Despite speculation of a vinyl comeback, streaming remains the most convenient and popular way to listen to music. Streaming audio, especially lossless and spatial Dolby Atmos audio, can sound fantastic.
There are numerous music services to choose from, and factors such as monthly cost and compatibility vary widely. Though costs have remained more consistent than live TV streaming, with most 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 have over 60 million songs in their catalogues and allow you to stream music from your phone, computer, or other device, while each has its own set of features.
To examine how each platform stands up for your monthly buck, I looked into 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 excluded services like Pandora, Rdio, and Napster unRadio from this list because they only play music in a radio format and don’t let you choose your own songs. People want to be able to listen to entire albums at once, so streaming should be about giving them that option.
Spotify is closely followed by Apple Music. It has a user-friendly design, over 75 million songs, and iOS and Android compatibility. Yes, it offers free spatial audio albums, but the 1,000 tracks available pale in comparison to the rest of the repertoire.
If you’ve invested considerably in the Apple ecosystem, Apple Music is, unsurprisingly, the best option. It’s the default subscription service for summoning music with your voice if you have an Apple HomePod or Mini. Apple Music is also a great match for the iPod Touch, which is still around after 20 years. There are also a slew of curated playlists, many of which have been handcrafted by musicians and tastemakers, although it lacks Spotify’s comprehensive sharing features.
Spotify is the most well-known service in the music streaming industry. It has a number of curated music discovery services, such as its Discover Weekly playlist, and is always adding new ones, such as Stations. It has also increased the amount of non-music content it offers, with a focus on podcasts.
Spotify Premium and Apple Music are a close fight, but Spotify comes out on top as the finest music streaming service overall, thanks to a pleasant, easy-to-use design, a large repertoire, and the most device compatibility. Spotify also has the finest free tier: you can stream Spotify Connect to many Wi-Fi devices without paying anything or entering credit card information.
It had stated that a new HiFi (lossless) premium would be available by the end of 2021, but there has been no news on when or if this will happen. Meanwhile, competitors like as Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Tidal are now providing lossless or even Dolby Atmos music for free. Furthermore, even though the base price in the United States remains $10 per month, Spotify recently raised prices on a number of plans.
Qobuz also has high-resolution audio streams, and unlike Tidal, you don’t need a special MQA decoder to enjoy them. On an Android phone or a high-end music system, they can sound fantastic. It may not have Dolby Atmos music, but the current song catalogue on other providers isn’t that amazing.
The hi-res Studio Premier ($13 monthly/$130 annually) 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 sign up for the second plan, you can save money on purchases. This is another similar app to Spotify with the qualities of the Voot app as an added benefit.
Qobuz’s streaming repertoire, with 70 million songs, is comparable to Tidal and Spotify’s, however it lacks some of the most obscure artists. Qobuz favours high-resolution records, making it ideal for jazz and classical music listeners, however it also has a good rock selection. Qobuz is our preferred service for serious music listeners because it is less expensive than Tidal and does not require a dedicated DAC to listen in 24-bit/192Hz.