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The Best Music Streaming Services for Audiophiles

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If sound quality is the top priority for you when listening to music, which steaming service is right for you? We compare Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, and more to see which is best for audiophiles.

Thankfully, the days of heading to the record store or filling up your hard drive with mp3s are behind us. Music streaming services have freed us from that burden, opening audiophiles up to a seemingly limitless world of music exploration. Now you can listen to your favorite songs on-demand, discover new artists, and find curated playlists—all for a set monthly fee. 

Music streaming services have a lot to offer music lovers, from personalized suggestions and playlists to full lyrics and artist profiles. But serious audiophiles want to know: which of these services offers the best audio quality, whether you’re listening on your headphones or your smart speaker?

We reviewed the best music streaming services of 2019, with a particular focus on their sound quality. Read on to find the best music streaming service for you. 

Tidal

best music streaming services

Tidal is the streaming service owned by Jay-Z and a number of other music artists, including Beyonce and Calvin Harris, making it the first artist-owned music streaming service. Tidal is notable for having the exclusive streaming rights to many artists, as well as first access to many of their albums and singles. 

Tidal’s also made a name for itself for its sound quality. The service’s tagline is “high fidelity music streaming.” The standard plan includes decent sound quality, but audiophiles will want to opt in for the high-fidelity plans, which include lossless audio streaming (similar to what you would hear with CDs). Like Spotify, Tidal also offers ticket pre-sales for many artists.

Price:

  • Tidal offers the widest variety of subscription plans, ranging from $4.99 to $29.99/mo, depending on whether you opt in for the high-fidelity sound quality, choose a solo or family plan, or take advantage of any military or student discounts. All come with a 30-day free trial. 
  • Save with these Tidal promo codes.

Pros:

  • Includes music videos
  • Maximum stream quality: FLAC format provides lossless CD audio quality
  • Exclusive content from major artists
  • Ticket presales for many artists
  • Extensive artist profiles and reviews

Cons:

  • Less intuitive interface

Bottom Line:

If sound quality is paramount, you need a Tidal subscription. Their high-fidelity plan offers the best sound quality of any service on our list. Tidal will also be a favorite for anyone who wants to hear tracks before the masses, especially from hip hop artists. 

Deezer

best music streaming services

Deezer is the other option, besides Tidal, to offer the CD-quality lossless music streaming that audiophiles crave. However, it’s important to note that their HiFi catalog only includes 36 million songs, as opposed to the full catalog of 53 million songs. 

One standout feature of Deezer is the equalizer, which allows you to tweak the audio quality to suit your personal preferences. On the mobile app, Deezer auto-plays songs at 128Kbps, but you can crank it up to 320Kbps for better quality. 

Deezer offers songs, radio stations, podcasts, and well-organized music selections—but it’s missing the personalization and user-curated playlists of other services, as well as any background info on the artists behind the music.  

Price:

  • $4.99/mo for students, $9.99/mo, or $14.99/mo for a Family plan with 6 accounts. All plans with a 30-day free-trial. Deezer HiFi, for lossless quality streaming, is available for $19.99/mo. Deezer also offers annual payment options for additional savings. 
  • Save with these Deezer promo codes.

Pros:

  • 53 million songs
  • CD-quality audio
  • Offline downloads
  • Lyrics for all songs
  • Equaliser included
  • Mobile app available on iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 

Cons:

  • Only paid plans available on mobile
  • No ability to upload your own music files

Bottom Line:

Deezer offers the same premium sound quality that Tidal offers. For audiophiles, it will come down to whether you care more about the artists (go with Tidal), or if you just want to jam to the music (go with Deezer).

Spotify

best music streaming services

Spotify pioneered music streaming with its ability to choose the songs you want, and play them whenever you want—as long as you’re willing to listen to an ad here and there. The free version provides access to the full song library, but without many of the essential features, like offline downloads or unlimited skips. It also includes ads and limits you to lower-quality audio. 

Some of Spotify’s distinctive features include the ability to “follow” or subscribe to artists and playlists, see what your Facebook friends are listening to, and access highly personalized Discovery playlists and custom weekly mixes. Spotify also takes the cake for its integrations, thanks to seamless social sharing with Facebook and Instagram, as well as in-game music on Playstation. 

Price:

  • $9.99/mo for individuals, or $14.99/mo for a Family plan with 6 accounts. Both have a 30-day free trial. For students, Spotify has partnered with Hulu and Showtime on a plan that bundles all three services into a single $4.99/mo bill. 
  • Save with these Spotify promo codes.

Pros:

  • Over 40 million songs
  • Offline downloads
  • Unlimited skips
  • Subscribe for notifications on artists and playlists
  • Integrations with Playstation, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Special student deal includes Hulu and Showtime
  • Maximum stream quality: 320Kbps

Cons:

  • Clunky desktop app and web player

Bottom Line:

Spotify definitely offers some of the best features (including excellent sound quality), which makes it an all-around great choice for anyone. It’s definitely the best deal for students, though, since the subscription includes Showtime and Hulu, too. 

Apple Music

best music streaming services

Apple Music offers ad-free streaming and offline downloads for 50 million songs. Plus, you can sync with your existing iTunes library. Apple Music includes a “For You” discovery tab to help you find new artists, as well as a “Friends Mix”; if you connect with your friends on the platform, it will curate songs based on what your friends have been listening to. There’s also exclusive Apple Music content, including Beats 1 Radio and on-demand radio shows.

One large benefit to Apple Music is that many people are already familiar with the interface, thanks to iTunes’ long-held dominance in the digital music space. One of our favorite features is the Siri integration: not only does she provide hands-free listening, but you can even ask Siri to look up a song for you solely based on the lyrics. 

