Streaming music is not only the most convenient and popular way to listen to music, but it may also sound fantastic. Particularly with the expanding number of services that offer lossless and spatial Dolby Atmos audio. But, with so many music services to pick from, how are you supposed to make a decision?
If you're looking for a new service — perhaps inspired by Joe Rogan vs. Neil Young, for example — you should think about things like monthly pricing and compatibility. Though prices have remained more consistent than with live TV streaming, with most services costing $10 per month, there have been some significant changes recently, particularly because most now include lossless audio at no additional cost. The majority of the services include music libraries with over 60 million songs that you can stream from your phone, computer, or other devices, while each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
To examine how each platform stands up for your monthly buck, I looked at the big names like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music, as well as lesser challengers like Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, and Pandora Premium. It's worth noting that I purposely left out services like Pandora, Rdio, and Napster UnRadio in this roundup because they only play music in a radio format and don't let you choose your own songs. Streaming should be about having options, which include the ability to listen to entire albums at once.
So, which music streaming services offer the best value for money, as well as the finest sound quality and collection size? Continue reading for an in-depth look at each service, as well as a feature comparison and a complete price breakdown in the chart at the bottom of the page. This list will be updated on a regular basis. And, if you're looking for a quick summary, these are the top three.
Best music streaming service overall
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- The free edition has a lot of features.
- Spotify Connect makes it simple to connect to wireless speakers and home theatre receivers.
- It's simple to create and sync your own playlists for offline listening.
Allows you to follow musicians and receive notifications when they release new music.
- music or announcing an upcoming performance
- Podcasts are now included.
- Advertisements in free services might be annoying.
- You can't listen to specific songs in the free tier; instead, you'll get a mix based on the music you've requested.
- There isn't a risk-free option.
- Podcasts have begun to take precedence over music in terms of popularity.
Best for: Anyone looking for a quality all-around service, especially those who enjoy creating, browsing, and sharing playlists for any occasion.
Spotify is a music streaming pioneer and possibly the most well-known service. It offers a variety of curated music discovery services, such as its Discover Weekly playlist, and is always adding new ones, such as Stations. It's also increased its non-music material, with a focus on podcasts, prompting folk-rock legend Neil Young to depart the service. Young told Spotify that "it's either me or Joe Rogan," referring to the podcast host's tolerance for COVID-19 vaccination disinformation, and the firm selected Rogan.
When it comes to choosing a service, Spotify Premium and Apple Music are neck-and-neck, but Spotify emerges victorious as the best music streaming service overall. This is due to a friendly, user-friendly interface, a large inventory, and the finest device compatibility. Spotify also has the finest free tier: you can stream Spotify Connect to many Wi-Fi devices without paying a dollar or giving credit card information.
Spotify has previously stated that a new HiFi (lossless) tier would be available by the end of 2021, but no further information has been released. Meanwhile, competitors such as Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Tidal have begun to provide lossless or even Dolby Atmos music for free. In addition, Spotify raised pricing on a number of plans in 2021, despite the fact that the base price in the US remains at $10 per month.
Best music streaming service alternative to Spotify
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- For $10 a month, you get spatial and high-resolution music.
- Combines your iTunes library with music you don't own and gives you the option of using different music lockers.
- Human music experts and algorithms work together to find the music you'll enjoy based on what you're listening to.
- With Siri on Apple HomePod or other Apple devices, you can manage what you hear and search for new music.
- The Android app and experience aren't quite as enjoyable as the iOS version.
- It isn't compatible with older iPods (except the iPod Touch)
Best for: Those who are engrossed in the Apple universe, or who just want to get the most bang for their dollars.
In terms of subscriptions, Apple Music is behind Spotify, although it outperforms Spotify in a few important areas. It has a user-friendly design, over 90 million music, and iOS and Android compatibility. Yes, it has free spatial audio albums, but these 1,000 tracks pale in comparison to the rest of the repertoire.
If you've invested extensively in the Apple ecosystem, it's no surprise that Apple Music is the finest option. It is the default subscription service for summoning music with your voice if you own an Apple HomePod or Mini. Apple Music is also a great match for an iPod Touch, which is still around after 20 years. There are also a lot of curated playlists, many of which have been handcrafted by musicians and tastemakers, although it lacks Spotify's powerful sharing capabilities.
Apple Music is the only one of our top three services that offer a digital locker where you may store your own music library; YouTube Music, which is listed below, is the other music locker option. You can upload your music for free with a Music subscription, but it will be DRM-protected; or you can pay $25, £22, or AU$35 a year for iTunes Match, which will allow you to download it again even if you don't have a Music subscription.
Best music streaming service for audiophiles
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- The app is very simple and enjoyable to use.
- The ability to listen to 24-bit music without the use of a specific decoder.
- One of the more cost-effective high-resolution services
- It also has a download store.
- There could be some discrepancies in the catalog.
- There is no spatial audio.
Best for: Audiophiles looking for high-resolution music at a reasonable price, as well as the possibility to purchase and download albums.
