Review: Sony’s Qriocity ‘Music Unlimited’ Streaming Service

I had planned to include Sony’s attempt at a streaming music service with my recent look at Rdio and MOG as ‘Spotify Alternatives’, but frankly it is so ill-conceived and poorly executed that I didn’t want to obscure those excellent services with this dreck.

The Hype

The music you want, when you want it. Qriocity™ offers access to millions of songs on a variety of Sony devices. Upload your personal library for access anytime, anywhere or discover new favorites with automatic recommendations based on your unique listening habits.

The Reality

Don’t believe the hype.

Qriocity consists of a web-based front-end, a Windows-only uploader service, and clients for Sony TV and home theater devices, Playstation 3 and PSP gaming devices. As I was finishing this review Sony released an Android client, so I held back to include that as well.

Qriocity ‘Music Unlimited’ comes in two flavors – Premium and … um a 30-day trial for Premium. Premium costs $9.99 per month. I signed up and started to write this two days before PSN went down after the hacker attack, so I ended up with pretty much a 30-day chance to assess the service since the added trial period was 30 days regardless of sign-up date.

The main problem is the content… or lack thereof. And terrible clients even on Sony-made devices.

Sony/BMG owns a library of ~6 million songs. Guess how many songs you have access to on Qriocity? Exactly! Actually, less than that … but that isn’t a bad thing in and of itself since Sony’s music library spans genres and owns loads of indies and obscure releases as well as a ton of big names. I mean, Sony owns the former BMG, Columbia, Epic, and the list goes on and on and on. So there is loads of good music that could be included, representing the largest library ahead of Warner and Universal Music Groups.

As a quick example of the impact of library size: I wanted to listen to some Vijay Iyer. I looked on Qriocity, and they had a single album – his 2005 release Reimagining. Sony owns that record – and some earlier ones – so having it makes sense. Not having other Sony properties makes no sense though and a quick search MOG brought up ELEVEN (11) albums! Even Slacker Plus offered me access to FIVE albums for ‘on demand’ listening and there were 13 recordings available if I only wanted to stream the music rather than cache it locally. That is a single example of one artist and the anemic offerings on Qriocity. Problem is, in every case I checked Qriocity had only a small fraction of possible offerings. Content is King when it comes to this sort of service and Qriocity doesn’t even measure up to being a Pawn!

One final note on getting started – while there is a ‘trial’, signing up requires full credit card info or your PSN account info, and you will be auto-billed at the end of the trial. You get an email telling you when your billing cycle ends when you sign up, but no notice when that date approaches.

Mac Experience

Sony has traditionally done a very good job of making Mac owners feel ostracized.

From specifically not supporting standards on their imaging products to funky implementations on a variety of PDAs and computers and other consumer electronics equipment … if you are using a Mac, Sony hates you and makes sure you know it. Of course I am kidding, but only somewhat – bottom line is that Sony doesn’t make Mac stuff, period. There is no exception here.

Yes, Qriocity is no different. It will more or less function from within the browser in terms of account management, but I never managed successfully to get it to remember me and login automatically on a Mac… despite the fact that it worked fine using the same browser on the PC.

This is NOT a Mac product. Period.

PC Experience

It is a bit better on a PC. On the PC, once you have logged in your account you can download the PC Uploader. The Uploader allows you to make your music available anywhere you can access your Qriocity account. Of course, this is somewhat less useful in that you can only add music from a single PC (and not from a Mac), though you can stream from any other PC. If this is starting to sound like about a billion other services, that is because … well, it is.

But it is worse than the other services in that the sync only captures songs available on the Sony Music library. Oh, and it will only check songs in your iTunes library that are DRM-free. That means if you have older stuff purchased from the iTunes Music Store that you never ‘upgraded’ to DRM-free, Qriocity won’t even look at it – even if the tunes are FROM Sony Music Group! I checked, and out of nearly 20,000 songs on my large library Qriocity synced up just over 1300. Yay. NOT.

On a more positive note, from a PC you can also find and play music from the Sony library. I chose Lyle Mays debut solo recording as my test case since it is a solid recording, fit my mood at the time… and I knew it would highlight bit-noise and other playback issues that might arise.

On the PC everything worked perfectly well – the web client found music quickly, loaded up and played tracks, and so on. No complaints at all about the quality or streaming speed.

What I did find problematic was the constant message to upgrade – especially since, as shown below, the “trial” is offered as a full-on subscription to the ‘premium’ service.

PSP Experience
As far as the PSP is concerned, any app that launches is a ‘game’. In this case, it is a lousy game with long load times. Let’s be honest, controlling a mouse-like interface using the PSP analog stick is terrible. Add to that the virtual keyboard, laggy interface, mediocre playback quality, and generally unoptimized feel to the entire app and you have the makings for an awful experience.

But the worst parts for me were the long load time of the app and the poor audio quality. I was using the PSP Go and it took well over a minute to load the app, and longer before it was actually responsive and ready to play. Over the same WiFi connection shared by all of my devices, the PSP was tremendously slow to connect, search, and play music. And before you ask – since I have been using the PSP since launch and the PSN store since IT launched, I am well aware of the downloads being slower than a standard device. With Qriocity, it is even worse. The experience was, in a word, terrible.

iPhone Experience
Haha … made you look! Weren’t you paying attention during the Mac Experience part? There is no support for iOS and there never will never be. Yes, Sony doesn’t just hate Mac, Sony hates Apple products period.

