What is the best music streaming service for you? We rank the top services for your taste in music

We weigh the pros and cons of the best music streaming services out there to help you find the service that's best suited to your needs.


                            What is the best music streaming service for you? We rank the top services for your taste in music

The world of on-demand music streaming grows larger and more crowded every day. As more and more listeners make the transition from physical recordings like CDs and vinyl in favor of seemingly infinite online music libraries, new music streaming services keep popping up, each offering a varied amount of songs, features, and its own quirks. But not all of them are ideally suited to all kinds of listeners' needs.

Different streaming services provide different listening experiences. Some promise the highest digital audio quality and fidelity, while others boast a recommendation engine that knows your listening habits better than you know it yourself. You might be the kind that listens to an entire album, or the kinds that prefers curated playlists, or even the one who just wants to plug-and-play immediately without putting much thought into it. Whatever your need may be, there's a music player out there for you.

In order to save you the trouble and time of trying each one on a trial and error basis, we've compiled a list of the best music streaming services out there, suited to your needs, budget and tastes. Check out the list below and take your pick:

Spotify

Image Source: Wikimedia
Image Source: Wikimedia

Let's face it: Spotify is the single biggest player in the game. It provides you with a massive music library and has arguably one of the best recommendation engines among music streaming services. It offers a number of different music discovery services including its highly recommended 'Discover Weekly' playlist and is constantly experimenting with new ones such as the regional radio stations options. But watch out, there is a fair limitation on the countries where Spotify is available (at least the full paid version), but with the company going public, it won't be long before the service expands its presence. You can check out the list of available countries here. Spotify's (now optional) Facebook integration makes sharing music easier than competitors with the ability to send a track or album, collaborate on playlists with friends, or check out what your Facebook friends are listening to.

Who is it for?

The versatility of the service makes is ideal for newcomers, first-time users, playlist makers, or just people looking to find more of the kind of stuff they like.

Highlights

The free version lets you do almost everything except for downloading the music.

It's easy to build your own playlists and sync them for offline listening.

The app is user-friendly and updated frequently to sport enough features without being overwhelming.

Allows you to follow artists and alerts you when they release new music or announce an upcoming show.

Excellent way to discover new, up-and-coming artists. Second only to probably Soundcloud.

Easy to create and share highly personalized custom playlists.

The Downside

Advertisements in the free service can be annoying sometimes.

With the free tier, you can only shuffle songs in the mobile apps.

How much does it cost?

No time limit on the free version, but comes with audio ads.

Ad-free full version: $10 per month for single users, $15 for families (up to six users), and $5 for students

Apple Music

Image Source: Wikimedia
Image Source: Wikimedia

The single biggest perk about the music streaming world's second biggest player is the integration between Apple devices. Those with iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks will love the fact that they can ask Siri to search for specific artists, songs, or playlists, and virtually everything music related on an Apple device is tied into the service. In addition, longtime iTunes users will be pleased to find many of their songs are immediately available in their Apple Music streaming library upon signing up, along with the ability to store up to 100,000 songs for later use (Spotify downloads cap at 9,999).

Who is it for?

Fans of Apple products who already own a couple of devices. 

People who like to build vast libraries of albums in a neat interface.

Pre-exiting iTunes users, people who prefer well-curated playlists and radio programming.

Highlights

While Apple music also provides you with a customized weekly discovery option (and daily ones as well) just like Spotify, the real highlight is curated playlists from the brilliant team at Apple.

Currently the only choice for Apple HomePod users who want to use voice control.

Easy access to lyrics of almost all the songs in their vast music library.

Exclusive radio content like Beats1 featuring the likes of Zane Lowe and Lars Ulrich.

Exclusive content from a lot of big acts - including first looks at music videos, concert videos, etc.

The Downside

The Android app is a little buggy and is not the smoothest experience out there. The iOS app is just fine though.

Doesn't work with old iPods (except iPod Touch)

Relatively more restrictions based on which region of the world you are in. You might not have access to all the songs in an album.

The mobile app does not have integration with the Last.fm scrobbler.

How much does it cost?

$10 per month for a single user (first month is free).

$15 for a family plan (up to six users), $5 per month for students, $99 per year for those who have already subscribed.

Google Play Music

Image Source: Wikimedia
Image Source: Wikimedia

Although a fairly recent addition to the world of music streaming, Google Play Music is making some noise as it quickly gathers a growing fan base. GPM works as a streaming music service as well as a music locker. It allows you to store and stream your entire music library - up to 50,000 songs - as well as stream any of the 30 million songs in its catalog.

Unlike most streaming services though, the focus is not on playlists per se, but on well-curated radio stations which are the standout feature of Play Music. The difference is that unlike playlists, which are finite and contain specific tracks, radio stations play endlessly and are updated at regular intervals based on your listening habits. GPM also has a surprisingly good recommendation engine that for some reason never gets the credit it deserves.

Who is it for?

Google and Android fans who want to combine existing music with a good streaming library.

People who don't want to put too much thought into their collection and want an endless stream of music on just playing one song. 

Listeners who are more singles-oriented than album-oriented.

Highlights

A super-smooth on-boarding process that reads your musical taste even before you listen to the very first song on the platform.

Seamless voice control on Google Home devices.

Monthly fee includes a subscription to YouTube Red: commercial-free streaming on YouTube and YouTube Music.

Surprisingly good recommendation engine.

Music locker service for free.

Downside

Recommended playlists are not the greatest, but it makes up for it with the song radio feature.

