Spotify for Windows review: Listen to any song, any time, for free

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The Good Spotify has an enormous music catalog that is available to users, on-demand, for free. Social features make it great for discovering new music.

The Bad Intermittent audio ads for free users are loud and extremely annoying. It needs more curated radio stations.

The Bottom Line With its enormous catalog of on-demand streaming music and its built-in social features for discovering new tunes, Spotify is an absolute must-have for audiophiles and casual listeners alike. But free users, beware of intermittent eardrum-piercing ads.

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9.1 Overall
  • Setup 10
  • Features 9
  • Interface 9
  • Performance 9

Editors' note: The newest features of the Spotify desktop app will be rolling out to users in the next few weeks. We'll update this review as soon as they become available.

The fastest way to get started with Spotify on your desktop is by logging in with your Facebook account. You can also become a Spotify member with your e-mail address, but if you go that route, you'll have to fill in a few fields of personal information. In any case, getting set up on the service takes almost no time at all. Once you're in, the program automatically imports your music collection and playlists from iTunes and other music software, giving you a single hub from which to access either Spotify's catalog or your personal stuff.

Users of iTunes will notice that Spotify looks and feels very much like Apple's ubiquitous music player. It is just as polished and is laid out bento-box-style, with resizable panels and an always-present bar of playback controls neatly sitting at the bottom. The search bar at the top can be used to locate artists, albums, specific tracks, or even other Spotify members. And conveniently sitting next to it are browser-style back and forward buttons for navigating through it all.

Features and support
Spotify's biggest draw is that you can search for any song in its catalog and Spotify will play it back for you in its entirety, instantly. And while other services might charge you for on-demand streaming (like Slacker Radio) or play songs that are similar to what you're looking for rather than the song itself (like Pandora), Spotify offers all of this for free, and it seems to have every reasonably popular artist, song, and album in its catalog. You can't get The Beatles, but Spotify does offer up tracks by everyone from The Rolling Stones to Kanye West, and even a huge number of obscure indie artists. Plus, the app does include a radio feature as well, though it is a little thin in the curated stations department.

And, of course, there is the whole social aspect of the app. While Spotify is certainly good at serving up music that you already know about, the app is as much about discovering new tunes by way of its social integration. The panel on the right shows what your Facebook friends have been listening to in case you need suggestions. And your listening history gets broadcast to your friends likewise. But if you don't feel like sharing, don't worry about it, because you can easily enable the Private Session option.

Create a playlist of any group of songs so you'll have easy access to it later. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET