Spotify officially debuted its long-percolating Group Sessions feature on May 11. With Group Sessions nearby friends can take charge of your Spotify music queue. It’s handy for, say, hosting a Spotify party in your backyard, but it won’t let you listen with friends remotely.
Group Sessions nonethless got me thinking of Turntable.fm, the legendary and long-defunct web and mobile app that let you join rooms where you and your friends could listen to tunes together, passing the DJ mantle back and forth and voting on each other’s picks. Turntable.fm only lasted a couple of years (the service shuttered after it finally signed licensing deals with the four big U.S. music labels), but it was great while it lasted. Those of us who miss it have been looking for a replacement ever since.
As it turns out, there are plenty of “listen with friends” apps in the iOS and Android app stores, most of which piggyback on such popular music streaming services as Spotify and Apple Music.
The app I immediately warmed up to is JQBX (“Jukebox”), which—yes, very much like Turntable.fm—lets you create rooms where you and your friends can listen to tunes, take turns being DJ, and vote for your favorite songs.
JQBX, which first launched about three years ago, is a free app for iOS, Android, and the web, but you will need a Spotify Premium account to use it.
Once you sign in with Spotify (thankfully you don’t need to create a separate JQBX account), you’ll jump to a list of the most popular listening rooms. Dozens will be available at any given time (“Chill Vibes,” “Pizza & Beer,” “Sea of Metal,” “The Bat Cave,” and “Isolation Station” were among the rooms I found on a given morning), complete with album art for the song that’s currently playing, along with the genre of the room and how many listeners and DJs are inside.
If you join a room, you’ll instantly hear the synced music that’s playing for everyone else, and you can give the current track a thumbs up or down, with your votes nudging an approval needle one way or the other (a feature that should sound familiar to Turntable.fm users). If you’re feeling inspired, you can drop the needle on tracks in your own JQBX music queue by becoming a DJ yourself. And yes, there’s a chat window.
Beyond joining an existing music room in JQBX, you can create your own, which you can make either public or private. Once you’ve created a room, you can share a URL that will allow anyone who wants to listen along, provided they also have a Spotify Premium account.
All in all, JQBX makes for an easy way to do what Spotify’s Group Sessions feature doesn’t: listen to music with friends remotely in real time. Yes, there are other apps that do something similar, but none that scratches the Turntable.fm itch quite like this one.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.