In this blog post I check out this deal as well as the other options for streaming classical music.
The Naxos Music Library and the IMSLP Membership price
If you have been using IMSLP to get free sheet music recently, then you may have noticed IMSLP encouraging people to become members for USD $22 (approx AUD $30) per year, with the offer of a free access to the Naxos music library. That sounds an amazing bargain, when you consider that a subscription to the Naxos music library normally will set you back USD $210 (approx AUD $284) per year for their standard service (128 kbs streaming rate) or USD $315 (approx AUD $425) for their premium service (320 kbs).
In the interests of science, and generosity to IMSLP, who have done the music world a great service, I thought I'd become a member and give the Naxos music library a whirl.
After having a couple of weeks to live with the Naxos Music Library (NML) via IMSLP, and gorging myself on music like Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat buffet, was it the bargain it seemed to be?
The NML interface and features are a little basic compared to other streaming music services like Spotify, but there's no shortage of wonderful music on offer. If anything there is too much choice, and it's hard to pick which recording of your chosen piece to listen to. Although it's called the Naxos Music Library, Naxos is just one label of the hundreds of labels in the library. And labels include the classical music heavyweights, like EMI, Sony Classical, Decca and DG plus a lot of great specialist smaller labels, including ABC Classics.
On a Windows PC, music plays via a browser window that pops up, allowing you to basic controls over music playback. I found that playback occasionally just stops for no reason but can be started again via the player. Another downside is having small gaps between tracks, which is somewhat annoying for albums, like opera, which have tracks that are intended to flow from one to another without a break.
With the 128kbs streaming rate you get with the IMSLP subscription, sound quality is good, but not CD quality.
For mobile devices there are Android and Apple apps to allow you to access the NML. I tried the Android app, which worked fine, but isn't that easy to navigate through the different offerings.
The Free YouTube Option
If you can live with the convenience limitations, and living in a world where movements are called "songs", and JS Bach is an "artist", then Spotify (and probably other services too) does offer a good selection of classical music and also gapless playback. If you like to dabble in popular music too then this is an added bonus.
With a bitrate for the free service of 160kbs I found there was a noticeable improvement in sound quality compared to the NML. For me the 30 second video ads that frequently pop up between movements is a deal breaker on the free version for anything but occasional use.
The premium version offers a very respectable 320kbs, which should yield even better sound, plus of course no ads.
There are a host of competing streaming services available these days, and the ones above are highlights only, so look around and there may well be many other gems out there. If you have any suggestions for streaming services that cut the mustard for classical music, drop a comment below or on our Facebook page.