Radical.FM review: Has potential, but not ready for prime time

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2.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Radical.FM lets you listen to streaming music by genre, mix genres together, and create 30-song playlists with songs you pick.

The Bad Some interface elements are slow to load or missing. The process for creating playlists is unclear. The app crashes randomly.

The Bottom Line Radical.FM is good for streaming radio, but suffers from low server capacity and user interface issues, making it hard to recommend at this point.

Free

5.7 Overall
  • Installation and Setup 7.0
  • Features and Support 7.0
  • Interface 4.0
  • Performance 5.0

Radical.FM is a free streaming-music app in the vein of Pandora and Spotify that gives you more control over your playlists than those apps, but interface problems and slow-to-react buttons and menus need work before it's ready for prime time.

Most of us have used streaming-audio apps in the past, whether live-radio apps like TuneIn or streaming-music mix makers like Pandora. But with such a crowded landscape for streaming audio, the only way for a new player to break in is by being clearly different.

Radical.FM seems like it has that kind of potential, but at this point, the confusing user interface and other bugs make it an app that probably needs more development time. Some things work well, such as streaming a Radical.FM-made station, but the other features that differentiate it from popular streaming-audio apps still need some work.

Pick your genre and listen
When you first launch the app you'll be asked to register with the service or sign in using your Facebook account. From there, you can start by creating your first station. Just touch the button to add a new station, then pick from a number of standard genres. When you're finished you'll be asked to name your station, then Radical.FM will gather music from each of the genres selected and start playing the first song.

The app displays the album art from all the artists in a kind of mosaic, with the currently playing artist sitting in front, and it looks great, but (as I'll discuss later) it's often slow to load. You also have a button in the upper right that lets you switch to a list view so you can look at all the songs that will play. At the bottom a Tune Station button brings up sliders you can use to regulate how much music from each genre will play in your station.

Just like Pandora, with Radical.FM you can approve songs so as to get more music in your mixes that's similar. If you don't like a song or artist you can block either just the song or all the songs by that artist. If you later change your mind, you can tap the button in the upper left to open up the main menu again, and scroll down to the Unblock Music option. Here you can put specific songs back into circulation.

Create custom playlists, if you can figure it out
While you can't choose a song directly like you can on the desktop version of Spotify, what sets Radical.FM apart from other streaming-audio apps (without a subscription) is the ability to choose songs directly to make playlists. Unfortunately, it's a confusing process. You start by creating a custom genre and giving it a name. From there, you're sent to a blank search screen to search for bands or specific songs. I started by adding seven songs I liked from the classic rock genre and touched the Done button. Doing this brought up my chosen songs in a list, but it would only play snippets of each with a Buy button next to the title via which I could buy the song from Amazon.

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