Cloud Services Overview

From a computer audio perspective, the promise of Cloud-based music services is another bright spot on the horizon. However the present state of the science fails to deliver a compelling case for those interested in CD-quality or better playback of the music they already own. In other words, why spend time and money only to get back a poorer version of the original?

In general terms, you can think of Cloud Services as offering off-site storage combined with web-based application services. The big pitch for Cloud-based music services is off-site storage, one platform-agnostic music interface for any and every device you own, automatic synching between devices, streaming your music (think of it as your own private radio station) wherever you have an internet connection, playing your music locally when you are not connected, and seamless access to a music store where your purchases automatically become part of your big sync’d library in the sky.

At least that's the theory.

The current reality is much less compelling. All Cloud-based service providers restrict music files to compressed/lossy formats and as you'll see below, most come up short in terms of delivering acceptable streaming bit rates especially when compared to dedicated streaming services like MOG and Spotify who provide 320 kbps to the desktop. To my mind, streaming music over the internet is a great music-discovery service, i.e. true streaming services or internet radio that offer access to as many songs as you’ve got time to listen. It is not a sensible choice when deciding how best to listen to music you already own.

All that said, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the Cloud since new developments drop like rain in Tutunendo (or New Jersey). In the mean time, here’s a snapshot of this rapidly expanding playing field so you can see what you do and don’t get.

Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Cloud Player

Price: 5 GB Free, paid plans available up to 1TB for $1,000/year. Unlimited free music storage for all Amazon MP3 Store purchases.

Media Types Supported: MP3 (.mp3) or AAC (.m4a) files (iTunes non-DRM files).

Streaming Quality: Variable “aiming at an average of 256 Kbps”

Mobile Devices Supported: Android Only

Device Limit: 8 per account

Store: 17 million songs

Manufacturer’s Description:
Amazon Cloud Drive is your personal hard drive in the cloud. Store your music, videos, photos, and documents on Amazon's secure servers. All you need is a web browser to upload, download, and access your files from any computer.

Amazon limits the number of devices to eight per user account and they use Cookies to track the number of devices. If you delete your Cookies from your browser, the next time you access your Amazon Cloud account, Amazon will think you’re doing so from a new device.

Apple’s iCloud and Match

Price: 5 GB Free, paid plans available up to 50GB for $100/year. iTunes purchases do not count against plan limit.

Media Types Supported MP3 (.mp3) or AAC (.m4a) files including iTunes DRM files.

Streaming Quality: N/A iCloud does not offer streaming—songs selected from iCloud are downloaded to the requesting device for playback.

Mobile Devices Supported: Apple iOS Only

Device Limit: 5 desktop and unlimited iOS devices. There are reports from developers using preview builds of iOS 5 that Apple is now restricting the number of iOS devices to 5. Whether this limit will remain in the public release of iOS 5 is unknown at present.

Store: 18 million songs

Manufacturer’s Description:
This is the cloud the way it should be: automatic and effortless. iCloud is seamlessly integrated into your apps, so you can access your content on all your devices. And it’s free with iOS 5.

If you want all the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes, iTunes Match is the perfect solution. It lets you store your entire collection, including music you’ve ripped from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes. For just $24.99 a year.

When you upload songs you already own that were purchased from the iTunes store, Apple gives you their copy saving you the time of upload.

Google Music

Price: in Beta - free by invitation only upload up to 20,000 songs

Media Types Supported: MP3, AAC, WMA, and FLAC*

Streaming Quality: Not Specified

Mobile Devices Supported: Android and iOS via browser

Device Limit: 8 per account

Store: None

Manufacturer’s Description:
Upload up to 20,000 songs from your personal music collection to listen from any computer or on your phone, even offline. All for free.

*Google converts FLAC files to 320 kbps mp3s.


Price: 5 GB Free, paid plans available up to 40GB for $3.99/month

Media Types Supported:
Non DRM MP3, MP4, AAC, AAC+ and WMA – note mSpot converts your music files to AACplus during the upload process. There’s an option in the Upload Editor for "Good", "Better" or "Best" sound quality.

Streaming Quality: 48 Kbps

Mobile Devices Supported: Android, iOS but restricted to customers of AT&T, US Cellular, and Alltel.

Device Limit: unlimited but only 1 device can connect at a time with a free account and up to 5 devices can connect simultaneously with a paid plan.

Store: None

Manufacturer’s Description:
You've collected the music you love. Now mSpot Music™ lets you listen to all your music... anywhere - on your mobile phone, tablet, PC/Mac, or internet ready TV. It's easy. Add your personal music to your online music folder, then just open a mobile app or browser and your music will be right there. 5GB of storage Free!

Library synchronization is provided via mSpot Music Sync™ which does not run on Macs.


Price: 2GB Free, paid plans available up to 10GB for $40/year (but there are coupon offers and other incentives that will get you 5GB for free)

Media Types Supported: Not Specified

Mobile Devices Supported: All

Device Limit: Not Specified

Streaming Quality: Not Specified

Store: 11 million songs but restricted to users in the U.S., Canada and the U.K

Manufacturer’s Description:
My Music Cloud is a global online music service that uniquely offers users the ability to access and play their music on any computer, mobile device, or tablet anywhere in the world. Importantly, users with multiple device types can use MyMusicCloud as one seamless, cross-platform solution (e.g., Apple iPod Touch together with an Android tablet and a Blackberry phone).

My Music Cloud is the first online music service to enable Facebook users to share CD cover views of their music listening selections with Facebook friends who in turn can choose to sample, download and purchase the music. Different from other music services, My Music Cloud users can listen to their music both online and offline. The service offers online storage of up to 2 GB of songs for free and the ability to purchase additional storage. Users in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. can purchase and download music from the MyMusicCloud store.

nunh's picture

I think I'll pass on all of these wonderful cloud "features." I think I am too old school with my love of physical media. Plus, I am a fan of things working as they should  - cloud services can become reliable at any moment - too many factors - too expensive - no thanks!

derrickmarcel's picture

The Cisco meraki networking products that Axonex deploy are built from the ground up for Cloud management. They ship with integrated hardware, software, and Cloud services – e.g., centralised management, layer 7 device and application visibility, real-time Web-based diagnostics, monitoring, reporting, and much more.