The act of listening to music on the iPad has long felt like a case of function-over-form, like using an appliance that you don’t really notice, much less care how it looks. Since the iPad’s release, the default Music app has only undergone one major design change, from humble iTunes re-skin to its current wood-paneled state. Track 8 from Ender Labs has higher aims, “borrowing” a few UI elements to make your music look every bit as good as it sounds. Read on past the break for the review of this unique and beautiful music player.
The Microsoft Zune didn’t quite pan out to be the “iPod killer” it was intended as, but its design and demise paved the way for a series of creative leaps and bounds made by the gang in Redmond. Among these is the Metro User Interface, a slick stylized theme currently employed by Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and that forms the backbone of the upcoming Windows 8. Surprising some, the Metro UI is stylish, clean, and arguably beautiful in the way it presents menus, options, and media.
Track 8 brings Metro to the iPad, and the look and feel of this app is stunning. It wasn’t long before I felt like I could never return to using Music as my go-to player.
Search & Navigation
Navigating Track 8 is simple, intuitive, and fast; all things we have come to expect in an iPad app. However, “enjoyable” isn’t always on the forefront of my mind when using an application. Track 8 changed that. On top of its aesthetics and intuition, the app is simply enjoyable to use.
The UI leaves little to be “discovered”; nothing feels hidden or buried in Track 8. I loved the main page displays of Recent play history and Most Played. Most Played was especially nice for someone like me who tends to listen to the same albums repeatedly.
Looking trough Artist or Album views was a snap, although it took me a minute to figure out how to quickly move through my library without swiping through endless pages.
It turns out it was as easy as tapping the letter above my music. This brought up another menu where I could jump to another point in the alphabet instantaneously.
Track 8 also has a great, fast Search menu. Moving through your music in Track 8 is fast and elegant, and overall was just a better experience than Music.
Have Fun Playing
Playing your music in Track 8 works as you’d expect, with the obvious Play button making it easy to start playback of an album, playlist, or song. The Now Playing screen is vibrant and visually stirring, showing you album artwork in large view, as well as promotional photography of the current artist in the background. The best part is, you don’t have to tell Track 8 to do this or provide the images yourself. Track 8 does the job for you, and I have yet to come across an artist in my library for whom Track 8 could not find an image.
If I have one complaint about Track 8, it’s the volume control on the Now Playing screen. The small white bar along the bottom lets you adjust the volume, and was hard to notice at first. Adjusting the volume can feel tricky, since it’s so easy to accidentally tap in the bar instead of sliding it up or down, leaving lots of room for erratic volume adjustments. I made the mistake of thinking that tapping the speaker icon to the right would let me make an incremental change to the volume. Instead, the volume shot up to 11, leaving my headphone-adorned ears a little worse for wear.
Overall, the implementation of the Metro interface in Track 8 makes the app incredible to look at, easy to figure out, and extremely enjoyable to use. Your music will never look better.
Track 8 is available in the App Store for $1.99.