Picking the best music streaming service is no easy feat, especially if you’re an audiophile. These days we’re spoiled for choice — many of us can pick up a new album from our favorite artist in seconds, wherever and whenever we like.
But how do you decide which music streaming service to go for? Which company has the best combination of sound quality, price, range of features, and ease of use?
From Spotify to Apple Music, there are tons of streaming services dedicated to pleasing audiophiles.
We’re going to highlight the top ten music streaming platforms available to help you pick the right one for you.
When it comes to choosing the best music streaming services, we focus on the following factors to evaluate each service:
We considered and tested dozens of streaming music services to find the best of the best. Based on our research and testing, here are our picks for the ten best music streaming services.
Spotify is one of the oldest music streaming sites having been launched in 2006 to help combat rampant piracy and make the music scene more convenient for consumers.
It quickly launched to the top of the music world, and now it’s one of the most notable services in the industry.
Spotify offers a vast content library, some of the highest quality audio you can get from a streaming service, and it offers much more than just music. You can find podcasts, stand-up comedy, and much more on the same platform with just a couple of clicks.
Also, the platform works with a free subscription tier powered by ads and limited “skips”, but you can also pay $9.99 per month to remove ads and get access to exclusive content and unlimited skips.
However, it can sometimes be difficult to dial into the specific songs you want to listen to, and some other premium subscription services offer more enticing bonuses for your investment.
Luckily, the free tier lets you use the platform as much as you want before deciding whether or not to take the jump into a premium subscription, and even if you don’t think you use it enough to warrant the subscription, you can still get a lot out of it.
Overall, Spotify is an amazing service with a large variety of content to please just about everybody, and while serious users should definitely subscribe, casual users, are still welcome for free.
Where to download Spotify:
Apple Music is a direct competitor of our previous entry: Spotify. There’s a reason for that, too. It’s been out since 2015, and it already has a more substantial music library than the vast majority of platforms available.
While the focus of the platform is placed solely on music instead of podcasts and everything else, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Apple Music offers exceptional audio quality, a massive library, ad-free listening, and even online or offline listening. Oh, and none of that annoying “skip” nonsense the more radio-like platforms use.
However, that comes at a price: Literally. Apple Music requires a paid monthly subscription of $9.99. That’s why everything is ad-free.
Luckily, that subscription also gets you some awesome features you won’t find anywhere else. These are things such as exclusive online concerts streamed live, original music content, Beats Radio, and more.
Unfortunately, it isn’t perfect despite the forced price tag. Sometimes the servers are wonky, and for a paid service, that might not be acceptable for you. Not to mention, you’ll need to get Apple Podcasts if you want to listen to podcasts; a feature that’s built into many of the alternatives.
Luckily, you can get a 1-month free trial if you’re a new user, and that’s more than enough time to explore the platform and see if you want to commit.
Where to download Apple Music:
Tidal is a Norway-based music streaming service that does things similar to Spotify, but it puts a unique spin on the base model and it focuses on creating unique experiences with artists.
First and foremost, if you’re familiar with Spotify, you’ll feel at home with Tidal. Its setup is very similar. It has nearly 60-million song tracks in its content catalog, some podcasts, and some miscellaneous content to keep you interested.
Also, some of the songs on the platform are 100% exclusive. This allows you to check out unique songs from your favorite artists that others won’t find in an iTunes album or the artist’s Spotify page.
Tidal also encourages engagement with listeners, and this opens up some unique opportunities to speak to your favorite artists or enjoy one-of-a-kind content.
Tidal’s focus on audio quality will be extremely attractive for audiophiles. From Sony 360 to Dolby Atmos, all the top audio formats are supported and taken full advantage of.
Unfortunately, it runs on a three-tier system. The free tier has sound quality that is slightly below the rest of the top contenders, the $9.99 tier provides a far superior HiFi experience, and the $19.99 tier gives you full access to every quality format available. That’s impressive, but the $19.99 tier pretty much makes it exclusive to real music lovers.
Where to download Deezer:
You know YouTube for its vast library of user-generated videos and perhaps even some of the platform’s original shows, but did you know it offers music, too? No, not the music videos you can search for on the normal app, but a genuine music streaming platform powered by YouTube.
This functions similarly to Spotify where you search for playlists, and the free tier is ad-supported. For $9.99 per month, or just $2 if you subscribe to YouTube Red already, you can remove the ads, get background listening, and download songs for offline listening.
Without Red, $9.99 is kind of steep considering what other services offer for the same price, but it’s a great tack-on to YouTube’s other subscription and much cheaper.
However, the big difference is that you not only get music streaming, but you get music video streaming, too. This won’t matter much if you listen to music while you work or something else, but it’s still a neat feature that stands out from the rest of the options available.
The audio quality is also on par with similar options, and the menus are laid out extremely well; in fact, it’s just as easy to use as normal YouTube.
The biggest drawback is that, unless you pay, you can’t do anything else with your device while you listen. If you switch to a different app or need to text, the music stops until you return. If you’re a multi-tasker, you’ll hate this.
Where to download YouTube Music:
Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music are practically the same. However, Prime Music has fewer features, an ad-supported free tier, and lower audio quality.
Prime Music is basically the more casual version of the two services, and you can expect to find many of the features of a basic Spotify account.
