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Topic: how MP3 search engines stack up (nsc) Return to archive
07-05-02 06:19 PM
Jaxx Finding MP3 audio is tough

Fans flirt with search engines, but can't always get songs they want

By CRAYTON HARRISON / The Dallas Morning News

Finding an MP3 audio file these days is like dating you may start up a relationship with a search engine you really like, only to have it fizzle over circumstances outside your control.

The love affair between music fans and the Internet began with Napster, but the fling ended in a heap of lawsuits brought by the recording industry.

In the last year, Austin-based Audiogalaxy won downloaders' hearts. But a legal settlement has that relationship on the ropes, too.

Netherlands-based Kazaa BV is attractive, but it's on the run from the authorities.

You could try the music industry's pay-for-play MP3 search engines, PressPlay and MusicNet, but they'll milk you for your money.

That leaves search engines based on the Gnutella network, such as BearShare and LimeWire. With these applications, you don't access a file from a centralized server, instead copying MP3s straight from other users' computers.

That means Gnutella-based programs can be less consistent, but they're less vulnerable to lawsuits.

And as hard as it is to find someone willing to commit, you may have to settle for what you can get.

The following is a rundown of the current MP3 landscape. We tested each search engine by looking for three files: a ubiquitous recent hit (Britney Spears' "Oops!... I Did It Again"), a classic track (the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar") and a more obscure song (rapper Aesop Rock's "No Regrets"). How they stack up:



Name: Napster
Legal status: Defunct, for now. Napster filed for bankruptcy protection, and its principal investor, music giant Bertelsmann AG, is now picking up the pieces.

How it works: It doesn't. Napster pulled its network off the air, so you won't find anything here.

Test results: No Britney, no Rolling Stones, no Aesop Rock. Nada.

Conclusion: Napster has left the building.


Name: Audiogalaxy

Legal status: Settled with the Recording Industry Association of America. AG, as it's known to fans, will now only provide MP3s for download with written approval from the label, artist or songwriter.

How it works: It was so easy. Just go to the Web site,, type the artist's name in the search box, and click on the song you want. A separate application then downloads the song.

Test results: Again, no luck on any of our songs. Everything's been pulled since the settlement.

Conclusion: This "written approval" thing isn't going to work out. Even Audiogalaxy is asking visitors to suggest what it should do next.




Name: Kazaa

Legal status: The recording industry has filed a lawsuit against Kazaa BV, which until recently made the Morpheus search engine.

How it works: Open the application and type the name of the artist in the search box. Then click on what you want and watch it download. You can also play songs in Kazaa's jukebox feature. That's not the only extra you get with Kazaa, though. It also installs plenty of junk software on your computer that's hard to clean up and may expose your personal files to other people's computers, according to reports.

Test results: We hit the mother lode. Britney, the Stones and Aesop Rock all came through and downloaded quickly on our local area network connection. With a 56K modem, each took about 30 minutes to an hour not bad.

Conclusion: Is the baggage worth it? Your PC is invaded by software you don't want and could be invaded by other users. But if you really want that hard-to-find song...


Name: Napigator

Legal status: This one operates outside the law, using Napster to access files on rebel servers outside the old Napster network.

How it works: First, you have to make sure you have your old Napster software. Then download Napigator, which gives you a host of servers to choose from. Pick one that looks promising, judging by the number of users, and try your luck.

Test results: We hopped around on a couple of servers and tracked down Britney and the Rolling Stones. Aesop Rock eluded us.

Conclusion: Nice to use Napigator for sentimental reasons, but it sure is time-consuming.




Name: PressPlay

Legal status: A joint venture by Sony and Vivendi Universal.

How it works: You get 20 downloads and 200 streaming audio (one listen only) files for $9.95 a month, or 500 streams and downloads that never expire for $14.95 a month. And you're limited to the catalogues of the two labels and whoever they have named as a partner. The upside: It's fast and reliable, and you're above-board legally.

Test results: Britney was there, but the Rolling Stones and Aesop Rock were nowhere to be found.

Conclusion: Why do it here when you can do it for free elsewhere? Oh yeah, your conscience.


Name: MusicNet

Legal status: The three other big labels, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI Recorded Music, started this one.

How it works: You get 100 downloads and 100 streams from their vaults for $9.95. Downloads expire after 30 days, but you can burn them on to a CD or use them in your portable player, unlike PressPlay.

Test results: Britney moaned and Mick Jagger howled, but Aesop Rock was silent. Other Aesop Rock tracks did show up, though.

Conclusion: Better pricing and selection than PressPlay, for what it's worth.




Name: LimeWire

Legal status: LimeWire is a Gnutella-based engine, so supposedly it can't be sued. We'll see about that. And remember, the RIAA could sue you if you have a bunch of MP3s sitting on your computer.

How it works: The usual. Type your search in, let 'er rip and download away. If the file you've chosen is coming too slow, you'll have to choose an identical one from another user. By the way, LimeWire is one of the few popular MP3 searchers that works on Apple computers.

Test results: Britney and the Stones showed up, but Aesop Rock didn't. Of course, what you find depends on when you look. If you show up at prime time between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., when college students are on the prowl you're likely to find a better selection.

Conclusion: If you have the patience, this will do the job. It's no Napster, but then, Napster is dead.


Name: BearShare

Legal status: Again, a Gnutella engine, so you should be OK.

How it works: Be warned BearShare also comes with a fair share of junk software. When you get done deleting that, just type in the song you want and go.

Test results: Britney was no problem. The Stones took a couple of tries before we found a server that wasn't busy. We found Aesop Rock, but only on one server,

which wasn't being friendly. But by clicking on "find more sources," we found the file easily.

Conclusion: With a little concentration, this works fine. But the junkware is a bear.

07-05-02 09:56 PM
chevysales man there are a zillion sites that have latest albums/songs etc. oh yeah my conscience again? screw it i'll take the tunes

never used any software or search engine for music or software as i prefer fast reliable servers especially from areas that don't recognize "intellectual properties"

flame suit on.
[Edited by chevysales]
07-06-02 04:01 PM
Fiji Joe Try WinMX at got the entire Black Box Bootleg CDs (vols 1-3) and many others...I have found, however, that the only way to consistently get free music is by using people's FTP server accounts...I appreciate all those willing to share their files this way
07-06-02 08:33 PM
Fiji Joe wrote:
I have found, however, that the only way to consistently get free music is by using people's FTP server accounts...I appreciate all those willing to share their files this way

and i agree but one thing i wonder is if you have the cd why not rip at good quality instead of 128kbps. which in my opinion isn't worth the time.
i am no sonic expert but i always rip at cd quality of 320kbps.

i mean atleast make an exact copy. thats the purpose isn't it? no wma crap just mp3 at 320 or 256 no less.
thanx to broadband download time isn't an issue it was a few years back.

i see many of these do differ at some ftp sites as some are 128 some 256 etc.

either way i do appreciate the many fans sharing the wealth

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