When it comes to music on the Internet, you have two legal choices: you can stream tracks, or you can purchase them as individual downloads, most of which are protected with DRM. But what if you prefer to have tunes in your permanent collection, and your MP3 player doesn't support protected music files? Fortunately, Applian Technologies, makers of programs for recording and editing streaming music, has a solution: Replay Music. This app records and splits audio tracks coming through your PC's sound card. Regrettably, the $30 price tag gets you 5,000 recordings rather than unlimited use.
Installing Replay Music couldn't be easier, and once it's ready to go, you're rewarded with a simple, attractive interface. The program is straightforward, featuring just six control buttons--Start/Stop Recording, Reset, Edit Track(s), Delete Track(s), Play Track(s), and Burn Track(s) to CD--and a settings menu. Our one gripe with the interface is that there's no function to stop playback; you have to close the program to accomplish this.
The settings menu is basic. You can select the input source, designate the minimum amount of silence to split tracks, set the minimum length for songs to record, decide what volume level will be considered silence, and choose to save files as either MP3s (with a choice of bit rates from 128Kbps to 320Kbps) or WAVs or burn them directly to a data or audio CD.
Aside from its ability to automatically split streaming tracks, Replay Music's most notable feature is automatic tagging, which adds track titles and the artist's name to songs that you're recording. We found that the program recognizes most songs and will tag them appropriately, with one caveat: The tagging feature works only when you're recording songs from the same album. If you're streaming a self-created playlist, you'll have to label the files yourself. iPod users will appreciate the Add Tracks To iTunes option, which is self-explanatory and handy for syncing with the player later.
We were impressed with Replay Music's performance. While we streamed albums with Streamwaves and Musicmatch, the program identified and tagged everything we recorded, even obscure albums, and never had a problem splitting tracks. Better yet, and unlike other music recorders we've seen, Replay Music automatically shuts out alert sounds from programs such as Microsoft Outlook and instant-messaging applications, so you won't end up with random noises in the middle of a song. In fact, we didn't notice any bugginess in the interface, and recorded songs sounded fantastic (we were streaming at CD quality). Do note that when you're recording a stream, you are re-encoding a digital audio file; therefore, sound quality won't be as good when you encode a CD, for example.
Applian's Replay Music site offers a user guide and FAQ pages, including one that specifically addresses the legality of the program. It also has an e-mail contact form for support questions. A query that we sent from an anonymous e-mail address was answered within two hours.