For years, Pandora was one of the few on-demand streaming radio choices. But now with Spotify, MySpace and other options, you can play the field and find the streaming radio service that best fits the way you listen.
With a sizable library, mobile options and excellent preset stations to choose from, Slacker Radio's relaunched streaming radio service could be your musical mate.
Slacker has been around since 2008 in various forms, but the updated version of the service works as you've come to expect from on-demand streaming radio: enter an artist or song, and it will create a station that plays songs similar to it.
In testing, the stations did a good job picking songs related to the original choice — something other services sometimes have trouble with. Slacker's 13-million-song library far eclipses Pandora's 1-million-track catalog. (Though it trails the 20 million songs on Spotify.)
If the mix of songs on a station isn't quite what you want, you can fine-tune it. As with other services, you like or dislike a song as it plays to adjust the playlist, but Slacker gives more control beyond that. Similar to Raditaz, another on-demand streaming radio option, you can tweak the settings in Slacker to play more popular artists, or change it to select more new songs. A word cloud that shows the artists in the channel updates to reflect your changes, with the artists that are featured more often in larger text. This helps you get a feel for what will play on the station.
Slacker sets itself apart from other services with more than 200 preset stations. These are useful when you don't have a particular artist in mind. While Pandora and Spotify have some basic genre stations, Slacker gets more granular. For example, it offers 15 "alternative" stations, including adult alternative, classic alternative and alternative chill, so you can try to match your exact mood. It even has tribute stations, such as Bob Dylan Tribute, which features Dylan, Dylan covers, and commentary about Dylan.
Slacker also doesn't ignore traditional radio. You can listen to live ESPN streams as well as on-demand shows like Marketplace.
The service is available on just about every mobile platform, including iOS, Android, Windows and even BlackBerry, as well as through a Web browser. Its free service includes commercials — and it seemed like there were more commercial breaks than Pandora — but for $4 a month you can go commercial-free and get even more control over stations. For $10 month, it offers on-demand access to any song in its catalog, as Spotify does. [See also: New Apps Make Finding Music Easier ]
If you're stuck in a rut with your streaming radio service, Slacker is worth a try as a replacement, especially if you like to fine-tune your listening.