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To Primephonic or not to Primephonic...

To Primephonic or not to Primephonic... that is the question.

Like many others, while generally impressed with Spotify, I have struggled with some aspects of it when it comes to playing 'classical'* music. Spotify is totally oriented to songs, where much classical music is in the form of a piece consisting of several parts or movements, which are usually provided as separate tracks.

Similarly, in classical music, the composer is a key part of the information - more so than the performer - where in Spotify's songs it's very much performer to the fore. In fact, some of these issues aren't even limited to traditional classical music - I am very much a child of prog rock, and prog rock albums are made to be played as albums, not individual tracks.

I was, therefore, really please when a Facebook query by Emma Darwin brought to my attention Primephonic - a streaming service specifically oriented to classical music. I've had a two month free trial and I'm very impressed.

The dreaded Shuffle Play button
Primephonic has an impressive classical database and is very much organised around pieces, composers and albums, rather than tracks. It has a good discovery section with new albums, recommendations 'from the archive' and reasonable curated playlists for discovery in various genres. The music sounds great and if you, say, suddenly get the urge to listen to any specific classical piece, it's less fiddly than doing so with Spotify. Perhaps best of all, where Spotify on the phone only has a 'Shuffle Play' button, the Primephonic app has a straight Play button, so you don't suddenly find movement two coming after movement four.

Audiophiles can also pay a bit more for really high spec streaming - but I'm a bit of philistine in this respect, as I never play music on any equipment good enough to really care.

The Primephonic pricing is comparable with Spotify. So for a while, I genuinely thought that I might stay with Primephonic. But actually, at the end of my trial, I'm switching back to Spotify. Here's why.

Firstly, I don't just listen to 'classical' music - it's probably 50:50 depending on mood. Primephonic only delivers the classical side, so I'd probably need both if I were to stick with it, which stretches the budget.

The more civilised Mac app
Secondly, I can get round Spotify's issues. More often than not I play music from the computer, rather than a phone - and on the computer, there is a nice fat 'Play' button, rather than 'Shuffle Play.' (Note to Spotify - please give the option of having this on the phone for a paid account!) But even on the phone you can play an album without shuffling - just ignore the main Shuffle Play button, start the first track directly and make sure the little 'shuffle' icon at the bottom is off.

Finally, Primephonic is itself not without issues. I got occasional drop outs of the streaming, which was irritating. I've never had this on Spotify (and it's not down to my broadband, which is plenty fast enough). Most importantly, though, there is no native player for my computer, so I have to use Primephonic from the website. This means I'm constantly accidentally closing the browser while it's running and having to run it again (unlike the native Spotify app, which keeps playing when I click the 'Shut' button). Worse, Primephonic doesn't remember where I was up to, so I have to start again from the beginning. Oh, and the keyboard play/volume controls don't work with it like they do with Spotify. Nor can I route it directly through my Echo devices (though I can through AirPlay/Bluetooth).

So. If you are a dedicated 'classical' listener and tend to use your phone more than your computer, I'd very highly recommend Primephonic. But if you're mix and match like me, it's probably best to stick with Spotify.


* 'Classical' is in quotes above because, strictly speaking I like very little classical music - I much prefer pre- or post-classical. But for better or worse there isn't a good generic term for 'serious' or 'non-popular' music.

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