RealOne MusicPass review:

RealOne MusicPass

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Integrated into the new RealOne Player; inexpensive way to discover new music; includes advanced search options; lets you save favorite songs that would otherwise expire.

The Bad No way to burn music onto CDs or transfer it to a portable player; downloaded songs expire in 30 days unless you use additional credits; no Macintosh version; limited music selection; plays songs only on a single computer.

The Bottom Line We liked RealOne MusicPass when it debuted, but it pales with a bit of competition. No way to burn songs to CD? No way to transfer to portable players? No way. Get eMusic instead.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall
(Updated 6/26/02)

Editors' note:
RealOne Music has changed its name to RealOne MusicPass, but its features currently remain the same. We have updated our reviews to reflect the name change.


Having a hard time finding free music downloads? If the RIAA has its way with Napster and its ilk, you're out of luck. For better or for worse, Real now offers a for-pay alternative. For a monthly subscription fee (starting at $9.95), you can download up to 100 songs per month from the service, called RealOne MusicPass, and you can stream 100 more. But RealOne MusicPass, bundled with the RealOne Player, needs a features upgrade--and fast. It was one of the first for-pay music services online, and it's already showing its age. We love the commercial-free radio stations, but we don't appreciate downloads that can't be burned to CD or transferred to a portable player. (Updated 6/26/02)

Editors' note:
RealOne Music has changed its name to RealOne MusicPass, but its features currently remain the same. We have updated our reviews to reflect the name change.


Having a hard time finding free music downloads? If the RIAA has its way with Napster and its ilk, you're out of luck. For better or for worse, Real now offers a for-pay alternative. For a monthly subscription fee (starting at $9.95), you can download up to 100 songs per month from the service, called RealOne MusicPass, and you can stream 100 more. But RealOne MusicPass, bundled with the RealOne Player, needs a features upgrade--and fast. It was one of the first for-pay music services online, and it's already showing its age. We love the commercial-free radio stations, but we don't appreciate downloads that can't be burned to CD or transferred to a portable player.

Real but not RealNetworks
RealOne MusicPass, despite its name, is not RealNetworks' invention. Instead, Real licensed the services (including tunes from BMG, EMI, Warner, and Zomba) of MusicNet, repackaged them, and included them as a paid service with the RealOne Player (which is a hybrid video player, jukebox, online radio tuner, disc burner, and Web browser). Real sells the RealOne MusicPass package separately from RealOne's other premium content. As of this writing, it boasts of having 75,000 songs in its catalog, which puts it about equal with Pressplay but way behind eMusic and Rhapsody. Sorry, Mac users, there's still no version for you.

The business of music
To get RealOne MusicPass, you must download the RealOne Player and sign up for a subscription plan. RealOne offers a $9.95-per-month package that includes music only--no premium video content. If you buy this option, you can download 100 songs per month and stream another 100--that is, listen to them over the Net without storing them on your hard drive. Unfortunately, you can stream a song only once. To hear it again, you have to either download it or use up another streaming credit. You also get unlimited use of RealOne's library of 48 commercial-free radio stations, an equalizer, and visualizations.

For the multimedia buff, RealOne's Gold Membership ($19.95 per month) offers access to all of RealNetworks' premium content, including news and television streams, as well as 125 music downloads and 125 streams per month. To see your membership status for either plan, look at the gold box on the right side of the main screen. There, you'll see a nicely organized list showing the number of song downloads, live streams, and days remaining in your current payment period.

Mostly golden oldies
To compare the quality and depth of RealOne MusicPass's catalog with other similar services, we searched for a list of 14 popular and obscure artists. RealOne MusicPass returned songs from three of the artists, which was par for the course; Pressplay won with five, while BurnItFirst, offering a limited selection of Christian music, scored a perfect goose egg. Like Pressplay and Music Now, RealOne MusicPass rarely offered all of the songs on a given album. Still, we often couldn't find new content. For example, as of this writing, RealOne MusicPass offered 80 solo songs by Tom Waits, but all were from older records--the newest of the seven was 1980's "Heartattack and Vine."

Search, and ye shall find (sometimes)
RealOne lets you browse for artists alphabetically or by genre. You can also search using an artist's name or, in the advanced search, by keyword, artist, album, or track. We liked these search options, especially when compared to Pressplay's clunky, too-specific browsing. However, RealOne MusicPass doesn't offer suggestions if you misspell a name, nor does it offer alternate artists within the same genre, as Pressplay and Music Now do.

One of our favorite features: RealOne MusicPass offers Essential Collections--compilations from RealOne MusicPass editors--that you can download with only a few clicks. That's about it for human contact, though. RealOne MusicPass doesn't offer community tools, such as message boards, as Pressplay does, which makes it feel sterile.

Semipermanent art
As a RealOne MusicPass member, you can either listen to streaming music or download your favorites. Streaming content plays at up to 64Kbps, depending on your modem speed. That's not quite CD quality but better than Pressplay's 20Kbps and 32Kbps. While a song plays, the cover art typically loads in the top left of the player, with related information and links displaying to the right--nice touches.

Downloaded songs--preferable to streamed tunes because you can listen to them multiple times--appear in the player's Library, accessible via a button at the bottom edge of the player. You can use the Library to search and display all the files on your hard drive or to create playlists. Downloads expire after 30 days, but you can prevent this for favorite songs by right-clicking them in the Library and selecting Keep Active. You won't lose the song, but it will take one of your monthly download credits for every month you hang onto the file. That's far too complicated. We prefer eMusic and BurnItFirst's policy of letting you keep your downloads for good.

Tied to your PC
Our biggest peeve with RealOne MusicPass: you can't listen to your songs anywhere except at your PC. Songs download in the RealMedia format, and they're protected so that you can't copy them to portable music players or burn them to a CD. EMusic, with no copy protections, lets you do anything you like with your downloads, and BurnItFirst allows limited burning. Pressplay allows CD copying, but members can make only compilation discs.

RealOne MusicPass is a fairly inexpensive way to load your PC with tunes, all within a simple, easy-to-search interface. Its song restrictions made us want to tune out, though. We can't see spending the money on it until Real realizes that listeners don't want to be tied to their computers to enjoy music.

Take me back to the roundup!

RealOne MusicPass's straightforward interface features a visualizer, cover art and album information, the RealOne MusicPass home page, and a handy window (at right) that shows account information.

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