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Hound for iPhone, Android is simpler SoundHound

A new free music app does voice search for your favorite bands and artists.

Hound on iPhone
The iPhone version links to the iPod.
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

If you've ever used SoundHound (or its arch rival Shazam) chances are good you were holding your phone out to identify a catchy song whose name you didn't know. Now the company is introducing Hound, SoundHound's little sibling, but one with a slightly different identity.

Instead of helping name that tune, the free Hound for Android and iPhone prompts you to search for a song or artist with just the spoken word. Unlike SoundHound, the abbreviated Hound won't accept singing, humming, typing, or recorded sounds.

The results pull from SoundHound's music database, displaying album or artist art, a YouTube snippet, tour dates, an info page, a shortcut to the digital music store, and lyrics when they're available.

Like its big sib, Hound is a polished, slick-looking piece of software that offers a variety of useful information about songs and singers. We demoed it on both platforms, and for the most part, the app was fast, especially when fulfilling more specific requests for an artist or song.

Since the app focuses on rapid, voice-driven music search, its uses are also more narrow. As a standalone app, it's functional and attractive but not as broadly applicable as the free SoundHound and premium SoundHound Infinity apps, both which go beyond this lighter app's functionality.

While Hound has its immediate uses, the app also lays the groundwork for SoundHound's to step into other categories of voice search, which will bring it into more direct competition with companies like Google, Nuance, and possibly Vlingo. That's a smart move for SoundHound to expand from the algorithm-honed Sound2Sound database that powers these apps in the first place, to other implementations for its so far superior aural processing. Hound is a good start, but we're already looking forward to what comes next.