John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Audio Galaxy review

I have an unusually large music collection. It would never fit on an SD card. I use my phone as my music player. I also have a 6G data plan so data is not a concern. There’s not a chance I’m putting my music collection on Cloud based storage. First it would take a while to upload it and second I don’t like the idea of storing my MP3s on Cloud Storage. I don’t trust them.

So the way this works is you load an ap on you PC at home. I have a server that runs 24×7 so that’s easy for me. I’m also on an unlimited data plan at home so this is not a concern for me. You point the at however many directories you want to that have music. It supports MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, and M4A files. It ignores playlists. It indexes all of the files in your library and uploads this index as a preprocessed database (I think, I’m guessing) to the Audio Galaxy servers. Initial scan or my music took hours. The ap provides absolutely no feedback as to what it’s doing, how far along it is, when it will be done, or even when it is done. There’s little information as to exactly what is being uploaded to their servers. This makes me a little nervous. Not sure if they are trying to hide what they are doing but this lack of information makes me nervous. I sent them an email but have not yet received a reply. You don’t need to open any ports on your router to make the streaming work. I’m not exactly sure how this is working but they’ve designed it to make it as easy as possible.

I did have a couple occasions where I had large large compilations for example Rolling Stones Top 500 that showed up as an album but never populated with any songs. No idea why. A bug.

You can then access your music in one of three ways. With a web browser, an Android ap or an iOS ap (iPhone/iPad).

The web interface works reasonably well. You can access your music sorted by Artist, Albums, Genres, and playlists. You can manually make playlists yourself on the Web interface or the ap. Music can be played from playlists or random. You can easily play a whole album as well. The tags come from your collection, so if your tags are wrong or incomplete on your songs … good old garbage in garbage out. The album artwork is also properly supported. There’s even the ability to search. In addition there is integration with Facebook, and Twitter. You can see if your friends are using Audio Galaxy too. You can also post on facebook or twitter what your listening to. Because this is web based this should work almost everywhere. They have something they call Genie that magically creates a playlist based on starting with a particular artist. The genres function is a little clumsy. It shows you the number of songs in the genres but won’t show you the specific songs. All in all quite useful even on it’s own. Let’s you listen to music at work for example. Now you could in fact share your account allowing others to share your music collection. The web interface and the ap interface are independent and can even be running at the same time. There can only be one web interface at a time in that the current playlist is seen by multiple sessions, but as long as you could agree on what album you were listening to you could have multiple web sessions running at the same time all playing different songs from the playlist. Of course at some point you are likely going to exceed your upload speed of your home network. There is no way to download the songs locally for off line listening. It can only be streamed live. So if your PC at home is down or if you don’t have an internet connection your down. I found creating playlists on the web interface a little buggy. I created one and couldn’t see it on the web interface but it showed in the Android ap.

I don’t have an iPhone or iPad so I can’t review that ap.

The Android ap is free to download from the market place. There are pay services (add-ons) including the ability to “pin” songs (download them to the phone for offline playback) $4.50 and create ringtones $1.99. (Prices at time of writing). The Android ap has all the same features of the web interface. The interface is very efficient even with large collections like mine. It smoothly scrolls through the lists and supports the ability to drag down to a starting letter VERY well. I used this ap on the go and it worked well. My phone went into a brief dead zone and it continued playing off of the buffer. Of course if your buffer gets exhausted then your music is interrupted. So subways, tunnels, dead zones means this can’t be your only source of music without the ability to pin or having local content. The ap does not play local content other than what has been pinned. Shame, otherwise you could have used this as your only music player. The ap properly supports bluetooth headsets and controls (play/pause etc), although I did have some issues with the ap fighting with the built in bluetooth music player. It even stops playback with the bluetooth headset is turned off. One of things I found amusing is the settings screen was unavailable when it was offline, making it impossible to resolve conflicts. The genre support on the ap works better and you can see all the individual songs in the genre. Once a song is playing you can post it to facebook, twitter or see wikipedia’s page on the artist. You can start the genie playlist from the current song and again it will magically collect a group of songs from different but similar artists from your collection. There’s also a community tab that lets you see what others are doing. Who is listening to what, who is suggesting what, who’s near you using audio galaxy.

According to the blog they are adding the ability to share music between friends. Not sure how this is going to work or if this will be extended to other countries but this is an interesting feature!

Of course like any streaming ap it will have an impact on battery life. Exactly how much I will work on in a future article and post it here later.

Update: Nov 14th 2012
I’ve had a chance to have a look at data and battery costs of this ap. I have set the ap into highest quality mode. I am guessing what this does is send the MP3 as it is at the source. The amount of data this uses will thus depend on the MP3s you have. For the ones I was playing with it averaged 111 MB per hour of listening. In terms of battery I was using the LTE network and if I take off the amount of power the phone uses on standby on the LTE network Audio Galaxy consumed an additional 14.88% per hour or a projected battery life of 5.9 hours (with standby added back in). Processor use is not terrible but there’s a definite price for having the LTE or any data network streaming constantly.

Wish list
There are a number of things I can think could be done to improve an already excellent program:
Suggest artists based on your collection.
Look into concerts based on your artists.
Tell you about albums from your artists that you don’t have in your collection, both new and old.

I have to say, I am very impressed with this ap. It just works and provides a much appreciated function. I wish I knew more about how it’s working and what it’s saving on the audio galaxy servers.


October 31, 2012 - Posted by | Android

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