When we first reviewed Mufin, a music recommendation service that is entirely based around algorithms that can automatically detect the similarities between different songs, we only gave it a pretty average review. Since then, however, Mufin has greatly improved its service and added Facebook and Myspace applications. The most interesting new product, however, is Mufin's iTunes plugin, which brings Mufin's recommendation engine to your own iTunes collection and allows you to create automatic playlists based solely on the musical similarities between the songs.

In our tests, Mufin often performed better than Apple's Genius feature, but for now, the plugin is only available for Windows.

Fingerprinting

Mufin creates a unique fingerprint for every song in your library when you start the plugin for the first time. You can choose if you want the recommendations to be based on the analysis of 30 second snippets (for fast analysis) or on the whole song (very slow, but highly accurate). Mufin's proprietary algorithms can then create playlists based on the similarities between the songs in your library. In creating these fingerprints, Mufin looks at over 40 characteristics, including tempo, instruments, and rhythm structure.

Apple's algorithms, on the other hand, are hidden in a black box, but seem to be based around the listening and purchasing habits of other users on iTunes.

Mufin's approach means that it will work for any song you may have imported into iTunes, no matter whether it is part of Apple's library or not. Mufin is also agnostic as to what language the songs are in.

Similar to Apple's Genius, the Mufin plugin will also make purchasing recommendations for similar songs that are not yet in your iTunes library and take you right to the iTunes store to listen to the preview or purchase them.

Verdict

Overall, we have come away very impressed with Mufin's recommendations. Judging from what we have seen so far, it may just replace the Genius feature as our preferred way of constructing automatic playlists.

That said, we are still not great fans of Mufin's core web service, which, unlike the plugin, is encumbered by licensing problems and which can only play 30 seconds of most songs (and often it can't play the songs at all). The plugin, however, is a clear winner in our eyes.