What is the best streaming service for classical music lovers? With so many options available in the market, that’s a good question.
There is no denying that music streaming has taken over the industry. Physical CD sales have fallen 97% since 2000. But an industry designed for quick access to massive sales doesn’t necessarily serve the complex architecture of the Western classical music repertoire particularly well.
Contrary to the general trend in the music industry, sales of physical CDs continue to be stronger for classical music than for most other genres. Despite its overall smaller niche sales figures, Classical accounts for about as much, as a percentage, in physical CD sales as genres such as hip-hop, and far more than Latin or EDM. . This may be due to some of the downsides of streaming.
Streaming vs. Classical music
Modern pop music can be reliably indexed by composer and performer, and even if more than one person has recorded a hit like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” for example, there is a manageable list to choose from.
When it comes to Western classical music, however, that’s a whole different story. The majority of the classical repertoire comprises pieces that have been recorded dozens, sometimes maybe even hundreds of times, by different performers – and in some cases, the same performers at different points in their careers. There are several other details that make indexing classical music a challenge.
- Many recordings include the work of several composers.
- Title tracks can be very long and include several details that do not fit into the title area of the track, such as the conductor and performers.
- Spotify and other major integration services focus on singles (songs) and albums. Classical music, on the other hand, is broken down into movements. Their systems and database compare a pop song with an entire symphony, for example.
- There are so many subcategories within the classical music genre that putting them together makes finding something very specific quite onerous.
Sound quality is another area where the biggest streaming services have sacrificed to such an extent that it can be noticeable in orchestral works. The beauty of an orchestra is its vast array of tones, colors and dynamics, all of which are overwhelmed by usual digital compression.
The best choice really depends on the priorities.
More for less
For music lovers who only listen to classical music once in a while and aren’t looking for very specific tracks or subgenres, then big services like Amazon, Tidal, Apple Music, and Spotify still offer the biggest catalogs of. classical music for the lowest cost.
- It’s the most economical choice, with free streaming options.
- It will take time and patience to research specific parts.
- For those new to the genre, it will be difficult and perhaps confusing to find new releases or to really dive into the world of classical music.
- Spotify and others have plenty of classical music playlists – for listeners open to their algorithmic suggestions, this can be a good solution for music preservation.
- Some services can be upgraded to high quality audio support from FLAC files, such as the Amazon Music HD, Tidal HiFi, and Deezer HiFi plans, at about twice as much as any dedicated service to classical music.
- Tidal includes a Welcome Mix function which can be adapted to classical music.
High quality audio for classic connoisseurs
The three services dedicated to classical music offer the best audio quality, and the most classic database and catalog of works. Finding works and artists is made easy, with a good depth of additional material to enhance the experience. There is a caveat: if you want high quality sound, you also need high quality headphones and / or system to hear it.
IDAGIO recently signed violinist Maxim Vengerov as a brand ambassador, with an exclusive contract to release recordings on the service. It’s a sign of things to come, and IDAGIO has indicated their willingness to rise to the occasion when it comes to delivering exclusive content.
- The playlists are curated by stars from the world of classical music.
- The IDAGIO community includes professional musicians, who offer ideas, original interviews and a host of other exclusive content.
- The maximum audio quality is FLAC 16b 44.1 kHz.
- There are roughly 2 million tracks to choose from, and there’s more to it.
- The search results are displayed with a wealth of information to choose from.
- Includes plenty of album credits and some sleeve notes.
- Mobile or desktop application available.
Primephonic focuses on the user experience, with a user-friendly interface. The service is known for its playlist system that welcomes newcomers to the genre and helps them explore it easily.
- The maximum audio quality is FLAC 24b 92kHz.
- Primephonic has the largest catalog of the three services, including 3.5 million tracks.
- The catalog includes more obscure and little known recordings.
- Includes plenty of album credits and some sleeve notes.
- Primephonic playlists are robust and feature playlists curated by musicians around specific themes.
- Mobile app only – no desktop app.
Naxos Music Library
Naxos Music Library includes access to over 160,000 CDs and nearly 2.5 million tracks, with constantly increasing numbers. Designed for music professionals and serious collectors, their approach is to offer a wider range of classical music repertoire, rather than focusing on multiple versions of the same pieces.
- The subscription service is expensive ($ 210 for standard audio and $ 315 for premium audio), but it’s also available at many libraries and educational institutions.
- The works include the entire Naxos and Marco Polo catalogs, as well as that of over 940 other labels, including Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and many others.
- It is easy to find even a specialized directory.
- Used by many professional musicians, music programmers and educational institutions.
- Related material includes artist biographies, music notes, cover illustrations, booklets, pronunciation guides and more.
For music omnivores and high quality audio enthusiasts
For true music lovers whose tastes range from classical to jazz and pop and 9 other genres, Qobuz, based in France, offers a premium solution with the best audio quality available.
- It’s not that cheap at around 50% more than Idagio or Primephonic
- Qobuz has a surprisingly rich catalog of classical music (as well as its 11 other genres).
- Despite still using the Artist / Album / Track search model, the company has improved the metadata for classical music to include all the details.
- Like traditional dedicated services, Qobuz offers organized channels and a community spirit, as well as interviews, articles and other enriched content.
- The sound quality is excellent, providing maximum audio quality support to FLAC 24b 192kH.
- The search results include plenty of track credit information to help make choices, as well as a brief review of the recording.
- Their What’s New section is flexible and can be filtered by genre or even by multiple genres and other settings.
- It has a better presentation than other multi-genre services like Tidal or Apple when it comes to classical music.
It’s also worth noting that dedicated and premium services like IDAGIO, Primephonic, and Qobuz also pay artists higher rates for their streams, a vital consideration for the future of the music industry as a whole.
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