Qobuz also has high-resolution audio streams, and unlike Tidal, you don't require an MQA decoder to listen to them. On an Android phone or a high-end music system, they sound fantastic. It doesn't have Dolby Atmos music, but the existing collection of songs available on other providers isn't that amazing.
The hi-res Studio Premier ($13 monthly/$130 yearly) and the $180 annual Sublime Plus are the two plans available. The service is unique in that it has its own high-resolution download store, and if you join up for the second plan, you will receive a discount on purchases.
Qobuz's streaming catalog matches Tidal and Spotify in size, with 70 million tracks, yet it may lack the most obscure artists. Qobuz favors high-resolution recordings, thus it's best for jazz and classical music fans, while it also has a good rock collection. Qobuz is our preferred service for hardcore music fans because it's cheaper than Tidal and doesn't require a dedicated DAC to listen in 24-bit/192Hz.
Best for compensating artist's music streaming service
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- Dolby Atmos surround mixes and high-fidelity music streams
- There's a lot of video stuff, including live streams of concerts.
- Every page features profiles and album reviews, as well as spotlights on up-and-coming artists.
- It has a free tier and a high tier that pays out to fans of certain artists.
- The web player and smartphone apps aren't as user-friendly as some others.
- The library isn't as large as Spotify Premium.
- The majority of high-resolution music employs MQA, which necessitates the usage of a specialist decoder.
Best for Music-obsessed purists who value sound quality and the discovery of new, up-and-coming musicians.
Tidal, which is now partly owned by Jack Dorsey's Block, has lately made some significant modifications, including the addition of a free tier named, fittingly, Tidal Free. The $10 Tidal HiFi plan, which features lossless playback, and the premium $20 Tidal HiFi Plus tier are also available.
While Tidal HiFi Plus is the most expensive of the services, it now has another strong reason for that. It now includes hi-res and Dolby Atmos mixes. Tidal's key selling point has always been that its higher subscription fee equates to bigger artist royalties. Musicians who aren't at the top of the pop charts, in particular. As part of this idea, the service will now give your top streamed artist a 10% cut of your monthly subscription price (determined after each month). Even if you simply listen to one song for the entire month, the full $2 will be donated to them. Forget about fractions of a cent for a spin; with enough spins from enough people, your favorite band might make a lot of money.
While Tidal used to be the greatest option for audiophiles, Qobuz has caught up with promises of arguably superior sound quality (no MQA decoder necessary), lower pricing, and some recent catalog upgrades. Tidal, in my opinion, still has the edge in terms of breadth, with over 80 million records, including long-time holdouts in Metallica. Tidal should appeal to you whether you're an audiophile, a fan of urban music, or a blend of both.
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Amazon Music Unlimited Best music streaming service
- If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can get it for less than the top three.
- On the "now playing" screen, lyrics appear immediately.
- No extra price for high-resolution and spatial audio from Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos.
- Free music stations are available for Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap.
- swiping (includes ads)
- Biographies are not included in artist profiles.
- The collection is officially marketed as having "tens of millions" of music, although it's uncertain if it's as large as its competitors.
- A music locker is no longer available as part of the service.
Best for Amazon Prime users looking to save money on a solid music library.
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YouTube Music Best music streaming service
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- The monthly cost also includes commercial-free YouTube streaming.
- Over 60 million songs have been downloaded.
- Google Play Song's music locker mechanism is retained: You can import music from the old service as well as create new ones in YouTube Music.
- For the same money, competitors provide a better music focus.
- The bit rate is lower than that of Google Play Music.
Best for: YouTube lovers and Android users.
YouTube Music is the replacement to Google Play Music, and you can get it for free if you sign up for the ad-free YouTube Premium. The good news is that YouTube Music is a generally solid service, and Google has kept the music locker system from its predecessor. You may be able to migrate your Google Play Music library to YouTube Music if you have an older Google Play Music account. YouTube Music also allows users to add new tunes to its online music locker, so it's not only old music.
Even better, YouTube Music has a more user-friendly design than Google Play Music. Instead of playlists, YouTube Music provides well-curated radio stations that play indefinitely and are frequently updated.
Pandora Premium music streaming service
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- Because of its free version, it has one of the largest user populations.
- In order to provide better recommendations, Pandora's Music Genome Project analyses each tune based on 450 different factors.
- Even with the Premium subscription, the audio quality is among the worst available (192Kbps)
- In comparison to the others listed, it doesn't provide enough of a reason to upgrade from its free tier.
- Outside of the United States, it is not available.
Best for: People who already use Pandora and want to be able to pick and choose exactly what they listen to will be most interested in Pandora Premium. We'd practically never suggest it to anyone else.
Pandora, which is still one of the most popular streaming radio services in the United States, also provides a la carte Premium ($10 per month) and no-ads Plus ($5 per month) subscription options. Premium has attracted a lot of members in recent years as a result of this flexibility, even though the service is behind in terms of overall catalog size.