Muse review: Mac app makes Pandora even easier
At a Glance
Do you love Pandora? No, not just enjoy it, but really love it? If so, $5 and a Mac buys you Industrious One’s Muse, a desktop Pandora player that gives you all the Pandora goodness you’d find in a web browser, and a worthwhile bit more.
When you first launch Muse, you see a window that appears to be nothing more than a container for Pandora’s website. And that’s exactly what it is—complete with your stations, the New Station field for adding more stations, playback controls, thumbs up and down buttons, and any other elements Pandora has chosen to put on the page (including its ads).
So where’s the advantage? Muse provides additional—and welcome—control over Pandora in a couple of forms. To begin with, you no longer need to keep your web browser running (or even keep its resources busy) to listen to Pandora. And, unlike with a browser, you can close Muse’s window and the music continues to play.
But there’s some useful functionality here beyond cosmetics. The first is that you can assign keyboard shortcuts to such commands as Play/Pause, Next Song, Like Song, and Dislike Song. And these shortcuts work regardless of which application is front and center. So, for example, if you’re hacking away in Photoshop to the accompaniment of your Oasis station and Justin Bieber’s latest comes blasting out of the speakers, you can press something along the lines of Option-Delete to give Master Bieber’s track the thumbs down. You can also create shortcuts for showing or hiding the Muse window, and for showing an alert box with info about the currently playing track. (By default, this box displays the name, artist, and album of each track as it begins playing.)
Next, you can channel Muse’s output to any or all AirPlay devices on your network. Just click the AirPlay button in the top-right corner of the Muse window, or click Muse’s menu-bar icon, and you’ll see a list of all available AirPlay devices. You can not only enable devices, but also adjust the volume for each one.
And speaking of Muse’s systemwide menu, here you’ll also find the name, album, artist, and artwork for the currently playing track, as well as commands for Play/Pause, Next, Like, and Dislike.
Finally, Muse supports Last.fm’s scrobbling feature. When this feature is enabled and you’ve signed into Last.fm via Muse’s preferences, any tracks you listen to will be added to your Last.fm profile. You can then share this data with your friends or use it to track your listening habits.
There are two versions of Muse: one available from the Mac App Store and another you get directly from Industrious One’s site. (Those who’ve purchased the Mac App Store version can freely switch to the direct download version at any time.) What’s the difference? The direct version lets you use your Apple keyboard’s media keys (F7, F8, and F9) for their default operations: Previous, Play/Pause, and Next, respectively. (Note that with a third-party keyboard, a wireless Logitech model, only the F9 key worked for me.) Both versions of Muse also respond to Apple’s hardware remote controls—the old white one as well as the current silver model.
If you love Pandora, Muse is a way to better use the service you already enjoy. And if your relationship with Pandora hasn’t yet taken that more serious step, Muse may just solidify your commitment.