Apple Music is one of the most comprehensive services around, boasting 90 million songs in lossless quality (high fidelity sound, without compression of audio formats like mp3) and a cloud-based music locker that lets you upload your pre-existing music. collection of online music to listen to on the go.
Although its subscription fees are in line with the base offerings of many other services, Apple Music offers high-definition sound across the board. Their Apple Lossless Audio Codec file format sounds richer and cleaner than lossy compressed mp3s, and a special indicator shows when they’re using the original masters.
Of course, being an Apple product, it is better to integrate it with other Apple products like Macs, iPhones or Apple Watches. Apple Music offers full integration with Siri for voice control on devices that have it. But even on other machines, Apple Music works fine, and if you are a person who bought a lot of music through iTunes or ripped a ton of CDs in your iTunes library, you can also sync your music library with Apple Music , making it accessible on multiple devices.
An Apple Music subscription also includes access to a wide variety of live radio stations hosted by well-known artists, DJs and producers. This includes Apple Music Radio (formerly Beats 1 radio). Apple Music Radio can be listened to live or on demand and augments an already strong lineup of additional content, including music videos and other exclusives. They also offer Dolby Atmos spatial sound, which allows creators to place sounds precisely in the space around the listener, regardless of what they’re using to listen to.
There are many plan options, including a standard monthly subscription and a discounted annual plan. There’s also a simple “Apple Music Voice” plan. This simplified option does not include computers or mobile apps – it works exclusively through Siri.
Apple Music doesn’t offer a free plan, but you can give it a free trial for a generous 3 months. For those of you who want to support the artists you listen to, Apple Music is among the most generous when it comes to streaming payments.
Get the Apple Music app from Apple iTunes
Download the Apple Music app from Google Play
How we tested music streaming services
Michael Garrett Steele earns most of his living as a writer. However, he is also a composer and recording artist, mainly for video games. He has composed for properties like Fallout and Commander Keen and recorded for game composers like Megan McDuffee and Ryan Ike. He has been surrounded and involved in music all his life, as a creator and as a listener.
Don Melanson is a seasoned tech journalist who listens to a lot of music from multiple sources, including a vinyl collection, digital audio files, and of course music streaming services. He always strives for the best possible sound quality, both from his audio equipment and from his music sources.
To determine which music services are the best options, we started by narrowing the list of services to test to a manageable number of eight, drawing on previous experience, as well as expert opinion from sources reliable. We also evaluated the premium and free versions of each service. Next, we’ve collected 21 popular and lesser-known songs, representing a wide range of genres from different eras. We used these songs to create a playlist for each streaming service in our test group, to assess:
- The overall usability of each service
- How hard it was to create a playlist
- How easy it was to find and listen to music
- The breadth of music available on each service: the fewer songs available, the lower the ratings
Beyond that, we also used each service to listen to music that we usually listen to on a daily basis. This was used to judge how well each service’s music recommendation features worked. We also spent time exploring the additional features of each service offered, such as live radio, videos, curated playlists and exclusive content.
The cost of the packages offered by each service were also taken into account, as well as support for podcasts, offline capabilities, the overall sound quality of each service (is it really CD quality as they claim?) and availability on smartwatch apps.
In these tests, we used each service’s web interface and desktop app (if available), as well as their Android and iOS apps.
What you need to know about music streaming services
While there are exceptions, most streaming services have the majority of the music you’re looking for.
They all offer decent sound quality and should be available for use with iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac computers. You will find that some are available to take advantage of your smartwatch or smart speaker, while others are not.
The biggest differences between music services are in their interfaces, ease of use, and additional features beyond basic music streaming. The latter, in particular, can vary greatly. Some offer exclusive content, live radio, personalized playlists, and music recommendations that adapt to your tastes as you use them.
Standard or Hi-Res/HD sound quality
Previously, standard-resolution audio streaming was the norm for most music services. Standard-resolution audio gets the job done: streamed music sounds much like the artist who recorded it intended. However, the fidelity of the music takes a hit, due to digital compression: you may hear hiss or digital artifacts in your music while you listen to it. What you hear is not as clear as it could be.
High-Resolution/Definition Audio, as the name suggests, brings more definition to the music you stream. Background noise is reduced or even entirely suppressed. Overall, what you hear will be closer to how the artist who originally recorded the song wanted it to sound.
Hi-res streaming is becoming more mainstream every year. So much so that when this guide was last updated, we tested the same services against each other. This time around, the quality and quantity of Hi-Res/HD sound quality was such a big factor during our scoring process that our original choice for best set was dethroned, due to its lack of audio options. high-fidelity listening, in favor of a service that provides an extensive catalog of high-definition, lossless audio tracks.
Depending on the streaming service, high definition audio may be standard, with the price of a basic subscription. Others, however, require users to pay a premium for the privilege of being able to stream higher quality audio to their devices.
What streaming services do artists pay
Music streaming services are notorious for not paying artists well. Although most services don’t publish official numbers, information collected directly from musicians and other sources indicates that artists can expect to earn between $0.00069 and $0.019 per stream. It’s a tiny fraction of what they earn from actual album sales, and the variables between what one artist earns versus another are opaque.
The convenience of streaming music is hard to beat, but if there are artists you want to support, you might also consider purchasing a copy of a song or album after sampling it on the service of your choice.