Internet music streaming has largely killed off conventional radio tunes, and Pandora has one of the signatures on the death warrant. It provides countless stations based on genres or specific artists, a system supported by low-key and infrequent commercial breaks. Radio can't compete with that. Or you can pay five bucks a month for Pandora Plus to remove the ads altogether. Now the company is raising the stakes with Pandora Premium, placing its brand on the same shelf as Spotify (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android) or Apple Music (iOS, Android) -- that is, selecting specific songs and albums for streaming and offline listening. Let's see where Pandora's new premium subscription stacks up.
Borderline psychic curation: Pandora's deep experience with figuring out what kind of music you want to listen to shows up very quickly. The Browse section produces a steady, tailored stream of recommended artists, new albums, and subgenres. The service surfaces music to your tastes quickly and frequently. Being able to stream specific songs and albums is practically gravy on the potatoes.
Casting to other devices: You already know that you can get Spotify in your car, your game console, and your Roku, Fire TV, and other streaming boxes. And it turns out that Pandora isn't far behind. Being able to pick up on one device where you left on another is an important usability feature.
Numerous quality-of-life details: Within Pandora's settings, you'll find uncommon but potentially useful tools, like a sleep timer; the ability to disable automatic Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections; nine audio quality levels for listening to music over a Wi-Fi or cellular connection and downloaded tracks; and the ability to delete your entire account, rather than just canceling your subscription or logging out. General navigation around the app is also intuitive and speedy.
No in-app equalizer: Spotify, Google Play Music (iOS, Android), and Apple Music all offer an equalizer within the app -- but sadly, Pandora's is MIA. Third-party equalizer apps on Android are notoriously hit-or-miss. You probably won't notice the difference if you're casting to another device or listening with basic earbuds, but music lovers with a decent pair of headphones or in-ear monitors will be better served by the competitor's tuning tools.
Pandora Premium is a spiffy addition to the on-demand music world, with its high-quality recommendation system, variety of casting options, buttery and sensible interface, and beefy catalog. However, people accustomed to having an equalizer may want to hold off until Pandora plugs one in. Pandora offers a free 30-day trial for you to decide how important that is to you.
From Pandora Media:
Powered by the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive music analysis ever undertaken, Pandora gives you personalized radio that plays what you love and continually evolves with your tastes. Create personalized stations from songs, artists, genres, or comedians. Browse hundreds of curated genre stations to find the perfect match for your mood or activity. Create an account and listen on desktop, mobile, TVs and home devices, or in your car. With Pandora Plus (formerly Pandora One), you can listen ad-free, skip and replay all you want, and enjoy your favorite stations offline -- all for only $4. 99/month (new Plus features are currently only available for our US listeners). Note: Pandora may use large amounts of data, and carrier data charges may apply. For best results, we recommend you connect your device to trusted Wi-Fi networks when available.