Best VPNs for Pandora

PandoraPandora Internet Radio, usually referred to as just Pandora is a streaming and automated music recommendation service powered by the Music Genome Project, its proprietary music database.  It is a powerful music discovery system.  By this we mean that it is a place where music fans can find the artists they like and discover new artists along the same genre.  Pandora’s stated goal is to create a power of music experience for every user by connecting them to the artists they like and introducing them to new artists and songs based on their previous preferences and personal information.

It functions by leveraging its music database to recommend other songs a listener may like based on his chosen preferences.  Pandora uses this database and constant feedback from its listeners to craft personalized stations for each individual listener.  This means that you will have your own station that tries to play only the music that you want to hear and limit those tracks that you may not like from its collection of over 1.5 million song and album tracks.  Pandora is popular in the regions that it is available in but unfortunately this only includes the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.  It is geo-restricted from all other countries.  So, what does this mean for music lovers outside of the previously mentioned countries?  Despair not!  By using a VPN service, you can listen to your own personalized Pandora station.  Below you will find our list of the best VPNs to stream Pandora music.

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Pandora Creates Your Personalized Stations

Pandora’s goal is to give everyone who uses their service their own personalized music experience tailored to their ever changing music preferences.  To bring this goal to fruition, Pandora employs musicologists to analyze every recording and classify it according to about 450 attributes which it calls “genes”, for example, gender of lead vocalist, instruments used, prevalent use of groove, level of distortion on the electric guitar, type of background vocals, melody, rhythm, harmony, lyrics, etc.  A complex mathematical algorithm is then used to organize these genes.  They are combined into larger groups called focus traits like rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies, and displayed instrumental proficiency.  There are aproximately 2000 focus traits. Collectively this database is known as the Music Genome Project invented by William T. Glaser, Timothy B. Westergren, Jeffrey P. Stearns, and Jonathan M. Kraft.  Its patent has been assigned to Pandora Media, Inc., the parent company of Pandora.  Pandora uses this musicological “DNA” and constant feedback from you, the listener, to craft your personal stations from its collection of over 1.5 million tracks of music.

In addition to initially categorizing all additions to the Pandora music library and tailoring the music available to you based on your previous preferences, it also studies and catalogs its user database of preferences based on age, gender, zip-code, and other supplied information.  This allows the service to simulate an artificial intelligence system and learn from every interaction with its users.  This lets Pandora not only initially provide but also revise your music playlist and give you an even better mix of songs similar to those that you prefer.  This also exposes you to music from unknown artist and allows new artist to make fans they might not of otherwise had.  By using a personal VPN service, you can stream your favorite music and comedy from Pandora anytime, from anywhere in the world.  Pandora has apps for Smart TVs, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, Android devices, Chromecast, Kindle Fire, WD, Roku, gaming consoles, all computer operating systems, and over 1000 other devices.

Pandora Accounts and Their Limitations

The Pandora service is presented in two formats; a free ad-supported format and a paid subscription service without ads.  The features of the free ad-supported account includes the following:

  • 100 stations per account
  • 64 kbps AAC+ is equivalent to 128 kbps MP3 (audio quality and bitrate)
  • Periodic timeouts if you do not interact with the interface
  • Not available on all devices
  • Advertising which includes video, audio and visual advertisements.
  • Skips per day
    • 6 skips per station or per hour
    • 24 skips per account

Signing up for a free account is easy.  Just enter your email address and a password. Then register by putting in the your gender, the year you were born, and your residential zip code.  The paid account, Pandora One comes in either monthly or yearly terms.  Pandora One subscriptions are $4.99/month or $54.89/year and includes the following features:

  • Can create more personal stations and combine them together
  • More skips allowed per station and account
  • 192 kbps AAC+ (high quality audio – web only)
  • Fewer timeouts – about every five hours of continuous music
  • Enjoy service anytime on any device
  • Custom skins – web only
  • Desktop software so you can play music without having to load the browser.