Price:

  • Apple Music offers 3 plans, all with a 3-month trial: Student ($4.99/mo), Individual ($9.99/mo), and Family ($14.99/mo), which includes 6 personalized accounts with the ability to share iTunes purchases. 
  • Save more with these Apple promo codes.

Pros:

  • 50 million songs
  • Generous three-month free trial
  • Offline downloads
  • Integrates with existing iTunes library
  • Friends Mix to discover songs your friends listen to
  • Hands-free listening with Siri

Cons:

  • No free option with ads. Apple Music is only available with a paid plan.
  • Maximum stream quality: 250Kbps

Bottom Line:

From iPhones to iPads, many people are already well entrenched in the Apple lifestyle. Apple Music is the best choice for these folks, as it works seamlessly with everything they’re already used to having—plus it includes the ability to integrate your existing iTunes library. However, while the stream quality is better than average, it’s not the best of the best.

YouTube Music

best music streaming services

YouTube Music is the new and improved version of Google Play Music, which is still available as a separate service. Both allow you to create personalized playlists, but the major game-changer with YouTube Music is that it also includes music videos. There’s a free version of YouTube Music with ads, as well as an ad-free version, YouTube Music Premium. 

While YouTube Music does not disclose the total number of songs in their library, Google Play Music includes 40 million songs, so it’s safe to assume it’s at least equivalent.

Price:

  • YouTube Music Premium has 3 plans, all with a 1-month free trial: Student ($4.99/mo), Standard ($9.99/mo), and Family ($14.99/mo). 
  • Save with these YouTube promo codes.

Pros:

  • 30-day free trial
  • Offline downloads
  • Personalized playlists
  • Includes music videos

Cons:

  • Unknown number of songs
  • Maximum stream quality: 256kbps

Bottom Line:

As the antidote to Apple Music, YouTube Music Premium is ideal for those in the Google ecosystem. However, the inclusion of music videos makes it a compelling option for any audiophiles with a visual bent. 

Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Prime Music

best music streaming services

Amazon offers two music streaming services: Amazon Music Unlimited (pictured) and Amazon Prime Music. Amazon Prime Music includes 2 million songs, downloads for offline listening, and ad-free music with unlimited skips (a major plus over the other “free” plans offered by other streaming music services). 

Amazon Music Unlimited is the significantly more robust offering of the two. It has 50 million songs and an easy-to-navigate interface. You can visit the Amazon Music Store to purchase any song. With either streaming service, you can simply ask Alexa to change the song, through either the mobile app or your Amazon Echo device.

Price:

  • Amazon Prime Music is included for free with a Prime membership, which costs $12.99/month with a 30-day free trial. There’s no a la carte option. 
  • Amazon Music Unlimited costs $9.99 with a 30-day free trial (or $14.99 for a family plan with 6 accounts). Amazon Prime Members can save 20% off.
  • Save with these promo codes for Amazon Music and Amazon Prime

Pros:

  • 50 million songs with Amazon Music Unlimited
  • Hands-free listening with Alexa integration
  • Amazon Prime membership includes Amazon Prime Music, or a discount for Amazon Music Unlimited
  • Offline downloads
  • Unlimited skips

Cons:

  • Only 2 million songs with Amazon Prime Music
  • Maximum stream quality: unknown

Bottom Line:

If you’re already an Amazon Prime member, purchasing an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription is a no-brainer. The 20% off you’ll save makes this cheaper than any of the other services on our list.

Slacker Radio

best music streaming services

Slacker Radio takes a fresh approach to internet radio and personalized music streaming, with DJs who hand-pick songs for themed stations and playlists. It also includes news and weather updates. These DJs pack in a lot of background info, passing on their knowledge about who inspired the artists, what festivals they’re playing at, and more. 

The free plan lets you customize stations, but it comes with ads and lower audio quality. Listeners can upgrade to the Plus plan to enjoy ad-free listening with maximum audio quality and unlimited skips, but without the ability to download songs or play them on demand. For those, you’ll have to upgrade to the Premium plan. 

Price:

  • Free, $3.99/mo (Plus), or $9.99/mo (Premium).

Pros:

  • Maximum stream quality: 320Kbps
  • Human-selected stations and playlists
  • Cheaper mid-tier plan
  • Unlimited skips
  • Offline downloads

Cons:

  • No lyrics
  • No family plan
  • Unknown number of songs

Bottom Line:

If you want to geek out with other audiophiles, you’ll love the Slacker Radio DJs. The Plus plan offers top sound quality with ad-free listening for one of the lowest prices around. 

Pandora Premium

best music streaming services

Pandora was the original internet radio station, providing personalized music selections based on your tastes. Pandora is also unique for its accessibility across devices, including Windows Store and Amazon as well as the standard iOS and Android. 

Listeners can upgrade to Pandora Plus for ad-free listening, unlimited skips and replays, and better quality audio. Pandora Plus allows for unlimited personalized stations, but only four of those will be available for offline listening. To download any music you want, and unlock the ability to create your own playlists and search songs on demand, you have to upgrade to Pandora Premium.  

Price:

  • Free; $4.99/mo for Pandora Plus, with a 30-day free trial; or $9.99/mo for Pandora Premium, with a 60-day free trial. 
  • Save with these Pandora promo codes.

Pros:

  • Personalized music stations
  • Unlimited skips
  • Offline downloads

Cons:

  • Smaller catalog with 30 million songs
  • Maximum stream quality: 192Kbps

Bottom Line:

If you organize your favorite tracks into 4 stations, you’ll be able to get most of what you need for offline listening with the Plus plan. If you want more control over what you listen to, the Premium plan is the better choice.

3 comments

NRI MarriageBureau
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Posted on Mar 8, 2019
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Posted on Feb 20, 2019
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Amelia Willson