lets users in on only half the fun.
A free account lets you upload 120 minutes of audio to the cloud (roomier annual plans start at about $40/year), discover thousands of tracks in various genres (heavy on hip-hop and electronica), and interact with other users, mostly European techno-hipsters. At least that’s how things work on the SoundCloud website, which bristles with the usual interactive bells and whistles you expect from a web 2.0 experience.
Tracks can be saved to your Mac’s Downloads folder if their creator allows. Yes, even German technopop.
The Mac app, however, is mostly limited to playback and organizing tracks in a sidebar. There you can create playlists, view tracks you’ve marked as favorites, and access the latest sounds from users you’re following. SoundCloud also displays track information and lets you search user names, titles, and tags users have applied to their files. The desktop app is much more convenient than SoundCloud’s web interface for simply kicking back and listening to the grooves, but it lacks nearly all the interactivity that makes the service really sing. For instance, tracks are displayed as waveforms so users can leave comments at specific points they like or loathe, but you can’t add or even view comments in the application. How antisocial is that? And you’re pretty much on your own getting started with the app; there’s not much in the way of help.
SoundCloud even lets you record new tracks within the app.
Similar limitations cripple SoundCloud’s coolest feature, the ability to record and share your own creations. You’re stuck with recording through your Mac’s built-in mic or audio-in port without any way to preview or make edits before naming the track, marking it for public or private viewing, and uploading. That’s it—you can’t add tags, a description of what inspired your musical muse, or even upload that block-rocking AAC file your band just finished in GarageBand. To do these and many more things with your tracks, you’ll have to visit the SoundCloud website.
The bottom line. If you already live with your head in the SoundCloud, the desktop app is an easy way to listen from your Mac. But newcomers will only hear static.
Mac OS 10.6 or later
Handy way to play SoundCloud tracks.
Too many social features missing or dependent on SoundCloud site. Zero documentation.