Deezer began its life in 2007 as a free music-streaming platform created by a French music blog. The copyright police shut them down quickly and the owners started over, negotiating some licenses with the big record companies, and relaunching as a legit streaming service.
By 2009, it had launched an on-demand tier, which helped pave the way for the music ecosystem we all enjoy today. We all owe Deezer a debt for blazing a trail that Spotify quickly followed.
Deezer has a much larger base in Europe than it does here in the United States. If your roots are in the EU, you might find Deezer’s local playlists a good way to keep with tastes back in the old country. Otherwise, it’s hard to make a case for Deezer here in the U.S..
When you open the Deezer home page, it emphasizes mood-based playlists rather than individual artists or albums.
The standard Deezer Premium plan, which offers 320Kbps audio, goes for $9.99/month or $99.90/year. The Deezer HiFi plan, which streams 16-bit/44.1 kHz FLAC files and Sony 360 Reality Audio, costs $14.99/month.
There’s a Deezer Student plan that matches the Premium account features and costs $4.99/month.
The Deezer Family plan has the same streaming quality as Premium and offers up to six accounts in the same household for $14.99/month (you can get a Deezer Family HiFi plan, too, but as of the date of this review, you must contact Deezer Support to even find out how much the plan costs). There’s also a Deezer Free version that’s ad-supported and only offers shuffle play at 128Kbps.
One of Deezer’s strengths is its built-in access to streaming radio stations from around the world.
Deezer has not kept up with the competition with its streaming bit rates. Its premium plan is limited to very good MP3 quality, but Tidal offers CD-quality streaming for the same price and Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited offer CD quality plus Hi-Res at $10/month. If you’re a Prime customer, Amazon Music Unlimited costs even less.
You must bump up to the $14.99/month plan to stream CD quality music, which is a couple of bucks more than the Hi-Res streaming offered by Deezer’s French competitor, Qobuz.
CD-quality streaming is rapidly becoming the minimum standard and Deezer just isn’t competitive at this price.
If you have music in your personal collection that’s not available on Deezer, you can upload MP3 files via either its desktop app or a web browser. The service will treat them just like any of the songs available its catalog. You can favorite these songs and use them on playlists that feature subscription titles.
There’s a limit of 2,000 songs and these personal MP3s won’t be available if you’re using Deezer with a smartphone app, game console, or a built-in TV app.
Deezer also wants to be your preferred podcast player.
Deezer wants to offer its listeners value by giving them podcasts and a wide variety of radio stations in addition to its on-demand streaming product.
You can stream college, public, and commercial radio stations from within the app, but you cannot favorite them for easy access later, so Deezer’s not really a replacement for the free or paid versions of an app like TuneIn Radio. Stations you’ve recently played do show up in the home page’s Recently Played section, but they’ll disappear quickly if you play a lot of music. It’s a great idea with not-so-great execution.
Deezer has a far smaller user base in the U.S., something that’s exposed in the services Top 100 tracks playlist. While it features the same current hits you’ll find on other streaming sites, go further down and you’ll find catalog tracks by bands like Eagles, Nirvana, Ed Sheeran, Rag’n’Bone Man, John Legend, Eminem, R.E.M., and The Chainsmokers. If you’re looking for your fellow users to hip you to new tracks, Deezer might not be the best choice for you.
Deezer’s larger customer base in other countries gives its Top Worldwide playlist a different spin than other music-streaming services.
Podcast listeners will fare better, as you can favorite your podcasts, and the app includes playlists for which episodes are in progress and which new releases have arrived.
Music services are driven by algorithms. You hope there’s a human touch somewhere along the way, but the backbone of any streaming service—from Spotify to Netflix—is the data generated by what its users choose to listen to and see.
A playlist based on the fact that I’ve listened to The Future Sound of London contained a lot of the right artists (The Orb, Aphex Twin, William Orbit, Goldie, Autechre), but the choice of songs seemed incredibly random and even included two versions of the same Orb track with only one song in between. Why it also included obscure tracks from Squeeze and Blur is a complete mystery.
It’s hard to imagine that Michael Stipe and Axl Rose would agree that their bands are similar artists.
The Deezer desktop app offers a choice between a clean, light mode that looks a lot like the Qobuz app and a dark mode that looks like Tidal. It’s nice to have a choice. The Deezer app runs well on a Mac, even though it hasn’t been updated to support the latest Apple Silicon models and runs through the Rosetta 2 translator.
The browser version seems to be identical to the app and runs well. Deezer recently introduced a new feature that translates song lyrics, but it only translates English lyrics to French, Portuguese, German or Spanish, and the feature is enabled for only 10,000 tracks.
Deezer shares a huge library with its competitors and, if you’re not too concerned with audio quality, offers good-quality MP3 streaming at a reasonable price. The service works well as a podcast streamer, and you can access radio stations around the world without leaving the app. Still, its competitors have more listeners and therefore more data, and they consistently seem to do a better job at recommending music. Deezer shouldn’t be your first choice.
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James has worked in music as a producer, A&R executive, music publisher, manager and record store clerk. He writes about music, technology and movies from his home in Georgia.