What s The Best Music App For You We Compare Spotify Apple Music And More

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Streaming is the most convenient and popular way to listen to your favorite songs, and it no longer means you have to compromise on sound quality. A growing number of providers include and , but with so many different music services on offer, how are you supposed to choose?
If you're shopping around for a new music provider -- inspired by developments such as , for example -- the two things you need to consider most are monthly cost and compatibility. Most of the services have music catalogs of over 60 million songs, so that's not really an issue, and they enable you to stream from your phone, computer or speaker. Though prices have been more stable at around $10 a month -- not something I can say with  -- there have been some other big changes recently, including the addition of hi-res music. 

Sara,  and , as well as smaller contenders such as , , and , to see how each platform stacks up for your subscription buck. It's worth noting that, in this roundup, I've purposefully left out services that can only play music in a radio format (such as Pandora, Napster and UnRadio) and which don't allow you to select your own songs. Streaming should be about choice, and that includes being able to listen to whole albums at a stretch.

So which music streaming services offer the best combination of price, sound quality and library size? Read on to find an in-depth look at each of the services and a feature comparison, along with a full price breakdown in the chart at the bottom of the page. We'll update this list periodically. And if you want the TL;DR, these are the top three.

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Angela Lang/CNET























Spotify is a pioneer in music streaming and is arguably the best-known service. It offers a number of curated music discovery services, including its playlist, and is constantly implementing new ones, such as Stations. It's also ramped up its nonmusic  the service.

When it comes to choosing a service, it's a close race between Spotify Premium and Apple Music, but Spotify still wins as the best music streaming service overall. This is thanks to a fun, easy-to-use interface, an extensive catalog and the best device compatibility. Spotify also offers the best free tier: Without paying a dime or providing a credit card number, you can stream to numerous Wi-Fi devices.

Meanwhile, Spotify missed the deadline of late 2021 for its , and the company can't say . Meanwhile, competitors like Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal are now offering lossless or even Dolby Atmos music at no extra charge. In addition, Spotify on a number of plans in 2021, even though the base price remains $10 a month in the US.

The Good 
Free version is impressively robustSpotify Connect simplifies connecting to wireless speakers and AV receivers Easy to build your own playlists and sync them for offline listeningAllows you to follow artists and be alerted when they release new music or announce an upcoming showNow includes podcasts
The Bad
Advertisements in the free service can be intrusiveYou can't listen to specific songs in the free tier, just a mix based on the requested musicNo lossless optionPodcasts have begun to overshadow music in importance
Best for: People who want a solid all-around service, and especially for people who love to make, browse and share playlists for any scenario.






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Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET






















Qobuz offers hi-res audio streams too, and unlike Tidal you don't need a specialized MQA decoder to listen to them. They can sound great on an Android phone or a high-end music system. It may not offer Dolby Atmos music, but the on other services isn't that impressive anyway. 

The service offers two plans -- the hi-res Studio Premier ($13 monthly or $130 yearly) and the $180 annual Sublime Plus. Uniquely, the service offers its own hi-res download store, and if you sign up for Sublime you get a discount on purchases.

At 70 million tracks, Qobuz's streaming catalog rivals Tidal's and Spotify's in number, though it may not have the most obscure artists. Qobuz generally steers towards hi-res recordings so it is especially suited to jazz and classical fans, though its rock selection is fairly robust. The fact that it's cheaper than Tidal, and doesn't require specialized equipment to listen in 24-bit/192Hz, makes Qobuz our favorite service for serious music lovers.

The Good
The app is really clean and fun to use
Ability to listen to 24-bit music without needing a specialized decoder
One of the more affordable hi-res servicesOffers a download store as well
The Bad
May be some gaps in the catalog 
No spatial audio
Best for: Audiophiles who want hi-res music for a decent price plus the ability to buy and download albums.











Also worth considering









Sarah Tew/CNET






















Now , Tidal has introduced some important changes recently: namely that it now has a free tier called, naturally, . The company also offers the $10 Tidal HiFi plan, which includes lossless playback, and the premium $20 Tidal HiFi Plus tier.

Tidal HiFi Plus may be the most expensive of all the services, and while it offers hi-res and Dolby Atmos mixes, it now has another good reason for this. Tidal's main hook has always been that its higher subscription price translates to better payouts to artists -- especially musicians who aren't at the top of the pop charts. The service will now pay your top streamed artist each month a 10% cut of your subscription fee. Even if you only stream one song all month the full $2 will go to them. Forget fractions of a cent for a play; with enough spins from enough people, this could mean serious money for your favorite band. 

While Tidal used to be the best option for audiophiles, Qobuz has caught up by promising arguably better sound quality (no MQA decoder required), a cheaper price and some recent improvements in its catalog. Based on my own experience, Tidal still trumps it for breadth -- and it now exceeds 80 million tracks, including longtime holdouts Metallica. If you're an audiophile, a fan of urban music or a mix of both, then Tidal should appeal to you. 

