Deezer is a music streaming service (In total you have something like 15 million tracks to pick from) that offers a pretty good alternative to Spotify.
In fact price wise there is nothing to separate the two as the Premium account, with no Ads and 320kbps audio streaming (from a PC web browser), costs £4.99 and their Premium+ account, which allows you to stream unlimited music, download tracks for offline play and use it with up to two mobile devices at one time costs £9.99.
However what Deezer does offer that is different is a web interface. So for Free you can stream songs for up to 30 seconds and share your favourite tracks with others. Spotify on the other hand requires that you download some desktop software first.
It has to be said that as Web interfaces go Deezer's attempt is a pretty darn good one and it has a sleek look about it.
Intuitive as well in most respects but searching for Radio based on Artists/Album covers is let down by the Java enabled search facility which sometimes failed to work on our computer (however as I write this is now working again)
For the most part the audio streaming technology was of a high standard and best of all everything is transparent to the end-user. For example the audio is streamed at 320kbps but you don’t get an option to adjust this, instead you have a handy graphic equalizer to manipulate fade, treble and bass effects. This way you can concentrate on listening to the tracks on offer and not worry about having to fiddle with multiple settings.
For testing we had access to a Premium+ account which meant we could install the software onto our Mobile devices, but you are limited to two devices and one desktop experience at a time. So if you try to install the software on more that two mobile devices it will prompt you to remove one first.
On a positive note you have a Free app available for the Blackberry, Android and iOS platforms and during installation its nice that it asks you which storage medium you want to install your offline tracks to (internal or SD card). For the most part the interface is identical on all of the smartphones which is great for continuity purposes.
The iPad interface is the only exception, as due to its larger screen the software has more of a desktop feel. But for the most part searching for songs, adding them to play-lists and downloading them for offline use is pretty straight forward.
When searching for tracks we were impressed to find a vast selection of original music on offer. There was of course plenty of cover-based music because some bands like “Metallica” for example, don’t allow their content to be featured. However the cover bands were pretty good it has to be said.
Searching for tracks also allows you to filter your searches by Artists or Album and you get the Album cover art to help you identify the track.
The Album art is then displayed on-screen during playback. Some of the Album art though was not fitting our Samsung Galaxy S II screen properly, but this was only on rare occasions.
In terms of audio quality we listened to the tracks using a pair of Ministry of Sound MOS006 headphones and the quality was not bad considering Deezer stream files in AAC+64 format to enable a faster stream. We would have liked to have seen the same graphic equaliser from the desktop software appear on the smartphone player as there were times when we would have liked to have dropped the base level down a touch.
Mind you for most purposes it was more than acceptable and the streaming performance - over WiFi especially - was rock solid during testing. Downloading tracks was also quick on our Android/iPhone devices because they are sent over using MP3 128kbps quality to improve the speed (320kbps would have been nice, but to be honest they still sound pretty good) and with the handy offline mode we could happily add tracks or albums to our play-lists and bob along to music we would never have listened to before if we hadn’t got unlimited access to it. Note: We also forgot to mention that the software also supports Background playback, so you can listen to your tracks when composing an email for example.
In terms of negatives we discovered that you can’t both listen to the same track at the same time. For example if you were logged in to your phone and your other half was logged into the desktop browser and you both tried to play "Michael Jackson's" Thriller song, for example, then this would not work. However on the plus side as long as the tracks you played were different you can both enjoy the streaming service at the same time.
The mobile audio quality is not as good as streaming over the web browser because the bit-rate is lowered to improve the experience for slower mobile data connections - mind you the quality is still good when paired with some headphones.
Registration on the smartphones could have been more intuitive as it takes you away from the app and into a web browser. So we would like to see in future releases an integrated registration form.
Some people may find the lack of control over the bit-rate a downside as this is normally useful for tailoring the quality to match your internet connection.
Positives though certainly outweigh the negatives and with a handy sharing solution onboard (which basically allows you to share the tracks you are listening to with Facebook, Twitter or Deezer friends), Last.FM and MP3 Support (we forgot to mention that you can add your own MP3 files). Deezer is a great alternative to Spotify with competitive pricing and more importantly a pretty good web interface to match.