Tag Archives: xbox music

Hand on with Xbox Music

Microsoft has recently launched Windows 8, Xbox Music (service and apps) and SmartGlass (app on Android/iOS/Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8). The Xbox software has also been updated. But how well do these building blocks work together to enable care free music playing in one or multiple rooms? To my help i have two Xboxes connected to receivers, a Windows 8 PC and a Samsung Galaxy S3 Android phone.

Register a Xbox Music account

I have a computer with windows 8 that i login on with my windows live account.
Press Music on the Windows 8 start screen to go to Xbox Music app. Once there, press the “Try Xbox Music pass” button and register your preferred account type. USA, UK and some more countries has a free streaming option besides the paid subscriptions.

Xbox Music start

Windows 8

The Windows 8 app has a fresh GUI and it is easy to browse genres for new music (bump Spotify). There is also a search artist function with auto complete. When you click on an artist, a random song start to play and you then have to click on that song and then scroll far to the right in order to see all albums for that artist. I wold prefer if the albums where shown directly. Anyway, connect your PC to a receiver and you will have a great audio experience.

Xbox Music search


Start Xbox and sign in to live (a gold subscription is required). I use the same live account on both Windows 8 and Xbox, which enables Xbox to map my Music pass automatically. On the dashboard, go to the music main menu and then press Xbox Music. The app loads and you are ready to play music, which is pretty straight forward using the Xbox controller.
Xbox Dashboard


Launch SmartGlass on your phone, login and then select Xbox music to get to the Xbox music start screen. I use a Galaxy S3.

If a song is playing, it shows directly on the Xbox SmartGlass home screen.
SmartGlass dashboard start

From a music playing perspective, SmartGlass does not compare well with controller apps for Sonos and Squeezebox. The GUI lacks logical trails and you can for instance tap a album and list its content without the ability to play the songs in it.
SmartGlass list album

The easiest way is probably to define playlists in Windows 8 and then consume them on the Xbox. The SmartGlass app does not work well for music browsing at this point.

The now playing mode does not show album art and is designed to work together with the LCD screen.
SmartGlass Controller


When i login to my second Xbox i immediately get logged out of the first Xbox thus eliminating any possibility of remoting more than one zone at a time. To switch zone you have to go and physically login on that Xbox/zone and then start to remote it. SmartGlass cant remote windows 8 so it is impossible to control Xbox Music on the computer remotely (No, remote desktop is not qualified in this setting..). So a true multi-room setup, like Sonos, is impossible.


Xbox Music has a good music catalog and works great as long as you do not want more than to play music through the Windows 8 app or on a single Xbox. A true multi-room setup is unfortunately impossible at this time.The SmartGlass app could be more logically built, just start the Sonos controller and compare, ouch. Granted, SmartGlass can do so much more than to just play music but that should not stop a more logical gui on the music section. A audio level control would be nice to have also.

Early look of Xbox Music, including pricing

Pictures of the coming update to the Xbox Dashboard reveals many interesting things. Synchronized playlists will be stored in the Cloud. The service will offer a free 14 day trial period. The paid subscriptions can be paid per month (£8.99, probably $8.99 in the USA), or per year (£89.90, probably $89.90 in the USA). A subscription gives unlimited access to 30 millions of tracks, to stream and also download to the Microsoft platforms: Xbox, Windows PC, and Windows Phone. The system’s UI follows the looks of Windows Metro style. The on screen keyboard is navigable from a Xbox controller, which often is a rather painful experience compared to a keyboard. The launch will probably be around the Windows 8 launch next month.

Some key requirements that would help Xbox Music to be a success:

  • Streaming to multiple zones at the same time.
  • Controller apps for iPhone and Android.
  • Full player apps on iPhone and Android in order to compete with Spotify.

New Multi-room contenders

The interest in smart music solutions is huge, wetter it be as part of a home automation system, a stand-alone wireless multi-room system or simply be able to stream from your phone to a set of speakers.

The mainstream market leaders, Sonos, Logitech Squeezebox and Apple AirPlay seems relatively unthreatened at the moment. But new solutions are constantly being planed and developed. So lets have a look at some of the new contenders.

Xbox Music and SmartGlass

When Windows 8 launches this autumn, Microsoft is also launching their renamed Music service (Previously Zune) and their new media sharing solution, SmartGlass. If you have an Xbox Music subscription (and Live gold for Xbox) you will be able to play that music across the Microsoft board (Windows 8, Xbox and Windows Phone 8). You probably cant play it on Android and iOS devices even though they can be used as remotes for playing the music on a Xbox. Xbox ability as a dedicated music zone player could be disputed on grouds like high noice (non slim versions) and high energy consumption. But IF the remoting and zone handling would be implemented nicely, they could have a chance.

Samsung Music Hub

Samsung launched Music Hub at the same time as their new flag ship phone, Galaxy S III. It has a big online catalog of music that can be streamed and a matching service for music already owned. So both a Spotify and iTunes match contender. But only supported by Samsung Galaxy S III for now. Samsung plans to incorporate Music Hub in their TVs, fridges, phones and so on. From a multi-room perspective, they need to implement a proper zone player that can be connected to existing setups or stand-alone. Playing music through fridges and TVs just don’t cut it in the long run, though fun complements.

Google Music

There has been reports that Google is working on devices for streaming media, including audio. They would presumably, connect to their already existing music streaming service, Google Music and have an open platform for others to contribute to.

Sony Music Unlimited and HomeShare

Music Unlimited is a subscription service (as Xbox Music, Spotify, Music Hub) that lets users stream music and also upload/match owned music a.la iTunes match. It is supported by a broad range of Sony products like phones, playstation and blu-ray players. They also have a new iPhone app. The downside of Sonys broad offering is that it lacks clarity, from a multi-room perspective.