What a difference a year makes. When we last looked at Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP, it was a perfectly capable but limited utility -- lacking the option to use Variable Bit Rate (VBR) encoding (to deliver better sound quality). At the time of our last review, VBR encoding, more advanced encoding options, an Alarm Clock, Internet broadcasting, and support for MP2 and WAVE files were nothing more than a series of items on the company's wish list for the program. Now, all these features are included.
SoundJam has changed -- for the better. The inclusion of VBR produces better sounding MP3 files. Plus, you now have more control over advanced encoding settings.
SoundJam is also one of the few programs to take advantage of advances in Apple's processor technology. When the G4 and its AltiVec acceleration technology were introduced, it wasn't long before an AltiVec-friendly version of SoundJam was available. Likewise, in the new 500MHz dual-processor Power Mac G4, SoundJam has been updated to exploit the power of both processors. Both these advances allow you to encode files more quickly.
In addition to improving the program's performance, Casady & Greene have significantly expanded SoundJam's capabilities. For example, with SoundJam's Stream Tuner you can listen to a host of Web-based MP3 broadcasts including diverse music styles such as rock from the '50s and '60s, hip-hop, gospel, Christian rock, electronic, classical, country, jazz, and world music. While this doesn't spell the death of radio, it's a welcome channel for exposure to new music. Plus, using SoundJam and a rebroadcaster such as FlyCast, ShoutCast, or IceCastand, you can set up your own station and broadcast your MP3s over the Web.
Some of SoundJam's new features are more entertaining than essential. Take, for example, the Alarm Clock feature: you can configure SoundJam so that at selected time(s) and day(s) a playlist, an audio file, or an AppleScript are triggered by the program -- a boon for college students who sleep with an always-on iBook by their beds. The Karaoke command causes SoundJam to remove the vocal portion of a song through phase cancellation (if the vocal is centered in the stereo field). It's a cute touch but likely attractive only to those casual crooners among us. More practical is SoundJam's ability to download MP3 files to the Rio, Nomad, and Nike standalone MP3 players.