The iPad is a great tool for music creation – see the Gorillaz album The Fall, created entirely using Apple’s tablet – but for music fans wanting to listen to rather than create music, the iPad’s still a stellar device. We delved into the App Store to root out the very best iPad music apps that musicians and fans owe it to themselves to download. Think we’ve missed something out? Let us know in the comments below.
TuneIn Radio – £0.69
An impossible amount of music for a mere 69p, TuneIn Radio is a portal that connects you to thousands of digital radio stations around the world.
Stations are browsable by name, genre and even by country, so if you’re suddenly taken by the mood for some Hip Hop from Burkina Faso, TuneIn’s got you covered. You’re not limited to music, either, with TuneIn also letting you browse talk and sport radio from around the world.
Playback is pretty reliable, although obviously that’s got a lot more to do with the stations in question than the app itself. All told, it’s a staggering amount of content for just under a quid, and a great way to get to grips with music from further afield.
SoundHound – £2.39
Shazam crops up all the time in lists of best iOS music apps, making capturing and identifying errant tunes while you’re out and about a cinch. But SoundHound does everything the popular kid does while also identifying your own sung or hummed rendition of songs – perfect for what’s-that-tune moments. The humming feature doesn’t work every time (perhaps we’re just above averagely out of tune), but Shazam doesn’t even try. We’ve also found SoundHound to be slightly quicker than Shazam, if only by a second or two.
We tested SoundHound against Shazam to see if there was any noticeable difference in their music databases. To try and give the apps some curveballs, we booted up TuneIn Radio (an excellent digital radio app, also on this list) and picked stations from around Europe and Asia, to see if they could identify tunes from around the world. Weirdly, while both apps could identify Chinese pop songs without a hitch, playing them Russian music confused SoundHound, suggesting to us (in our very unscientific test) that Shazam has the bigger music database. Buying both would be overkill, but SoundHound is definitely a worthy Shazam alternative.
Napster – Free, then £10 per month
Remember Napster? After almost single-handedly ushering in the world of streaming music we now live in (and, admittedly, the world of internet piracy we live in as well), Napster was torpedoed by the record industry, which was suitably incensed that Sean Parker and co. were giving away all their precious music for free. However, it never quite went away completely, popping up again in various legal forms before landing on iOS last year.
And for all the press that Spotify gets, Napster’s a worthy competitor. Downloading is free, and then you get 25 free songs to try out the service before having to pay £10 per month (or a discounted £100 a year) to keep using it. We used our free songs to search for the most obscure music we could think of, and didn’t find Napster’s selection lacking. There’s also an option to explore by genre, check out Napster’s top 100s and listen to Napster Radio, dozens of stations covering all sorts of music. For discovering new music, it’s awesome.
Once you have an account you can save offline playlists just like in Spotify (which doesn’t currently have an iPad version), and buy tracks you like straight from Napster’s online store. The app’s also beautifully optimised for tablets (it’s also available for iPhone), with navigation done through big tappable panels. It doesn’t get the press that Spotify does, but definitely give Napster a spin before signing up to another streaming music service.
MediaConnect – Free
A bit like AirVideo for your tunes, Media:connect is a simple, powerful app for streaming your music around the house (and for streaming music wirelessly to your iPad). Playing music is pretty simple, as the app just scans connected networks for media servers (you’ll need to have one installed on your computer to stream tracks to your iPad) through which you can navigate through folders on your computer to find your music.
The second use if for streaming music to compatible devices in your house – the app will stream music to Xbox 360s, PlayStation 3s, Windows Media Player and DNLA-capable TVs and Blu-Ray players. Think of it as turning your iPad into a giant musical remote control, for free.
Aweditorium – Free
Aweditorium is a difficult app to describe. It’s very much a music-discovery app, but it’s approach is completely unique and stands out among every other music app we’ve seen. The homescreen is a big dark panel of artists. Tap on one and the panel lights up and fills the screen, playing a song from the artist’s catalogue. While it plays, the app throws up trivia about the singer or band’s career or life, and tapping the screen brings up the lyrics, if you’re moved enough by a track to start singing along.
Pinching the screen takes you back to the starting panel of artists, and those you’ve listened to stay lit. The app rewards you for “exploring” music, and the more you listen to the more panels light up, so you can keep track of what you’ve heard so far. A great app for discovering new talent.
Vevo HD – Free
Vevo HD is a true tablet experience, taking pointers from all the slick iPad magazine applications to bring you a music hub that reads like a tablet magazine.
The app doesn’t do individual tracks like Napster or Spotify (that’s presumably the main reason why it’s free), but instead groups an artist’s music videos together on a single page, along with any other related videos from behind the scenes or interviews – a bit like a slicker, music-orientated YouTube. Also included on each artist’s page are details on upcoming concert gigs and any recent tweets.
Even though it’s video only, the Vevo HD app is still a decent way to discover new music, as you can browse a weekly top ten videos across different genres (which threw up a lot of surprisingly obscure music). There’s also a feature that allows you to see what other people physically nearby to you are listening to, although it’s a bit gimmicky and doesn’t seem to serve any useful purpose. But apart from that Music Map feature, the app is focussed and an awesome way to browse music videos by your favourite artists.
Shazam Encore – £3.99
No list of top music apps for iPad would be complete without the original name-that-tune app, Shazam Encore. Tap its ‘listen’ button while music is playing, and the app picks up the track through the microphone, sends it off to Shazam’s servers for analysis and then returns, tail wagging, with the track name, artist and other assorted musical information.
The search is comprehensive – Shazam came out tops in our unscientific TuneIn Radio test against SoundHound – and apart from the occasional issue with crashing, it’s a cracking app.