No access to lyrics

GPM is not available in all countries and regions. Even in countries where the paid full version is available, some tracks might not be available.

Check out the availability in your region/country here.

What's the cost?

A single account costs $9.99 while a family account can contain up to six members and costs $14.99. You can use Google Play Music for free, but you'll be limited to using radio stations (with ads) and listening to music that you have personally uploaded to the service (no ads). It also comes with a 30-day trial period.

Tidal

Image Source: Wikimedia
Image Source: Wikimedia

Tidal, the music service purchased by hip-hop mogul Jay Z in 2015 and recently purchased in part by Sprint, is a tricky one. Their strategy seems to be different from that of the other players. The focus here is not on vast libraries but on exclusive content and absolutely top-of-the-line audio quality and fidelity. In fact, Tidal is the only major streaming music service that offers loss-less streaming with sound quality that is virtually identical to (or better than) CD. Like Apple Music, Tidal also offers exclusive content, though it is usually from one of its superstar co-owners. For instance, Beyonce's visual album 'Lemonade' or Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo' were both exclusive to Tidal.

Who is it for?

Audiophiles who simply won't settle for anything but the best audio quality, and are also willing to pay for it!

Devoted fans of Jay-Z!

Highlights

High-fidelity music streams, going all the way up to lossless 24-bit 1411kbps audio.

Lots of video content, including concert live streams.

Exclusive songs and playlists from big names like Beyonce, Kanye West and Jay Z.

Occasional ticket presales for gigs.

Focus on under-the-radar artists, especially from the hip-hop world.

The Downside

Fewer tracks in the library and a not-so-great recommendation engine. Better suited for those who know what they're looking for.

At $20 per month, it's a lot to pay for lossless audio.

The mobile apps and Web player are both buggy and not as user-friendly when compared to other options.

What's the cost?

$10 per month for compressed 320kbps audio, $20 for loss less 24-bit 1411kbps audio. Comes with free 30-day trial.

Pandora

Image Source: Wikimedia
Image Source: Wikimedia

Though Pandora entered the on-demand streaming tier only recently featuring 40 million tracks, the best reason to subscribe to the service is to bask in the glory of its Music Genome Project. Since the early 2000s, the company has been attempting to “capture the essence of music on every level,” categorizing songs based on hundreds of unique characteristics.

With such an abundance of data about each song, Pandora is able to offer a pretty respectable curated, radio-style streaming online, all based on simple thumbs up or thumbs down ratings. Users can pick a favorite artist or track and press play, and algorithms behind the scenes at Pandora go to work to provide you with a constant list of complimentary songs to enjoy.

Who is it for?

Those who like to hit play, not put too much effort and let the music player do the rest of the work.

Listeners who want to streamline their music taste and find more similar artists/songs.

Highlights

The service boasts one of the largest user bases, thanks to its free version which has been around for over a decade now.

Pandora's "Music Genome Project" analyzes each track according to 450 different attributes in order to give better suggestions, so the recommendation engine is highly recommended!

The Downside

With a bitrate of 192Kbps, Pandora offers one of the lowest audio quality available, even on the Premium subscription.

Not available anywhere in the world outside the USA.

The size of the catalog doesn't match up to its competitors.

What's the cost?

Free ad-based radio, $5 per month for ad-free radio, $10 per month for ad-free on-demand music streaming.

Soundcloud

Image Source: Wikia
Image Source: Wikia

SoundCloud’s biggest asset is its extremely creative, massive user base. With nearly 200 million active users per month and a huge number of small-name artists constantly uploading their latest and greatest songs to the service, those who have the patience to dig through SoundCloud’s immense tracklist are sure to find an unknown artist they love. But what this means is that Soundcloud attracts a special type of listener. One who doesn't mind putting in hours of effort every week to dig up some really underground talent, and this might not make it ideal for the average listener. 

Who is it for?

Indie fans who couldn't care less about what's happening on the mainstream music circuit.

Small-time as well as full-time creators who want to put out their music to the world.

Highlights

Free for listening to music, interacting with the community, and uploading up to a total of 180 minutes of audio.

Add comments to specific times during a recording.

Pretty smooth interface on both Android and iOS apps, as well as the web player.

Lets you share your own recordings and include links for purchase or even lets listeners download the song offline.

The Downside

Not the ideal player for those who want to plug and play with a great recommendation engine.

The library is vast and disorganized and requires effort to navigate through.

What is the cost?

Free with ads for access to 120 million user-added tracks, $5 per month for ad-free access to user-added tracks, $10 for user-added tracks plus 30 million major label tracks.

Amazon Music Unlimited

Image Source: Wikia
Image Source: Wikia

Amazon Music Unlimited is a spin-off version of Amazon Prime Music that Prime subscribers get for "free." It offers a greatly expanded catalog for a little extra per month. Rather than focusing on the cutting edge of music as some services do, the service features recommended playlists and radio stations that are centered around artists you've already listened to, similar to Google Play Music.

Who is it for?

Amazon Prime members who want to save a few bucks and still get access to a decent music catalog.

Highlights

Cheapest per month if you are already an Amazon Prime member.

Lyrics automatically pop up on the "now playing" screen.

Offers cheaper plans for Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. Ideal for fans of Alexa

The Downside

Officially advertised as "tens of millions" of tracks strong, it's unclear if the catalog is quite as large as its competitors listed here

Artist profiles don't have biographies.

Music locker feature isn't going to be around for too long.

What is the cost?

$7.99 per month for Amazon Prime members. $9.99 for regular users without a Prime membership.