Adding songs from one of Sony’s playlists to your own collection is simplicity itself, meanwhile; all it takes is a couple of logical button presses while a song is playing ‘live’ and you can then access that song again at will from any of your Music Unlimited-compatible devices.
We did find one extremely irritating shortcoming about the current OS, though, namely that you can't scroll along the premium playlists. So, for instance, if you choose the Indie Rock and Alternative Top 100 premium channel, it starts playing the number 1 track, shows you the artwork for the next track, but won't let you just skip the track that's playing to get to the second - or subsequent - tracks. This is presumably to maintain the seamlessness of the experience, rather than throw up buffering delays, but it really reduces the sense of freedom that's so essential to music browser platforms. And it’s obviously a bit of a bummer for whatever poor band is occupying slot 100 on the chart...
Once you've listened to a track on a premium ‘channel’ right the way through, it gets added to a 'played' list that you can then scroll back through. But ‘forward shifting’ really needs to be supported as well.
If you’re using your personal library rather than Sony’s Premium Channels for your listening, you’ll find that your content is organised according to playlists, albums, or artists, plus there’s a ‘shuffle all songs’ option too.
Arguably, the biggest single strength of Music Unlimited is the quality of its sound. We’re not entirely sure what level of compression is being applied to the songs the system distributes, but our feeling is that it’s precious little, for songs appear on a Bravia TV’s speakers or even an attached amp/speaker system to be impressively dynamic, clean and pure.
The basic idea of Music Unlimited is sound. After all, the ability to easily share all of our content across all of our devices, including our TVs, is one of the holy grails of the new AV world. Its execution is bold too, and the scale of its ambition startling. However, Music Unlimited also suffers with a few significant problems.
First, there’s the simple fact that Sony is trying to create a new music platform - again! - when rival platforms are already established and widely used. We suspect that for many of you, a Spotify Premium or iTunes app would have been a much more appreciated addition to the Bravia Internet Video TV online platform.
Music Unlimited does, of course, get mileage from the notion that it provides a well-designed, user-friendly portal to your own and third party music via a TV rather than a computer. But the fact that it’s coming so late to the music server table still makes us think that most people who adopt it will be relatively PC-illiterate people who haven’t already got a music collection established on their computers. We’re certainly not convinced it will persuade many people to spend £9.99 a month to ‘migrate’ from their current music platforms, despite all of its presentational bangs and whistles.
Still, we concede that it is at least possible that the market for people not previously into music on their computers is quite large. Even if it isn’t, that shouldn’t reduce Sony’s achievement in working so hard to satisfy this technologically.
Perhaps the biggest problem we have with Music Unlimited as it currently stands, is that with its lack of Mac support, inability to skip forward through Channel tracks, and potential for not importing all the tracks in your PC library, the Unlimited part of its name seems rather inappropriate...