We’ve all been there. You’re shopping in the grocery store, sitting in your car, or watching television at home, and a catchy tune floats into your ear. You listen intently and maybe even bob your head to the beat. You’re really getting into this song you’re hearing for the first time, but before you know it, it’s over, and you have no idea what you just heard. Like a sappy romance film cliché, you’ve fallen in love and don’t know if you’ll ever meet again. You ask your friends, but no one seems to know either. You didn’t even get a name…
All melodrama aside, those days are over thanks to SoundHound. For any music lover on the go, it is the best mobile music identification software available.
SoundHound is a free mobile application, universally compatible with iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows devices. When you want to know the title, artist, or lyrics of a song, all it takes is a tap on the screen of the SoundHound app and it will identify it for you in as little as three to ten seconds. I am an avid music listener and collector with nearly four thousand tracks on my iPhone alone, and I am constantly looking to add to my collection. However, keeping up with ever-changing music trends and artists can be extremely difficult. SoundHound allows me to quickly identify new songs I hear and like or songs I recognize but can’t identify, thus enabling me to look them up and potentially add them to my ever-expanding library. I must shamefully admit that, for these reasons, SoundHound has become one of the most frequently used apps on my phone, beating out productivity and informational apps.
As my classmate Keith Hagan points out, “Ease of use and size of the song library seem to be the difference makers in determining the quality of this type of software.” Both of these criteria are critical in judging the value of song recognition software, and SoundHound does well in both areas. The SoundHound engine is run on the most up-to-date audio and language recognition technology also used in partnership with mobile device and automobile manufacturers. It therefore comes as no surprise that it boasts incredible accuracy with little to no glitching. CNET’s Jaymar Cabebe tested the app’s song library and says, “I found that SoundHound was impressive in its ability to identify both popular music and slightly more obscure tracks.”
Between its high accuracy rate and extensive music database, SoundHound has all the basics every song recognition app should have. For this reason, it is impossible not to draw comparisons between SoundHound and the popular Shazam app. My classmate Jerry Nourrie asks, “I know Shazam is pretty popular among song searching apps, but is SoundHound more user friendly?” While Shazam and SoundHound are both excellent at identifying unknown songs, extra features are where SoundHound really shines.
The biggest difference between the two is that SoundHound allows users to sing or hum a song they’re interested in, even if the song isn’t currently playing in the immediate area. For all those times you’ve had a song stuck in your head but can’t remember what it was or where you heard it, you can still get the information you want. In my personal experience with this app, this feature is by far the most impressive. Despite my terrible out-of-tune singing voice, SoundHound was surprisingly accurate at recognizing my attempts with, at the very least, a list of close matches. Lizzie Robinson of Zagg.com had a similar experience, noting that by the end of her tests she was “singing into [her] phone just trying to stump SoundHound.” This flexibility also allows the app to identify live recordings of songs by the original artist that Shazam can’t. “I have always been an avid Shazam user,” says Robinson, “but this test just pushed me over to the SoundHound side.”
SoundHound also goes above and beyond in providing song discovery options after your search. Both apps provide the ability to purchase the song searched through your device’s digital music store, a link to the accompanying music video, and lyrics. However, this is about the limit of Shazam in terms of song discovery. In addition to these features, SoundHound also provides the in-app option to play the song in other popular music apps such as Spotify and Pandora. It provides a list of covers and remixes of the song by other artists, and a list of albums that the song appears in. The drawback to having so many options post-search is having a crowded and less-intuitive results page, but it is a small price to pay for what you’re getting.
While both apps provide lyrics to the song being searched, SoundHound’s Live Lyrics feature sets it apart from Shazam. This feature plays the song’s lyrics for you in real time with the source, much in the way a karaoke machine would, allowing you to follow the lyrics, line by line, as the song plays. I am constantly singing whenever I am alone in my car, and for this, Live Lyrics comes in handy. SoundHound makes it incredibly easy to not only look up lyrics but to learn entire songs in preparation for a karaoke night out with friends.
While there are definitely other very usable music identification apps out there, only SoundHound allows you to sing or hum the song you’re looking for, provides as much information as you could possibly want on the song, and presents lyrics in real time. These special features set SoundHound apart from the rest of the pack and make it a must-have utility for any music fan. Now if only someone would invent an app to help me find that girl whose name I didn’t get, we’d be all set.
Cabebe, Jaymar. “A Powerful Namer-of-Tunes for Android.” CNET. 6 Mar, 2014. Web. 10 Sep. 2014 [http://www.cnet.com/products/soundhound-infinity-android/].
Gowan, Michael. “Music ID App Face-off: Shazam vs. SoundHound.” Tech Hive. 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Sep. 2014 [http://www.techhive.com/article/2011937/music-id-app-face-off-shazam-vs-soundhound.html].
Hagan, Keith. “Scott Miyahira – SoundHound.” Laulima Discussion. University of Hawaii, 9 Sep. 2014. Web. 10 Sep. 2014.
Nourrie, Jerry. “Scott Miyahira – SoundHound.” Laulima Discussion. University of Hawaii, 8 Sep. 2014. Web. 10 Sep. 2014.
Robinson, Lizzie. “Faceoff: Shazam vs. SoundHound.” Zagg. 30 Sep. 2014. Web. 10 Sep. 2014 [http://www.zagg.com/community/blog/faceoff-shazam-vs-soundhound/].
Soundhound.com, n.d. Web. 10 Sep. 2014 [http://www.soundhound.com/].
Other works by Scott: Life Unplugged 3/5/15
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