Sonic freebie: New, free SoundHound music-ID app for iPhone, iPad

SoundHound's premium song-tagging app offers a new free version without skimping on the features that make it great.

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Free SoundHound for iPhone
A glimpse of the free SoundHound offering, which includes lyrics and four ways to search. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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When most software companies offer free versions of premium apps, it's not unusual to see a substantial portion of the feature set fly out the door. Not so with SoundHound.

The company, formerly known as Melodis, is now giving away a new version of its song-tagging app for the iPhone and iPad. The SoundHound app, which used to be called Midomi until last December, competes with the better-known Shazam to name that unknown track you hear playing nearby. Instead of tagging only recorded music (a Shazam requirement,) SoundHound can also match songs that you type, speak, hum, or sing into the microphone. Despite SoundHound being the superior tune-IDing app for some time, it managed to capture only 5 percent of the iPhone market.

The free version SoundHound wisely keeps advanced features like the four search methods, a lyrics finder, and integration with your personal iTunes library intact, while just limiting the number of song-matching queries to five per month.

Banner ads recoup some of the loss of the free app, as do two paths to in-app upgrading. One option buys you five more IDs for another dollar; the other upgrade choice sells you the whole enchilada with no ads and a lifetime of unlimited song-tagging for $4.99. Course, you can also gain another credit by tweeting or Facebooking your SoundHound activities from the app as a reward for your participation in viral marketing.

In the meantime, the SoundHound team continues its trigger-happy renaming proclivities by calling the premium version of its app SoundHound "Infinity," (insert mathematical infinity symbol here.) Shades of Prince back in his "Artist" days?

SoundHound on iPad, iPhone
The SoundHound music-player and -finder adds a freebie to its iPad and iPhone repertoire. Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

Although the iPhone and iPad version of SoundHound share the same software installer, the app manifests differently on each device. Thanks to the iPad's roomy 9.7-inch display versus the iPhone's 3.5-inch one, SoundHound can keep the search menu pinned to the left sidebar while showing everything from search results and music videos to user ratings in the right pane.