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Live365 Internet Radio
Live 365 is a web site that provides access to music broadcast via the Internet from over 6,000 stations. One of its distinguishing features is its two tier access. There is a free service with access to fewer stations and lower audio quality. This access is funded by advertisements both on the web site and as part of the audio streams. As a non-US citizen, the advertisements recruiting to the US security services seemed particularly inappropriate. On the other hand, for listeners of a certain age, the commercials give the audio feeds a delightfully “retro" feel reminiscent of commercial radio stations broadcast by more traditional means since the 1960s.
The chargeable VIP service offers a range of advantages:
- This service contains no advertisements either on the web site or as part of their audio streams.
- A significant number of stations are restricted to paying users.
- Allegedly higher quality sound through the use of the MP3Pro codec.
- Direct playback on your desktop using the Live 365 desktop application software.
- Access via your iPhone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile smart phone.
A proportion of the subscription fee is returned to the artists as a royalty.
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The website offers a good range of suggestions as to radio feeds to listen to, as well as the facility to search for stations in your favorite genres.
However, the VIP version offers significant enhancements in usability, notably the desktop application and compatibility with a range of mobile devices. A major facility of Live 365 is the ability to generate widgets to provide shortcuts to your favorite stations. Once again, the VIP service provides direct access to your stations from the widgets enhancing usability.
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The service offers a range of options to make your broadcasts accessible from a desktop application, from mobile devices or from your own web page or social networking site. However, most of these features are only accessible from the VIP service. If you are prepared to pay for the VIP service service, Live365's compatibility is good, otherwise the compatibility of the free service is at best average.
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Value for moneyRating
This criteria does not arise for many of Live 365's competitors, for example, Shoutcast, since they make no charge to the user. The problem is that the free service is significantly inferior to the chargeable VIP service level. On the other hand, the monthly subscription of up to $8 per month still appears steep compared not just to the free service but also to free competitors.
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The two tier offering is problematic in my view. The free service is frustrating because you can see that the VIP service is significantly better. On the other hand, the VIP service looks expensive next to the competition which offers up to five times more stations without charging. Overall, it won't tempt me to get out my credit card, and if I want a free service, there are better competitors.