Android Experience
Amazingly enough, the Android app was the best thing I encountered during the testing experience. In fact, it almost made me change my intro slightly (where I called Qriocity ‘dreck’) … but then I used the PSP client again and spent more time comparing the Android app to MOG, Rdio, mSpot and others. Ultimately I concluded that, even with the decent Android app Qriocity is DRECK.

The Android App is like a ‘best of PC’ in terms of the overall experience … with some minor hiccups. The initial launch is somewhat slow, about twice as long to get going as MOG. Similar to the PSP app, even when starting the app there is stuff that goes on that makes initial responsiveness laggy. Unlike the PSP experience though it is not long before you are in full control. There is a search icon to tap to find things, and your list of searches is maintained in case you want to go back to a previous search.

When you search and choose a resulting artist, the artist is displayed with an non-clickable album icon next to their name, with an ‘All Songs’ area below and then a listing of albums. It seems clean, but the non-clickableaspect is annoying. After all, these are TOUCHSCREEN DEVICES.  After choosing an album you might want to ‘play album’ as you do in pretty much every other service, but that isn’t an option. The album title and cover are displayed along with the number of songs and a ‘+’. If you click that you can add to your library, but that is all. To play, click one of the songs below and it will play sequentially from that song until the end of the album. You can also shuffle the whole album via an unnecessarily large icon and text.

The final issue I had with the Android app was that on more than one occasion I received a phone call while listening and after that I couldn’t get things to work right without task-killing and restarting. The playback would either stutter or not start at all … which is not a problem I have had with any other app.

Bottom line – for Qriocity the Android app comes out on top. For Android apps overall the Qriocity app is crapp.

The ‘Qriocity Radio’ Experience

I didn’t mention it, but there is actually $4.99 ‘radio only’ subscription – for that you can stream radio stations from the presets, and only featuring songs from Sony’s library. Personally I would rather endure ads on Slacker or Pandora … or pay the $3.99 for the basic ad-free version of THOSE services and get millions more songs for $1 less a month.

What you DON’T get

Most services tout their social elements on their front page, but not Sony. Why? They have none! Like a song? Great for you. Want to see who else likes that new artist? Too bad.

Let me be clear – Qriocity is at least 5 years behind the times.

Customization is meager, with a total inability to influence what is stuffed downn your throat on ‘Page 1’ of the mobile apps or at the top of the PC screen: these are the hits, the radio stations, and so on. In other words, stuff Sony is pushing.

The second page of mobile apps has access to your artists, playlists, etc, a bunch of your music, and ‘things you might like’. Again, pushing MY stuff to the back burner shows what this is all about – paying Sony to market their stuff.

If I needed further proof of Qriocity as Sony shill, I could just look at the ‘recommended for you’ section. In spite of my music library being at least 90% jazz and 75% abstract jazz, my ‘recommendations’ included easy listening ballads, Enrique, and Katy Perry. Yeah … right.


Streaming music services are everywhere these days – Spotify, MOG, Rdio, Slacker, Pandora, and on and on – and yet there isn’t really any one service that dominates as none of them have more than a million paying full price yet. It only makes sense that publishers would like a slice of that pie early on to establish a presence and gather a following – similar in a way to what EA Games has done with their Origin service to compete with Steam.

Qriocity represents everything that is wrong with that approach. It is Sony-only, yet priced the same as others with triple the library size. It completely lacks social tools and many of the other integrated features of other services and apps and is terribly stingy in music sync and other features.

Qriocity reminds me of the old AOL in a way … you have to give all of your payment info up front, and there is an obfuscated 7 step process to opt out of ‘auto renew’. While I would certainly not call it a scam, let’s just say that they have very intentionally arranged things to make it easy for them to collect your money and hard for you to NOT give it to them! That is in direct contrast to the much friendlier terms of other services.

It is a waste of money if you subscribe, and a waste of time to check it out. Don’t bother.

Where to Sign On:

Price: $9.99 / month

What I Like: Android App is solid; PC sound quality and web experience works well.

What Needs Improvement: No social features; doesn’t even have the entire Sony library; canceling subscription is intentionally hard; every app is worse than any other service; limited ability to import/sync music; annoying interface choices

Source: Personal trial (plus $9.99 for one month)

Categories: Music Diary, Reviews

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1 reply

  1. hey dont forget that while youre playing your selected genre that it will throw in random crap that you dont like. so lets say you are throwing a party for your friends and you have selected “metal” as your genre. every now and then at random intervals it will throw in soft, annoying, put you to sleep kind of music. try explaining that to your friends! ” hey guys sorry about ‘the ting tings’ popping up right after ozzy i didnt tell it to play that honest.
    thats a real crappy thing to do. it seems that your better off using the music channels on twc, at least they stick to the proper genre for the most part. in my opinion there are better free alternatives than Qriocity out there. dont waste your money