Sony Music Unlimited review

A promising service from Sony, let down by its offline playback quality Tested at £5

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A promising service from Sony, let down by its offline playback quality


  • +

    Exciting, detailed 320kbps sound

  • +

    Easy-to-use apps


  • -

    48kbps offline playback

  • -

    No iPad-specific app

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Unless you’ve owned a Sony electronics product in the past few years, it may have passed you by that they offer their own music-streaming subscription service – with an impressive catalogue of 22 million songs.

If you are a Sony user, however, you will know all about it: the app is pre-installed on most Sony devices, plus available on wider Android and iOS phones and tablets too.

And as it turns out, it’s well worth a look.


Last year, Sony finally brought all compatible devices into line in terms of functionality and playback quality – making it a truly competitive service where it had previously struggled.

Now, no matter what device you’re using, premium user playback will top out at 320kbps and offline listening is available across the board – though it’s worth noting that this does dip to a rather dire 48kbps.

The app is nicely thought-out and easy to use across platforms, though Apple iPad users are once again left out, with no tablet-specific app at the moment.

Menus are well signposted. A left-hand column allows you navigate around them quickly and easily: whether you’re dipping into a genre; era or mood-inspired channel or making your own playlist around an artist; checking up on chart favourites; or finding new releases and artist suggestions on the homepage.

Of course, you can always just search for what you fancy, though our test did show some surprising gaps considering Sony’s quoted catalogue numbers.

Social aspects fall behind the leaders of Spotify, Deezer and Rdio though, with only the ability to share tracks on Twitter or Facebook manually, but no way to discover music your friends are listening to.

Platforms + Apps

Sony’s app is pre-installed on a whole host of Sony kit, including all Xperia phones and tablets, Bravia TVs, Sony Walkmans, Blu-ray players and PlayStation devices.

There’s a web app for laptop use. It’s currently only available across Android and iOS devices, and an iPad-optimised app is sadly absent at the moment too.


And then comes the major problem with the quality on offer. On the one hand, its 320kbps high-quality streams are among our favourite sounding on test, with impressive detail levels, precise note formation and a warm and exciting character.

On the other hand sits its 48kbps offline playback: noticeably worse, with basslines undefined and fuzzy, dynamics squashed and an overall soft, unrefined character.

If offline playback is something you’ll be doing frequently, you won’t want to spend your money here.


Sony’s service is far from the bloatware that it could be mistaken for when found pre-loaded on to devices, offering a largely easy-to-use experience and one of the best-sounding services out there.

Its catalogue gaps do let it down though, and we can’t let that terrible offline playback bitrate slide either.

These need addressing if Music Unlimited is going to challenge the industry more than just through its pre-instalment in Sony kit.

Tech specs:

Catalogue: 22 million

Bitrate: up to 320kbps

File format: AAC

Countries: 19

Mobile platforms: Android, iOS

Desktop app: No

Tablet optimised: Android

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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