Music Unlimited is where things get interesting. Yes, it has the same features as Spotify and other options, but it’s ad-free, allows for offline listening, contains tons of exclusive content, and more.
Two of the most interesting features of Music Unlimited are its artist commentary and pricing model. First, the artist commentary feature allows you to listen to commentary by the artist as you listen to one of their tracks.
Obviously, you don’t want this when you’re just enjoying the music, but it’s a great way to learn more about the song straight from the horse’s mouth.
For the pricing, it’s the standard $9.99 when you purchase it as-is. However, it’s only $7.99 if you’re upgrading from Prime Music, and you can get discounts for being a student or purchasing a family plan.
There aren’t many downsides to Amazon Music Unlimited. It lacks some unique features of Spotify and Apple Music (its main competitors), but it makes up for them with its own unique strengths. Prime Music is more or less there to give you an opportunity to see what Amazon’s service is like before upgrading.
Where to download Amazon Music:
Pandora functions a lot like a radio-style streaming service. You pick a playlist, and it plays through songs at random. It’s a lot like Spotify in its function.
You get a limited number of skips, you can “favorite” songs to create your own playlists and control your experience more, and the library is fairly substantial with millions of tracks.
However, there are two things that make it a little different. First, it’s only $4.99 for the premium subscription that removes all limits and ads.
While that doesn’t add some of the unique features of other services, it gives you the core features that make people want a premium subscription in the first place, and it’s half the price of other services.
The other difference maker is the repeat button. You get limited repeats to replay songs you really love right away, and with a Pandora Plus subscription, you can play any song on repeat for as long as you want.
This isn’t the most fleshed-out service, but it’s one of the older ones, and it’s a great budget-friendly option.
Where to download Pandora:
If you’ve bought a new car in the last few years, you’ve probably gotten a SiriusXM subscription for a limited time. This is a music streaming service mostly aimed at vehicular listening, but it’s also one of the best options for road trips and daily commutes.
Besides having hundreds of channels dedicated to different artists or themes, you can also enjoy a variety of podcasts, talk shows, and other content that is exclusive to SiriusXM; including talk show icon Howard Stern.
The difference between Select and Premier is basically how many channels you get. Select costs $10 per month for 50 channels and none of Howard Stern’s exclusive content, and Premier costs $13 for hundreds of channels and the two exclusive Howard Stern channels.
This isn’t recommended unless you have long commutes you want to fill with the highest quality radio content, but if you enjoy road trips or long work commutes, it’s a must-have.
Where to download SiriusXM:
Deezer is a fairly new service and it shows. It’s not on par with the top 3 industry giants Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Apple Music, but it has some things going for it.
First, it does have a free tier supported by ads. So, yes, you can try it out for yourself without paying a dime. There is also a premium tier that costs the standard $9.99. It removes ads and provides some extra goodies, and if you’re a student, you can get it for half price.
In practice, it works like most other streaming services. You pick a playlist, it plays through the songs, and you can sometimes skip the songs you don’t like.
You can also build your own playlists to avoid songs you don’t like entirely. However, the real difference maker is the platform’s focus on recommendations.
Your tastes are tracked and recorded as you use the app, and it uses a smart algorithm to keep you from bumping into the content you don’t enjoy while still letting you experience new things you wouldn’t look for on your own.
Where to download Deezer:
iHeartRadio has been around just two years shorter than the industry giant Spotify. It’s not nearly as popular, but it is amazing if you like the traditional radio experience.
It has thousands of radio stations built-in with the music and talk show content you love about surfing the radio but without the limits of local broadcasting. However, that’s about where it ends. There aren’t any fancy features to take advantage of.
Luckily, it has a basic free tier, and the premium subscription opens up exclusive content and of course, ad removal. This costs $9.99 for Android and Google users, but Apple users get the short end of the stick with a $12.99 price tag.
Where to download iHeartRadio:
Soundcloud is probably the most unique option on this list. It’s technically a streaming service, but it’s also a bit of an indie producer service, too. This has its pros and cons.
With a lot of its content being user-generated, some of it is likely to blossom into a venue-packing career that you get to experience earlier, and sometimes you might hear somebody who really needs to stick to singing in the shower. However, it doesn’t use the radio-style format. So, you get to search for songs and play them as you wish.
Beyond the variation in quality, you also get the unique benefit of communicating with artists and sometimes downloading songs for free. So, you might get to talk to those budding artists long before everyone else knows who they are.
While the service is free, you can remove ads, get offline listening features, and access exclusive content with an $8 subscription. If you’d like to upload your own podcast or musical talents, you can pay $16 per month for all of the listening privileges and uploading privileges on the platform.
Where to download Soundcloud:
Ultimately, we think that the choice between the top music streaming services ultimately depends on your preferences and budget. But hopefully, this post has given you a bit of insight into each of these services and what they have to offer.
If you’re looking for a large catalog, then Spotify is still your best bet. If you’re an audiophile, Tidal is the best option out there. And if you’re an Apple user, it’s a no-brainer that Apple Music is the best choice for you.
Ultimately, each one of these services has pros and cons – it’s just up to you to decide which are most important.
If we’ve left out your favorite music streaming service from our list, let us know about it in the comment section below.
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