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Well, it is here…..

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(@eldarboy)
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Having played with Apple Classical last night, well….meh.

No personalized curated playlists like Primephonic had.

Cannot download music to the app, but saved favourites go to the regular Apple Music and can be downloaded for offline play from there.

Not as well organized as Primephonic.

What are your impressions so far?


   
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 Hugh
(@hugh)
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Meh indeed. After 19 months!

 
I shall be interested to hear what others think, but my first impressions are disappointing. The app even seems to fall short of Primephonic in important respects.
 
The major plus for me is that, like Primephonic, the app places as much emphasis on Works as on Albums or Tracks. It makes it fairly easy to browse lists of recordings of any individual work (the lists show numbers of tracks and timings for each) and a selected Recording can then be added to the Library or a Playlist or simply played (after which the playing will stop even if there are other tracks in the album).
 
Also on the plus side:
- as in the Presto app, Album track listings and the Now Playing screen clearly display details of what music is being played and who is playing it;
- Search doesn't seem to suffer from the anomalies thrown up by search within the Presto app;
- an interesting feature I noticed is that the Browse by Composer screen highlights a short list of Latest Albums immediately after a short list of Popular Works.
 
It looks as if quite a lot of emphasis has been given to continuing Primephonic's work in curated playlists, and I have noticed, for example, a section headed 'The Story of Classical', which may well be 'Ludwig' under another name.
 
As in Primephonic, some (but not many) works have a brief textual description and/or have an Editor's Choice recording highlighted
 
However, on the down side:
- there seem to be no booklets;
- explanatory text is very patchy, for example, although there is brief information about some major composers, there is none about Haydn, and few albums benefit from a write-up;
- unlike Presto, there are no extracts from reviews or indications of awards from Gramophone magazine, etc;
- apart from the tracks of the currently playing Work or Album there seems to be (unlike the basic Apple Music app) no Now Playing Queue (no option to Play Next or Play Last);
- it doesn't seem to be possible to restrict Searches to within the Library (this is a significant plus of the basic Apple Music app);
- in the absence of an Android-style Back button it was not obvious to me how to get out of the Now Playing screen (I eventually found a "show album" option in the three-dot menu at the top right);
- I haven't seen any history of what has been played, not even a Recently Played section as in the Apple Music app;
- it doesn't seem to be possible to search within sections such as the sometimes very long lists of performances of individual works;
- although it's not possible to search within such lists there are options to change the sort order; for example recordings of a particular work can be sorted by "Name"; unfortunately in A-Z order only, not Z-A, and I found that after a few seconds the list jumped back to "Popularity" order making it difficult to find hits far down the alphabet
- a curiosity is that the first two hits in "Popularity" order for the Beethoven quartet Op 59/1 were recordings by Vladimir Fedoseyev (which seems to be an orchestral version on an album called 'The Complete Masterworks of LvB vol 29') and then Claudio Colombo (a piano arrangement); only then were string quartet versions by the Fine Arts Quartet, ABQ, and so on listed;
- A major disappointment for me is that I see little, if any, sign of  the many improvements requested in the Primephonic forum. For me the most important of these was the ability to categorise my chosen works in ways that suit me (whether through user-defined tags in the Library or by Playlists that support Works or Albums as single items rather than lists of tracks);
- I've seen no sign of anything like Maestro;
- I can't see any Settings, or Help, or any link to Support. (When I have tried in the past the only Apple support option has seemed to be chat, either online or by phone, with people who knew nothing about classical music and had no ability to check what I was reporting.)
 
I have not found it practical to sign in using my own Apple ID, so I don't know how well the app will integrate with the basic Apple Music app, for example in carrying over my Library and Playlists.

   
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(@capriccio)
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I'm feeling positive after using the app for a day. Although it lacks many features, as @hugh has noted, there's a lot to relish. I get the impression that they have devoted a lot of attention to filling the key void that "popular" music streaming services have: that is, getting the metadata right. I hope that, over time, they'll fill in the gaps, especially the album booklets.

To have a pairing of apps, Apple Music and Apple Classical, that give you a huge spectrum of music genres with genre-sensitive search is a huge thing. Classical is my chief love, but I also listen to a whole lot of other music, including blues, rock, soul, jazz, R&B. Now, for the one price, I can have it all, and know that when I search for "Dead Man Walking" on the Classical app, I'll get the opera by Jake Heggie, and when I search for "Dead Man Walking" on the general app, I'll get entirely different results, complete with zombie references.

  Laugh  

I'm glad to see that my classical playlists and library have been automatically transferred across. I'd be pretty miffed if they weren't.

Of course, there is no sign of the community feature that we loved so much in Primephonic. I'm not sure whether Apple will ever try to replicate that. But if the Classical app takes off, maybe we can woo some of the Primephonic crowd back here and inject some life into the forums. 

 


   
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 Hugh
(@hugh)
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Posted by: @capriccio

getting the metadata right

I imagine that this may well be where they have devoted most of their efforts while we've been waiting.

