iHeartRadio review

iHeartRadio combines live radio and curated stations in a single, intriguing streaming music service.
Photo of iHeartRadio

The streaming music space is incredibly competitive. Not only are there many services that deliver quality audio, but the companies will do whatever it takes to win over your ear. Veteran services like Pandora and Slacker thrive on customization, while newcomers like Songza and Turntable dare to be different by offering intriguing discovery gimmicks that the big boys lack. Clear Channel’s free iHeartRadio combines Pandora and Slacker’s station customization with SiriusXM’s live radio, and sprinkles it with Songza’s unique mood-centric collections. In short, iHeartRadio tries to be a music site that appeals to all listeners and, for the most part, it succeeds. This devotion to both user types, however, may be the cause to the busy, ad-laden interface.

It’s Live Radio
You can opt to log in by creating an account or using your Facebook credentials. The iHeartRadio homepage prominently displays the featured live radio station in the upper part of the page, with Top Stations Near You (Hot 97, Z100), iHeartRadio Originals (Chamber Music, Baroque Masters), and Featured Artists (stations based on the likes of Alicia Keys, Green Day, and others) located just south of that. The My Music section displays the last handful of stations that you’ve tuned into. Live Radio station, unfortunately, don’t display artist names, or give you the option to view artist biographies, or lyrics. You also can’t make music purchases.

That said, if you love live radio, you’ll dig what iHeartRadio offers. Clicking a live radio station (there are over 1,500 total), such as 103.5 KTU “The Beat of New York,” opens a station page that links to station’s official website, and displays the genre, location, latest tweet, and the on-air host’s name. Unlike Sirius XM satellite radio, iHeartRadio lacks the ability to pause or rewind live radio. A scan button causes the service to search for other related stations, but it doesn’t change the station information until you clock the station icon in the upper-right corner.

It’s Curated Music
Clicking the “Create Station” icon lets music fans either key an artist’s name into the search box or select one of the featured artists to create a commercial-free station. There are 16 genre stations, over 400,000 artists, and 15 millions songs in the iHeartRadio catalog. Curated stations, unlike the live radio offerings, display lyrics and artist bios, and let you purchase songs from either Amazon MP3 or iTunes. You can’t, however, create playlists.

You can also whip up your own station by clicking the “Perfect For” tab, which will make suggestions based on your mood. There are lots of categories including “Impressing a Coworker,” “Drama Club Warmup,” and “Engineers.” I selected “A Midday Slump” in hopes of getting a pick-me-up. iHeartRadio presented four station categories: “Jolt of Energy,” “Afternoon Dance-Off,” “Caffeine Dreams,” and “Power Nap.” Each of those station categories contained four custom stations of their own. I went with “Increase Your Activity Rock,” which featured uptempo tracks by Jack White, Anthrax, The Offspring, and other grinders.

Like Slacker, you can upvote songs to have them play more frequently, or downvote them so that you won’t hear them. The Discovery Tuner, located to the far left of the music playback bar, lets you adjust the related artists (from “Familiar” to “Less familiar.”) I like that this is easily accessible—Slacker demands that you deep-dive into its options menu to do the same.

Will You Heart iHeartRadio?
If you like both live radio and curated stations, yes. iHeartRadio manages to capture the radio’s spontaneity (complete with ads and annoying DJs), while giving users options to create commercial-free custom stations. Still, those who prefer to hear strictly live radio or just there custom stations will find many other dedicated options on the Web.

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Specifications
Type Personal
Free Yes

Verdict
iHeartRadio combines live radio and curated stations in a single, intriguing streaming music service.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc