Have you ever been stuck in a shop listening to a song that you recognise but can't name? Annoying, isn't it? If this regularly happens, then Sound Hound might well be an app for you.
Sound Hound is one of those clever little pieces of music recognition software. You allow it to "listen" to a song playing in the background and it will search its vast database and, if it finds a match, tell you what the song is, who sang it and tons of other information.
Presentation-wise, Sound Hound initially looks pretty basic, but this belies a very powerful app hidden beneath it. On loading you are presented with a screen with a big orange button at the top. Tapping this sends the phone to "listening mode" and it will start to analyse any music it hears and try and identify it. You can stop listening and view any results by pressing the orange button again; alternatively, the app will automatically listen for about 30 seconds and then stop and tell you what it has found.
Overall, I have found the app's recognition abilities pretty impressive and it is often very rapid in its search. I have found that you often only need to keep it listening for 5-10 seconds before it comes up with an answer, although obviously, the longer you keep it going, the more likely it is to discover a match.
The app is also quite strong when it comes to filtering out background noise and to my surprise it works effectively in noisier environments. I've used it in busy shops or restaurants where there is lots of background chatter and other noise and it has worked fine; I've even used it to identify songs being used as background noise on TV programmes and it's filtered out the dialogue and correctly identified the song. Of course, generally speaking, the less interference there is, the better the chance of success, but I'd say that I've had around an 80% success rate overall.
The app has a pretty impressive library of songs and artists at its disposal, although this depends on the type of music you are interested in. If pop is your thing, then Sound Hound will be perfect, since the vast majority of its library is made up of this. Nor is it limited to more recent stuff - I used it recently to identify a song that was being played on a TV advert, and was surprised to learn it dated back to 1963. The database also appears to be updated regularly and new songs (both old and new) added.
Of course, there are limitations. It doesn't hold information on every song ever written (an impossible feat) and (for rights-related reasons), certain artists are not included or some of their songs are included, but others are not which is a little frustrating. The app is also weaker when it comes to music other than pop. As far as I can tell, classical music doesn't get a look in, even very well known compositions. This is disappointing as I often hear classical tunes used on adverts and want to know what they are and who the composer is and the app just doesn't appear to support that.
What really impressed was the amount of information available on song. Once a song has been identified, you can view information about the album the song appeared on, who sang it, the date it was released and even the cover art from the album. A great addition is that you can view the lyrics (which cleverly scroll up the screen in time with the song) and, of course, if you like what you hear you can always purchase it on iTunes. Integration with social media sites is also strong with links to post to Twitter, Facebook or view videos related to the song on YouTube. It's clear that a lot of thought as gone into making Sound Hound as rich a resource as possible. As such, it's an app you can quickly find yourself getting lost in. You think you are simply satisfying your curiosity as to what a song is, but soon start to read all the extra information and find that your "quick" check has led to you reading all the trivia about it!
The app is available in two versions. The full app costs £4.99, which is on the expensive side but good value for money if you're the sort of person who will use it regularly. If you think you're only likely to use it occasionally (or want to try it out), then there's an ad-supported version available for free.
At the end of the day, the value of this app very much depends on how often you are likely to use it. I have to be honest and say that had I not got this app for free as part of a promotion, I wouldn't have downloaded it as the cost would not have been justified for usage I get from it. Having said that, now that I've got it, I use it far more than I ever thought I would; and it's a great way if impressing your mates with your extensive musical knowledge!
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Developer: Melodis Corporation
App Store Category: Music
Current Version: 3.2.2
Price: free / £2.99
What is it: Acoustic Fingerprinting application
What's acoustic fingerprinting you might ask? In simple terms, acoustic fingerprinting is the term used to describe how apps like SoundHound and Shazam identify songs based on listening to a snippet and matching them to a database of audio files.
Like that song you can hear on the radio or tv but don't know what it is or who's singing it, whip out your iPhone, start up SoundHound and let the app listen to the song for a few seconds (approx. 5-10 seconds is usually fine) and a few seconds later, the app will tell you the artist, song title, album name and many more details. For some songs, it will also send back song lyrics which can be set to auto-scroll - useful for singing along to, especially if you're playing Lips on Xbox 360 using an external source for your songs (Lips can't show lyrics on screen for those songs so you can use this to help you). If SoundHound can't find the lyrics at the same time as the song details, you can manually search for lyrics from within the app and they'll be displayed in the same way.
SoundHound can be set to start listening immediately on app start-up in case you're in a hurry to find that song before it's finished!
SoundHound keeps track of your search history so you can return to previous results at a later time, and it also has direct links to YouTube, Artist Biographies, Discographies, similar artists, etc. You can also share results via email, Twitter or Facebook straight from the app itself.
SoundHound has some additional features which you can't find in Shazam and that's why I think SoundHound has stolen the march on Shazam since they were both released. Earlier versions didn't have all of these features but SoundHound has made improvements with each release. By comparision, Shazam has almost stood still, although it's still a good app (** just now I received an update notification for Shazam which mentions Song Lyrics - I'll have to give this a try).
Match the songs it identifies to songs you already have in your iPhone/iPod Touch music library
Identification by manual entry (search for Artist, Song Title, etc.)
Identification by singing, humming or tapping the rhythm (mixed results but it does work sometimes)
A "What's Hot" section showing what's "trending" or what other people are currently identifing with SoundHound
Does it work:
Yes, it works and in my experience has a pretty good hit rate. Obscure songs aren't always found but that's most likely because it's missing from the database rather than an issue with the app itself.
The free version now has limited IDs - 5 free IDs per month which is probably enough, I wouldn't use that many, but if you run out, you can purchase 5 more IDs from within the app for 59p or upgrade to unlimited for £2.99.
The premium version (SoundHound Infinity) is available with unlimited IDs and additional features and/or no adverts for £2.99.
An iPad optimised version is also available which really takes advantage of the extra power and larger screen.
Better than Shazam in some areas (perhaps less so if the lyrics feature in the new version of Shazam works well) but is it worth £2.99? I'd say no, unless you're really going to be using it more than 5 times per month. For occasional use, it's a nicely put together, useful app but I'd go with the free version.
*also posted on ciao.co.uk with the same username*