Music streaming

Spotify, Tidal and more ranked

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For many of us, the days of buying albums are over. The best music streaming services have put millions of songs at our fingertips, ready to be played on our smartphone, tablet, computer or smart speakers whenever we want.

Just under £10 a month gives you access to a bigger music library than you could ever own, with most apps boasting over 50 million tracks! Intelligent algorithms suggest artists and albums based on your listening habits, broadening your musical horizons daily.

With so much music over several decades, it’s no surprise that 60% of Britons now use streaming services.

Our top rated music apps are:

Which music app has the best sound quality?

Tracks available on music streaming services have been compressed to save space, which means audiophiles may find the sound quality disappointing. Some apps, including Tidal and Amazon Music, let you pay more for a high-res stream that delivers CD quality or better. The improvement is noticeable, but these larger files will eat up your data allowance faster.

What is the cheapest music streaming service?

Some music streaming services, including Spotify and Deezer, offer a free, ad-supported version that limits the number of times you can skip songs. For an unlimited, ad-free listening experience, you’ll need to sign up for a premium monthly subscription.

In our eyes, Spotify is the best free service if you enjoy podcasts thanks to the number it has, while Deezer will be the free service for you if you want access to live radio.

How we test

When testing a music streaming service, we judge the size and range of its catalog and examine the quality of audio files. We note how easy the interface is to navigate and try out all the extra features, including parental controls, gapless playback, offline listening, and the ability to watch music videos or sing along to lyrics.

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Best Joint Music Streaming Service

Spotify

Rating: 90/10

Spotify is the world’s go-to streaming service, and it’s easy to see why. There’s a massive selection of new and old music, curated and personalized playlists, and a million podcasts to browse. You can sing along with lyrics, learn more about an artist, and block explicit content.

You can also download music for offline listening. There is a free version, but you will have to listen to advertisements and you can only choose songs from 15 defined playlists.

Key specs
Number of songs: 50 million titles including 500,000 podcasts
Maximum streaming quality:
320Kbps
Compatible devices:
iPhones/iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows laptops and computers, Mac OS and Chrome OS, Apple Watch, TV streaming devices, set-top boxes and game consoles
Offline listening
: Yes
Free version:
Yes
Lyrics on screen:
Yes

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Best Joint Music Streaming Service

Deezer

Rating: 90/100

Deezer has more tracks than Spotify, but it can’t compete when it comes to podcasts. Instead, it brings live radio to the app, making it a one-stop-shop for all your music needs. We love the SongCatcher feature that identifies songs playing in your environment. The ability to read lyrics on your TV is also welcome, as are parental controls.

The ad-filled free version only lets you play 30-second previews of chosen songs. Subscribe to enjoy the full shebang, including the option to download music for offline listening or upgrade to CD-quality sound.

Key specs
Number of songs: 56 million tracks including 400,000 podcasts and internet radio stations
Maximum streaming quality:
1411 kbps
Compatible devices:
iPhones/iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows, Mac OS and Chrome OS laptops and computers, Apple Watch, Fitbit and Garmin smartwatches, smart TVs and Xbox One game consoles
Offline listening:
Yes
Free version:
Yes
Lyrics on screen:
Yes

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Ideal for multiple devices

Apple Music

Score: 87/100

When you subscribe to Apple Music, it stores a copy of your existing music library in the cloud, so you can listen to it from any device. There are plenty of old and new tracks, carefully curated playlists, and personalized recommendations to stream.

The brilliant search feature lets you search for lyrics or have Siri do the heavy lifting for you! You can also download tracks to listen to offline, but you must use the Apple Podcasts app to listen to podcasts. There is also no free or high resolution version.

Key specs
Number of songs:
60 million tracks
Maximum streaming quality:
Not disclosed
Compatible devices:
iPhones/iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows and Mac OS laptops and computers, Apple Watch, Apple TV and some smart speakers
Offline listening:
Yes
Free version:
No
Lyrics on screen:
Yes

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Best Hi-Res Streaming Service

Tide

Score: 84/100

Tidal is the streaming service for audiophiles, with a hi-res version that lets you listen in CD quality or better (called Tidal Masters). It’s artist-owned and subscription-only, which means they get a fairer deal than other streaming services.

There is an extensive catalog of new and old music, curated and tailored playlists, music videos and exclusives. You can download your favorite tracks to listen to offline.

Key specs
Number of songs: 60 million tracks
Maximum streaming quality:
9216 kbps
Compatible devices:
iPhones/iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows laptops and computers, Mac OS and Chrome OS, smart speakers, smart TVs and TV streaming devices
Offline listening:
Yes
Free version:
No
Lyrics on screen:
No

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Best for Amazon Prime Subscribers

Amazon Music Unlimited

Score: 78/100

Amazon’s Prime membership includes access to two million tracks, but Amazon Music Unlimited offers 58 million more. It’s available to everyone, but Prime customers get a discount. It offers a decent range of new and old music, along with offline listening and the ability to block explicit songs.

You can upgrade to Amazon Music HD for CD-quality sound – or better. Some tracks are available in an immersive format called 3D Music for a live performance experience through speakers.

Key specs
Number of songs:
60 million tracks
Maximum streaming quality: Not disclosed
Compatible devices:
iPhones/iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows and Mac OS laptops and computers and some smart speakers
Offline listening:
Yes
Free version:
No
Lyrics on screen:
No

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Great for watching music videos

youtube music

Score: 76/100

If you enjoy watching music videos or listening to rare or live edits of titles, consider YouTube Music. Just like Spotify and Deezer, this library is available in both free and paid versions, but the former includes ads and if you quit the app, the music will stop.

The comprehensive search feature lets you search by lyrics and offers specific suggestions for misspelled artists and titles. Subscribers can download music for offline listening.

Key specs
Number of songs:
50 million tracks
Maximum streaming quality:
256kbps
Compatible devices:
iPhones/iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows laptops and computers, Mac OS and Chrome OS, Google Home smart speakers
Offline listening:
Yes
Free version: Yes
Lyrics on screen: No

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Ideal for classical music

Primephonic

Score: 73/100

Classical music lovers should try Primephonic, which has 3.5 million modern and traditional classical tracks in its library. They can be downloaded to listen to if you don’t always have internet access.

There’s a high-res streaming option that sounds as good as CDs and the audio quality automatically adjusts if your connection drops, minimizing buffering. There is no free version, but you can try the service for 14 days before signing up.

Key specs
Number of songs:
3.5 million tracks
Maximum streaming quality:
24-bit FLAC
Compatible devices:
iPhones/iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows and Mac OS laptops and computers using Google Chrome or Firefox browsers
Offline listening: Yes
Free version:
No

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