Review: Audials’ surprisingly good radiotracker (and the first 3 comments posted will receive free licenses too!)

July 21st, 2009 | Tags: ,

When the kind folks at Audials asked if I would review their radiotracker product I was a bit dubious, but agreed to review it.  After spending a bit of time with the software I started asking myself surely this concept is illegal?!?

Reports of the RIAA clamping down on music piracy are rife these days and added vigilance is required when you choose to download music from the Internet. Bittorrent (probably the most popular mechanism) is far from safe or secure (as with all peer to peer file sharing your details are visible for all to see) and with sites like The Pirate Bay going legal or even Usenet in trouble it begs the question; is it really worth pirating in the first place?

Radiotracker brings a new legal concept to the table, a “set it and forget it solution” that rips radio streams intelligently. All you do is set your favourite artist or genre and it clips, cuts, ID3s, etc. leaving you with good quality MP3s that can be loaded onto your favourite generic MP3 player or casually listened to via the inbuilt player.

So now on with the review and remember to stay with me because Audials are giving the first three lucky commenter’s free copies of the platinum edition.

The install was extremely straightforward and completed in under a minute on my Asus netbook running Windows 7 release candidate. The download was 58mb (a touch bloaty I know, but no show stopper) and an easy installer.  During the install the PIxie codec pack is added, I am not a big fan of installing unnecessary codec packs but as far as they go this one seems to be fairly unobtrusive and can be uninstalled independently from radiotracker (these codecs are used to capture and transcode the radio streams).

There are three editions of the software, the license key unlocks the functionality without the need for separate installers – I am using the platinum version here and if you wish to upgrade later this can be done at the click of a button (and from what I can gather you only pay the difference, which is fair).

Upon opening the radiotracker application you are presented with the first tabbed window in a set of three (see above). At first the interface threw me a little, but within 5 minutes I found my way. This screen is used to set the stations you intend to rip by genre/taste rather than by artist which is set in the second tab (see below).

At first I added Pink Floyd (a personal favourite) and as I was unsure how long radiotracker would take to start building a collection I continued to add from the automatically compiled radiotracker top 20 artists generated via 16,000+ radio stations (see below).

I was surprised to find that within 10 minutes I was already in possession of six MP3 files spanning all my previously added artists (even Pink Floyd which was not a top 20 artist). The downloaded tracks were automatically ripped with all ID3 tagging added (this is artist/album information read by MP3 players) – even lyrics, album art, etc (see example of Pink Floyd’s Welcome To The Machine below).

After a couple more hours the collection just grew and grew, there is also a set of easy access buttons that allow quick access to MP3 player synchronisation, an alternate media player, CD burning, ringtone creation and the MP3 manager (not available in the platinum version).

The last tab incorporates radio and music finder functionality, but with an emphasis on podcasts.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Completely automated and unattended recording of preset music tastes across over 16,000 stations
  • Automated cropping that works well and advises on, where possible, perfect cropping
  • Integrated media player
  • Automatically adds all available ID3 information

Cons

  • Adds additional codecs
  • Touch bloaty, but not a show stopper

Summary – radiotracker is certainly not a replacement for iTunes, but it does provide the best automated radio ripping money can buy, and at under €30 it is not going to break the bank either. Really good concept and recommended rating of 4/5

Competition – the first three people to answer the following question below (use the comment box and leave an address for me to send the license to) get a free radiotracker platinum license, “What is the name of my favourite band as outlined in this review?”