Despite my disappointments I expect that I shall choose to stay with Apple. The combination of Apple Music with its wide selection of music and Apple Classical Music with its behaviour and displays more suited to classical should suit me very well. And they should only get better!


   
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(@eldarboy)
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I will abandon IDAGIO, try Qobuz when it becomes available in Canada this May, then narrow it down to one service plus Tidal. 


   
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 Jen
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After a couple of days test-driving the new app I’m concluding that there is much to like… but I’m not wowed. The search facility is the best I’ve seen and metadata certainly seems to be tidy. It’s very shiny and ‘corporate’, just like entering an Apple shop; sadly I see little evidence that it’s also a child of Primephonic.

I intend to stick with it, at least for now, perhaps though as a supplementary streaming option.

But I do keep happily returning to the new Presto streaming service. Agreed that the search facility can be quirky and sometimes includes unexpected results (though it’s certainly not difficult to find what you’re looking for, and perhaps some lovely surprises too 😊).  But I love the ‘magazine’ style of the app and that, right there at your fingertips, are the booklets and other  information you need as you listen.  You can download albums for offline listening; there’s jazz in addition to claasical; it uses the ‘fair payment’ model; and the music files are up to 192kHz, 24bit resolution. And since Presto appears to intend future integration with systems like Yamaha Musiccast, and Sonos, I’ll certainly be sticking around!

 


   
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(@capriccio)
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@jen I've been resisting the Presto service because I really can't afford yet another subscription of any kind in my life. However, after reading your post, Jen, I'm rethinking that. Because I already get Apple Music and Apple Classical bundled with my Apple One subscription (the sub also includes Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+), I'll keep Apple, ditch Idagio and give Presto a try. That magazine style sounds really appealing. I'll give it a go.


   
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 Jen
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@capriccio  Since you’ve mentioned Apple playlists, I should add that there is no playlist functionality on Presto (nor the facility to ‘like’ individual tracks) - just searchable ‘collections’ of favourite albums. That’s not an issue for me but I guess it could be for many people. 

I got a month’s free trial of Presto before subscribing - I hope you will be able to, too!


   
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(@capriccio)
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Posted by: @jen

I got a month’s free trial of Presto before subscribing - I hope you will be able to, too!

Yes, I'm on the free month. I'll see how it goes.


   
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(@eldarboy)
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There is a lot of great music providers now. My problem is needing to stream them through my stereo (Linn DSM): this cannot be done with Presto, Apple, Idagio not with Primephonic. Hence my implementation of a Sonos Port; but that does not yet stream Apple Classical nor Presto.


   
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(@eldarboy)
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I have abandoned IDAGIO. I have searched through the library at AC and found that 20% of the albums I had save to my favourites in PPhonic are not available in AC. Perhaps licensing issues. One would think that in the era of instant global communication, things like regionally licensed music would go the way of steam locomotives.


   
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 Hugh
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We've been lucky so far that the music streaming world hasn't fragmented in the same way as video (where I would need subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon, Disney and probably others in order to watch everything I might be interested in.) I see that Apple is now featuring "exclusive" albums. Let's hope this doesn't go any further.


   
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 Hugh
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Posted by: @eldarboy

20% of the albums I had save to my favourites in PPhonic are not available in AC

I'm sorry to hear that. So far as I can recall, I've found every single album that I've looked for in Apple Music, including a few that Primephonic didn't have. (I don't have Apple Classical yet). I wonder why your experience is so different.


   
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 Jen
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I’ve just been reading this article, and it seems to be a very useful overview of the pros and cons of the various classical streaming options as of April 2023:

https://bachtrack.com/feature-best-classical-music-streaming-services-idagio-presto-apple-tidal-amazon-spotify-april-2023

[There’s no discussion of compatibility with audio playback systems, though, but that’s perhaps unsurprising for a short, succinct article]


   
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(@jchokey)
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A good article, and I appreciate you posting it.  It makes me think that I definitely need to give at least a try to Presto, despite the fact that my Idagio subscription just renewed for a year.  

However, one thing that I'm still wondering-- based both on this article and others that I've read simply reviewing the Apple Classical is whether either Apple Classical or Presto offers weekly playlists customized based on the user's past listening habits and actions--and, if so, how good their algorithms are at making suggestions.

For me, one of the things I loved most about Primephonic was that every week, I'd get those 4-5 customized playlists in various categories  (For me, one usually one was kind of general, another specifically for orchestral music, a third for chamber music, another focused on a period, and the fifth on music spotlightlng a specific instrument.)  And the amazing thing was that, after maybe just 3-4 weeks, those playlists really hit the sweet spot for me in that about 1/3 of them were pieces I already knew and loved, 1/3 were less familiar pieces by composers whose works I generally liked, and 1/3 were pieces and often composers completely new to me-- but which I (mostly) really enjoyed.  


   
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