The Good
High-fidelity music streams including Lots of video content, including concert livestreamsProfiles and record reviews on every page, plus up-and-coming artist spotlights
Free tier, while its top tier offers payouts for favorite artists
The Bad
The mobile apps and web player aren't as straightforward as some othersThe catalog isn't as exhaustive as Spotify PremiumMost high-res music uses MQA, which needs a specialized decoder
Best for: Musically inclined purists who care deeply about sound quality and discovering new, up-and-coming artists.




















Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET























Amazon Prime Music comes "free" as part of a Prime membership, but users can choose to upgrade to Music Unlimited. In addition to an expanded catalog, the step-up now includes the  at $8 for Prime members, or $10 if you don't have Prime. Music Unlimited now gives you access to millions of lossless tracks as well as over 1,000 "spatial" remixes, which can be played on Dolby Atmos soundbars, Android or iOS devices and the . In terms of usability, the Music Unlimited interface is also more powerful than before with playlists, genres and podcasts all accessible from the main page.

The Good
Cheaper than the top three if you're an Amazon Prime memberLyrics automatically pop up on the "now playing" screenHi-res and spatial audio from Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos at no extra chargeOffers free music stations for Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap (includes ads)
The Bad
Artist profiles don't have biographiesThe service no longer includes a music locker
Best for: Amazon Prime members who want to save a few bucks on a decent music catalog and higher-quality streams.






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The best of the rest
YouTube/Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET
YouTube Music: YouTube Music is the successor to , and if you sign up for the ad-free  at $12 per month, you get YouTube Music thrown in for free. The good news is that YouTube Music is a mostly impressive service -- the lower bit-rate of 256kbps is mildly annoying -- but Google has retained the predecessor's music locker system enabling users to upload new tracks. In even better news, YouTube Music offers a cleaner interface than Google Play Music plus over 60 million tracks to choose from. Instead of playlists, YouTube Music offers well-curated radio stations that play endlessly and are updated often. .Deezer: French stalwart  has been operating in the States since 2016, and it has a lot to offer, including a free tier (mobile only) and 90 million tracks. It has more subscribers than some others on this list, thanks in part to its previous affiliation with Cricket Wireless. The main Premium plan is $10 a month, but users are also able to upgrade to a lossless version (CD quality) for $15 a month. Deezer also offers a couple of unique features including being the first service enabling users to  at no extra charge. .Pandora Premium: Still one of the most popular streaming radio services in the US, Pandora also offers the a la carte Premium ($10 a month) and no-ads Plus ($5 a month). The result is more flexibility than most competitors, and Premium has gained in recent years, even if the service is not keeping up in terms of overall catalog size. Sadly, its audio quality is among the lowest available, even on the Premium subscription (192Kbps), and it doesn't really offer enough of an incentive for an upgrade from its highly popular free tier. .

Top services compared
















Amazon Music Unlimited





Apple Music





Qobuz





Spotify





Tidal





YouTube Music











Monthly fee





Prime members: $8, £8, N/A; Non-Prime members: $10, £10, AU$12; Echo-only service: Free, AU$5





$10, £10, AU$12; Voice $5, £5, AU$6





$13, AU$20





$10, £10, AU$12





Hi-Fi: $10, £10, AU$15; HiFi Plus: $20, £20, AU$24





$10, £10, AU$12









Free option?





Yes, with ads





No





No





Yes, with ads





Yes





Yes, with ads









Free trial period





30 days





3 months





30 days





30 days





3 months





30 days









Music library size





75 million





90 million





70 million





Over 82 million





Over 80 million





Over 60 million









Maximum bit rate





256Kbps, 3,730Kbps (HD)





256Kbps, TBD





6,971Kbps





320Kbps





1,411Kbps





256Kbps










Family plan?





Yes, $15, £15, AU$18 for up to 6 people





Yes, $15, £15, AU$18 for up to 6 people





Yes, $16.67, £16.67, AU$45





Yes $16 per month, up to 6





Yes, 50% off each additional account, up to 4





Yes, $15, £15, AU$18 per month for up to 6 people









Student discount





No





Yes, Price varies by country





No





Yes, $5, £5 with Hulu and Showtime





Student HiFi: $5, Student HiFi plus: $10 (US only)





Yes, $5









US military discount





No





No





No





No





Yes





No









Offline listening





Mobile and desktop





Mobile only





Mobile and kora live desktop





Mobile and desktop





Mobile only





Premium and mobile only









Radio stations





Yes





Yes





No





Yes





No





Yes









Podcasts





Yes





No





No





Yes





Yes





Yes









Music videos





No





Yes





No





Yes





Yes





Yes









Music locker functionality





No





Yes





No





No





No





Yes









Music Streaming FAQs








How do you transfer your library between services?












Without contracts it's pretty easy to cancel one service and start with another. That said, swapping between music services isn't as straightforward, for example, as swapping between movie locker services using . If you don't want to have to rebuild your playlists and library from scratch when you switch, you have two main options -- a music locker service such as YouTube Music (but this implies you have a library of ripped or ), or the library import tool . The latter is a service that lets you import the songs from each of your music services and transfer them, and while there's a $4.50 monthly charge, you can always cancel once you've converted your library. Recently, Deezer has offered the ability for new users to convert their libraries from other services for free (via another service called ). 




















Do I need spatial or Atmos audio?












The short an