First Look At JB Hi-Fi Now Streaming Music

Four months after it was announced, JB Hi-Fi Now, the music retailer's online subscription streaming service, went live today and is offering a free one-month trial for anyone in Australia. Just how usable is it? Here are our initial impressions.

While the service will eventually cost money ($25 for 3 months, $50 for 6 months or $80 for a year), initially JB Hi-Fi is offering it as a free one-month trial. It doesn't collect credit details when you sign up -- just an Australian mobile number, a basic measure to ensure you're not from overseas -- so there's no risk in giving it a try.

JB Hi-Fi says the service offers "millions" of tracks from more than 100,000 artists. The Discover option lets you find new music. First you have to select a genre. Surprise #1: there's an "electronic" option but not "dance", which I'd have thought was a fairly obvious choice.

Once you choose a genre, you can select a sub-genre from a list which includes both types and individual artists. A track list appears at the left and you can pick individual tracks to play immediately or queue. As you add new tracks, artists and albums are added to your player, which remains permanently visible at the bottom of the screen, and includes shuffle, loop and cross-fade options.

The What's Hot section highlights new releases, chart music and JB recommendations.

You can also search for individual artists. The auto-suggest seems a little over-enthusiastic at times, but results come back quickly, and it coped with most of the odd artists I threw at it.

You can build your own mixtapes by searching and adding tracks. There's a one-click icon to add current songs to the mix, though this is hidden under the settings icon; it would make more sense to place it within the player.

Aside from that whine, not everything in the interface is well thought out. The permanent on-screen player means the scrollbars don't integrate very well. Tracks from compilations also pose problems, with artists being misidentified in some instances. And there's the perennial issue for every online music service: songs uploaded with typos and spelling errors.

In many ways, the real test of Now will be when the mobile apps appear in early 2012; after all, music on the go is just as important as music at your PC, where setting up a YouTube playlist is a fairly trivial exercise. There's also an obvious omission in the form of Facebook or Twitter integration; it would be handy to share your favourites and mixtapes with others. As a physical music fetishist, I'm not quite convinced I'd pay $80 a year for this, but if the interface is smoothed out a little, it could become tempting.

How have you found Now so far? Share your thoughts in the comments.


    Just looking at the screenshots, that interface looks a lot like Zune.

    Which is only a good thing, IMHO ^__^

    I'll wait for the Android app.. it's the only thing that streaming music has going for it, for me.

    if someone was from overseas why the hell would they even think about using this?

      it's more likely a licensing condition the record companies made JB HI FI sign and they now have to enforce it..

    With grooveshark, I get free music streaming anywhey, and the songs I cant get on that I find on youtube. unless i get a digital copy of the song, its not my cup of tea.

    I signed upto the trial and searched for about 10 punk/metal bands and no response.... I'm not talking about obscure stuff... Parkway Drive, Amity Affliction, Frenzal Rhomb etc.

    Heaps waste for me

      But how much does the songwriter get? They should have a section where they clearly explain this, for those that want to know. Interestingly there is hardly any Australian music at all, from what I checked. Radio Birdman are not even on there from what I can see?....Sure it might come later but it should come first! Unlike Australia, many other nations protect their own, with minimum quotas for their own nation's artistic talent...Australia, you've done it again!

    You might want to add a link to the actual site...

    I like it, but it is a free trial. Has the mainstream stuff I searched for. Some tracks don't play at the same volume. I didn't want to get blasted by The Baby Animals while wearing headphones.

    The interface seems alright, but the range of music available is pretty poor. To test it out, I put my MP3 player on shuffle, and for the first 10 songs that came up, I checked whether I could find the artist (not even the specific song, just the artist) on NOW. Two out of ten.

      Quick question... I'm not too technologically savy and I'm just wondering how to put music from NOW onto my MP3? I would only find this site useful if I can use the music on my MP3 whilst running, driving, etc.

      Max... how on earth did you manage to put a couple of songs onto your MP3? Please share...


    What kind of DRM are they using and do they sell non-DRM stuff?

      oh it is streaming only? my bad..

      can't play offline? no thanks..

    Even in a "quick look" of a music streaming site, I would expect there would be discussion of sound quality / bitrates. Am I missing something here, or is this not important to anyone?

    any idea's on how my download data is used? what is the bit rate?

    "And there’s the perennial issue for every online music service: songs uploaded with typos and spelling errors."... this a problem with 90% of online music stores, they all get the data from gracenote, which is the biggest in the world, but is also very inaccurate in some areas. Production for rap music is 90% incorrect!ouch!

    I've been using this service for a few days now. It's no "Spotify" but it is a good start in the right direction for Austrailan consumers. From a technical perspective there are some very irritating issues/limitations with the service, including:

    1) When I signed up they required me to enter an authorisation number which was supplied via SMS. This SMS arrived nearly 2-3 hours later (well after I had closed the window)

    2) I move between my Laptop & home PC. The system automatically logs me out when I login on another computer, which is frustrating to say the least. As a bare minimum I would like to have my browser capture the password so I don't have to type my login details each time. Unfortunately Chrome doesn't prompt me to save the password.

    3) The "My Music" feature is limited. Spotify got it right, you can "favourite" your selection of tracks and come back to listen to them at any time. Instead JBHIFI now opts for a "Queue" system where all of your songs are queued as the default action. Meaning if I want to listen to 1 album on loop I can't.

    4) I can't favourite entire albums!

    5) Sometimes I don't like to listen to music on my tinny little laptop speakers. I would like the portability to play music on my iPad or iPhone through a native app (or alteast through the web). Unfortunately the website on iOS devices if flaky and there's no sign of a native app in the app store.

    6) I wanted to share a song on Facebook. Although the service asks for my Facebook login details it didn't provide me any way to share / comment on streaming tracks!

    That's my 2 cents -- Definitely worth the freebie month but will not be paying for the service until these fundamental issues are addressed.

      I guess you realize that the site is still technically in Beta, and I sure hope you forwarded these suggestions to the JB HiFi NOW team. :P :D

    Downloaded the iOS app that looks like its out of beta and also got an annual subscription for $20 (thanks eBay!)
    Been listening on the train to work. Sound quality is good enough. Songs are still skipping but rarely. I'm on Telstra so I was hoping it wouldn't skip at all. Ive already used 90mb download since I last checked but i also read all my news whilst on the train. It would be nice to have the app track your download usage while streaming. I've tried offline syncing but the app keeps crashing. Might have to send an email to support once I find it. Hopefully they keep improving and adding more artists! For $20 it's worthy of a trial run for a year.

    Been playing with the iPhone app for a week now using the month trial and while it's great to have mobile streaming in Australia, it is still very clunky and not a patch on the experience in Spotify Premium which fairly closely replicates iPod music features. The adding to queue feature/favourites are annoying when all you want to do is just play or retrieve an album. Advantage is that Australian bands are featured more heavily, but it's just not user friendly - I'm not convinced yet to switch from 10 pounds a month ($15) to $7 a month with JB Hifi until they provide a smoother experience. And yes, bit rate quality is lower too, but in a car or out and about it's hard to detect too much difference unless you're swanning around in a $900 headset courtesy of Dr Dre.

    i find it too difficult to use. Want to play something and it keeps going to a queue. Want to delete stuff from the queue and cant. maybe put directions how to do it on U tube??

    It isn't very good. I've tried it. 30 mins and still couldn't figure my way around the site... Waste of time

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