More than 55% of American households use a streaming music service now, according to Pew Research.
But how do you make sure that you’re getting the best value service for your money?
Why, you use our guide to the best streaming music services, of course.
Our review team has used all the services available and drawn up a list of those that offer you the best bang for buck.
How Did We Choose The Best Streaming Music Services?
We looked at several variables when putting together our list of the best music services:
- The overall selection – sure, you don’t need access to 300 million tracks to enjoy music but the more music, the better, right?
- The quality of playback – the higher the bit rate or the better the encoding, the closer to listening to a CD the experience becomes, with faster mobile internet a reality for many of us, good quality audio matters.
- The additional services – radio stations, live concerts, podcasts, etc. they’re all icing on the cake of a good streaming music service and the more, the merrier.
- The overall cost – to be fair, most streaming services charge a similar amount, but we wanted to know if that was value for money or not too.
- The platforms they run best on – no surprises Apple Music runs best on Apple devices and Google’s YouTube Music runs best on Android. This can matter a lot when choosing the right services for your device.
- Other user experiences – we checked our favorite music blogs, spoke to other users and looked online for any potential pitfalls with our recommendations.
The Best Streaming Music Services
Spotify: Still The King Of The Jungle
Spotify is the big brand in music streaming and from our perspective, deservedly so.
Their curated discovery services are excellent and that means you’re never short of new and enjoyable material to hear.
Their podcasts include the Joe Rogan podcast and are seeing huge investments all round too.
1. The free version is excellent and the paid version adds real value
2. It’s very easy to follow your favorite artists and track new releases and live shows
3. The podcasts add a huge level of functionality to an already great service
1. Adverts on the free version can really grate after a while
2. You can only store tunes for offline use with the paid plan
3. The free tier prevents you from choosing songs you can only hear mixes based on you preferences
Apple Music: For The iPod User
Apple Music is nearly as good as Spotify and if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, it’s very well integrated with all Apple devices including the iPod Touch and the Apple HomePod systems.
One stand out thing about Apple Music is you can upload your own music collection to the library, something you can’t do with our other top picks.
1. You can add your existing iTunes library and mix and match music you own with music you don’t
2. The recommendation engine involves people as well as algorithms
3. Works well with Siri
1. The Android app isn’t great (no surprises, really)
2. Only works with the iPod Touch no other iPods
3. You won’t get as much out of it without other Apple devices at home
Tidal: For The Best Sound Quality
Tidal is backed by Square (which, in turn, is owned by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey). It’s objective is simple to ensure that all the music you stream is at or better than CD quality.
They now have over 70 million tracks to choose from, so if you want the highest-fidelity tunes, there’s plenty to listen to here.
1. The highest quality music streaming service
2. Some fantastic video content (they also livestream concerts on a regular basis)
3. Really detailed track and artist information
1. A smaller catalog than Spotify
2. The apps just aren’t as intuitive as other services
3. You need a specialist decoder to listen to the MQA files it serves
Idagio: Classical Specialist
If classical is your bag, then you ought to read The Rest is Noise (it’s amazing), and then you should subscribe to Idagio.
It’s a full streaming service for classical music for just $10 a month (with discounts for students and a free ad-supported tier) and for $30 a month, you can get access to live classic concerts too!
1. The number one choice for classic music enthusiasts
2. They can offer high-quality audio files (though you may have to pay for this perk)
3. Excellent curated playlists of the best music
1. No use at all if you’re not into classic, there’s no other music on here
2. The subscription options can be a bit confusing at times
3. Can get expensive if you want all the bells and whistles
Amazon Music Unlimited: A Great Deal For Prime Users
All Prime Users get Amazon Prime Music for free, as we said in our round up of the best free music apps, but Amazon Music Unlimited which is a paid service extends the offering quite substantially.
We like that it includes a bunch of free radio stations which are for use with Amazon’s smart speakers and which makes it stand out from the other streaming services.
1. Very good value for Prime members (non-Prime members can subscribe but it costs
2. They always stream the lyrics with the track so you can sing along
3. You can also pay for a high-definition version of the service for even better sound quality
1. Amazon doesn’t say categorically how big the catalog you are using is
2. There are no artist bios with albums or tracks and that’s a bit disappointing
3. They’ve discontinued the facility to upload your own music
YouTube Music: Better Than GooglePlay
GooglePlay Music is dead and its successor is YouTube Music which comes free with YouTube Premium and unlike most other music streaming services, you can still upload your own music to their locker service.
The interface is much better than GooglePlay Music and you’ll find it easy to use and the curated radio stations are awesome.
1. If you subscribe to YouTube this is an absolute no-brainer
2. A solid 40 million tracks on the service
3. Better than GooglePlay Music and you can transfer settings from GooglePlay Music to YouTube Music
1. Smaller catalog than most other streaming services
2. That you can still use GooglePlay Music can be confusing
3. Not the best experience for Apple users (no surprise, really)
Qobuz: Affordable But Patchy Catalog
Qobuz is a relative newcomer to the market of streaming services and it kind of shows, their catalog is a bit smaller than the rest of the offerings on the market (not a massive issue unless you love to listen to the obscurities).
It focuses on very high quality streaming and uses 24-bit streaming (it’s the only one, for now) which makes it better than the MQA files of Tidal as it doesn’t need an extra decoder.
1. Really easy to uses
2. Very high quality music streaming service
3. Not very expensive given the high quality of the music throughput
1. Not as many songs as other apps
2. Not as big a name as other music apps, which may be a problem long-term
3. Encourages you to buy albums on top of streaming them
Pandora Play: Great Suggestion Mechanism, Poor Sound Quality
If you use Pandora for streaming radio already then you might be interested in upgrading to their Premium service (which lets you choose the tracks) and/or their “no ads-Plus” model which removes the ads.
However, if you don’t use Pandora already, then we’d recommend that you opt for one of the other streaming services, because, unless you really love radio, they’re better.
1. Huge user base (mainly due to the free service)
2. Really good suggestions from their algorithm (which analyzes 450 different aspects of each track)
3. Choice of how to upgrade
1. They still don’t offer this service outside of the US
2. The audio quality even on the Premium version is low
3. The upgrade path isn’t every exciting or great value from the free version
Final Thoughts On Streaming Music Services
So, there you have it our 8 top streaming music services each of them is more than good enough to keep you entertained for years without getting bored.
In fact, we’re pretty certain that with catalogs that run into the 10s of millions of tracks, you couldn’t run out of music to listen to on any of them in a lifetime.
But, it’s important to choose the right streaming music service for your device and lifestyle to get the most out of your investment.
We hope that we’ve made the choice easier for you.