Cloud storage services: Store and stream music
Online music lockers not only back up your music library, but also let you listen to it on most any device, anywhere you have internet access. All three of the services we looked at work on PCs and Macs; mobile device support is more fractured, however.
Google Music: This is part of Google Play, and lets you store up to 20,000 songs, with a maximum per-song file size of 250MB. Songs purchased from Google don’t count against this quota, but currently Google offers no means of buying more storage.
If you rip your CDs and encode them to FLAC, OGG or AAC, Google Play’s Music Manager for Windows, Mac and Linux will transcode your tracks to 320kbps MP3s (you’ll get a lower bit rate with a slow internet connection). What Google Play won’t do is play nice with iOS or Windows Phone 7 devices – hardly surprising.
Apple iCloud: Just as Google Play is all about Android, iCloud is limited to iOS. Fair enough, but many users will object to having to purchase an iTunes Match subscription (£22 per year) to sync their entire music libraries to iCloud. Without that, you can stream only the music you’ve bought through iTunes.
The service will stream all the tracks in your iCloud library as 256kbps AAC, regardless of how you originally encoded them (that’s fine if you encoded them at a lower bit rate, but terrible if you encoded them using a lossless codec).
Although Apple gives you 5GB of storage space, everything you store in iCloud counts against that quota. An additional 10-, 20-, or 50GB costs £13, £28 or £70 per year.
Amazon Cloud Player: Amazon Cloud Player is the most agnostic music service, supporting the Kindle Fire, Android devices, iPhones and the iPod touch.
Although an iPad version isn’t yet available, the web interface works fine on mobile Safari (albeit without some Flash functionality). It leaves Windows Phone and BlackBerry users out in the cold, though.
Amazon customers enjoy free storage for 250 songs; you can purchase storage for 250,000 tracks for £22 per year. Songs bought through Amazon don’t count against your data cap. Unfortunately, Cloud Player supports only MP3 and AAC files, leaving it up to you to convert unsupported formats.