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SoundCloud's newly updated app enables fans and creators alike to dive deep into a bustling community of musicians and spoken word performers, and access its innumerable offerings from anywhere with decent cell reception.
As a seeker of new sounds, you'll have no trouble finding free goodies. Tap in the name of a band or genre in the search tab, and you'll get back a long list of results in a heartbeat. Tap on something that looks promising, and SoundCloud immediately streams it to your device.
Playback shines, and not just because waveform displays and user-created artwork combine with time-specific comments and responsive controls. Whether you're tied to a Wi-Fi connection at home or hitting a 3G tower on the road, SoundCloud's audio seldom falters, and sounds almost as crisp as high bitrate MP3s. Tastes vary, so sorting the wheat from the chaff takes some time; but once you've found artists you enjoy, you need only "follow" them to get real-time updates on new tracks.
If you create audio yourself, you'll love the ability to record and upload performances without rushing back to a desktop machine, even if you're bound to rub up against a few of the app's limitations. You can easily track followers and share favorites on linked Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare accounts, but some sharing settings can only be changed at the SoundCloud website. Similarly, track access settings can't be adjusted, so don't plan on unlocking private tracks for public consumption while on tour. But even if features remain on our wish list, SoundCloud's app is already a pleasure to use, and won't cost you a dime.
The bottom line. There's still room for improvement, but SoundCloud remains an absorbing mobile way to explore a multitude of musical rabbit holes, and even add your own voice to the mix.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later
Reliable high-quality streaming playback. Can easily capture and upload new recordings. Attractive interface with social networking connectivity.
Some sharing and track permission settings can only be changed from website. "Share" and "Favorite" icons inexplicably disappear in landscape view.