You can upgrade your free account to a paid one at anytime.  Upgrade must be made from the Pandora website.  Payment can be made by major credit card or PayPal.   Set up your VPN service on your router and you can stream your favorite Pandora station through any device connected to it.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a group of computers that is networked together using various tunneling protocols and encryption algorithms so that private and confidential data can be securely transmitted over a less secure network.  Businesses have used VPNs for years to link office locations within the enterprise, as well as, allow employees to remotely log in to private company networks from unsecured sites and work.  This allows for the secure transfer of information between computers and other devices in the network, across a less costly public network.  A personal VPN service operates in a similar manner.  It creates a secure tunnel between one of its servers and your device using a secure tunneling protocol like SSL.  After this tunnel connection has been made, it encrypts all traffic sent through it between its server and your device. The service then masks your public IP address and replaces it with one at its server location.  All your subsequent transactions are passed from the VPN server to the open Internet.  This means that no one on the Internet sees your true location.   Instead, they see the virtual location provided by the VPN service.  This allows you to be more anonymous and also lets you virtually change your location to almost anyplace in the world. This will help you overcome geo-restrictions used by many streaming media providers.

Using a VPN to Listen to Your Pandora Playlists

If you live outside of the countries that Pandora is available in which include the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, you can still listen to your favorite Pandora playlists.  Simply subscribe to a personal VPN service and connect to a server in one of aforementioned countries.  Remember if you connect to the VPN through your router, you will be able to stream your personally tailored music station though all the devices attached to it.  In addition to allowing you to listen to your favorite music, the VPN will also protect all of your Internet traffic from prying eyes.  An added benefit of using a VPN to connect to Pandora is that if you are using a free Wi-Fi at your local restaurant or another unsecured network to stream your favorite music, it will secure your connection and protect any passwords or other private information from been intercepted by a third party.  This can help to keep you from becoming the next victim of identity theft.  Connecting to Pandora through a VPN will also let you listen to your favorite music while at school if its blocked by the local firewall.  Also if you are traveling and have a Pandora account, you will still be able listen to your music anywhere you find an Internet connection.

Criteria for selecting a VPN for Pandora

When choosing a VPN to stream music using the Pandora service, there are a few criteria that you need consider:

  • First is do you trust the VPN provider?
    • How much of your personal information do they collect  and do they clearly define how it is used in their privacy policy?
    • What kind of reputation do they have in the VPN industry and do they have good support.
    • Where are they incorporated at?
  • Second is how big is their network of VPN servers?
    • Do they have a worldwide presence?
    • Multiple servers in the US (on both coasts), Australia, and/or New Zealand.  This will ensure greater speed and reliability when accessing the Pandora music library from different parts of the world.
  • Third, what is their logging policy regarding VPN usage?
    • A no-log policy is best.
    • If they do log, is what they log clearly defined.  Are they transparent in how the logged information is used.
  • Fourth, how does the VPN perform for you?
    • How fast is the VPN service from your location?
    • Do you need to bypass local or government firewalls?
    • How do they handle P2P file sharing traffic?
  • Fifth, how reliable is the network?
    • You want to choose a VPN which is stable and who has multiple servers in the location you use so that you can avoid slowdowns due to overcrowding.
    • Does the service have respond to questions you might have in a timely manner?
    • Do they offer a kill switch to protect your privacy if the VPN drops?
    • Do they support DNS leak protection keep your public IP address hidden?
  • Sixth, is the bandwidth.
    • The best VPNs offer unlimited data download.
  • Seventh, is it compatible with desktops, phones, tablets or other devices you might want to use with it?
    • Does it support Windows? Mac OS? Linux? iOS? Android? Others like Blackberry?
    • How many simultaneous connections does it allow? Two is good, more is even better.
    • You should thoroughly test the VPN with all of your devices to make sure that you can stream music from the Pandora service through all of them.
  • Eighth, is it secure and private to protect your traffic from prying eyes?
    • What kind of protocols does the VPN use?  Protocols are rules for transmitting data.
      • A VPN service that supports all three protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and PPTP is best.
        • OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) (Best mix of security and speed)
          • It is highly configurable, fast, and secure.
          • Port forwarding helps increase its utility and help scale firewalls.
        • L2TP/IPsec – Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol / Internet Protocol Security is the encryption protocol for traffic.
          • It provides excellent security.
          • It has slower performance than that of OpenVPN due to double encapsulation of data.
          • It has built-in support on most devices which makes it easy to implement.
            Like OpenVPN, it has greater utility with port forwarding.
        • PPTP – Point to Point Tunneling Protocol
          • Many of the devices that you will use for streaming the Pandora service only support this protocol.
          • It is considered the least secure and probably better suited for devices that can not use other protocols or where speed, not security is the main concern.
          • It is built into most devices and very easy to setup.
    • Encryption is usually AES or Blowfish based.
      • It should use at least 128 bit which is not as secure but provides faster speed for your music streaming.
      • 256 bit is better for security if you are using an untrusted network at a hotel or your local restaurant’s free Wi-Fi network.
    • Other protocols include proprietary stealth ones to scale the Great Firewall of China, SSTP which is very secure  but primarily for Windows, and IKEv2 which provides excellent security and automatic reconnection for mobile devices.
  • Ninth, how easy is the VPN to actually use?
    • Does the VPN have mobile apps and easy to software install software?
    • Does it have well written guides for a variety of devices since Pandora can be streamed on over 1000 devices including many IOT devices?
    • Is it easy to connect and disconnect from the service?
  • Tenth, how much does the VPN service cost?
    • As always, you should spend what your budget can afford.  Performance should be weighed against the cost if streaming media is your primary purpose for using a VPN
    • Does it support anonymous ways to pay for the service like Bitcoin?
    • Remember to use the money-back guarantee to thoroughly test the service to ensure it suits all your intended purposes.

We examined each of these criteria when we were putting together our list of VPNs that would be best for streaming music using the Pandora service.  Care was taken to look at other uses you might have for a VPN.  We also looked at other countries in the world you might want access to like the UK for access to BBC iPlayer.  All of our chosen VPNs satisfy most of these criteria for almost any purpose you may have for a VPN.  Still, you should look at your own purposes and determine which VPN in our list best suits your particular needs.

Final Thoughts

You should look at your purpose to see which VPN in our list could best suit your individual needs.  First off, if your main goal is to listen to your favorite Pandora music station from somewhere other than the US, Australia, or New Zealand, then any of the VPNs in our list can help you do that.  Remember to look at other things that having a VPN will allow you to do to help to narrow down which VPN is the right fit for you.  For instance, you should primarily look for a value-priced, fast, reliable VPN to ensure uninterrupted musical bliss.  However, if you connect mostly using unsecured networks, then security should also be one of your primary concerns.  If you want to use the service at school where local firewalls often ban streaming services, being able to bypass the local firewall would be important to you.

Even if you do live in one of the countries that Pandora is available in, you can still benefit by using a VPN to connect to their service.  For instance using a VPN to connect to the Pandora service can help you secure your connection against prying eyes while connecting through unsecured networks like those at hotels or the free Wi-Fi at your favorite local restaurant.  This can help keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft.  Also if you have a Pandora account and are on vacation in Europe or Asia, using a VPN will let you enjoy songs from your favorite music service while traveling.  You should place more emphasis on network size, reliability, speed, and security to ensure that you will be happy with the VPN performance while traveling.  If you plan on traveling in countries that have some form of censorship like China or the Middle East, then a VPN that allows you to bypass this censorship should also be a consideration.

The VPNs that we recommend will help you to do all of these while providing excellent performance at a value-price.  They all provide excellent support and have guarantees to let you try out their service.  Select the one that you like the best and take it for a test drive.