Finest music streaming service for 2021

Best music streaming service for 2021

All of the cool children are speaking a few vinyl resurgence and squabbling over the most effective turntables, however streaming remains to be essentially the most handy and standard solution to hearken to your favourite songs. Streaming can sound nice too, particularly on providers that embrace lossless and spatial Dolby Atmos audio, generally for no additional cost.

So which streaming music service is finest for you? I’ve checked out the most important names, together with SpotifyApple MusicAmazon Music, and YouTube Music, as effectively smaller contenders like Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer and Pandora Premium to see how every platform stacks up to your subscription buck. Whereas most supply music catalogs of over 60 million songs and allow you to stream out of your telephone, pc or different gadget, every has its personal distinctive execs and cons. On this roundup we have neglected providers that solely play music in a radio format (Pandora, Rdio, Napster Unradio) and do not help you choose your personal songs.

Learn extra: Apple Music vs. Spotify: Evaluating the highest music streaming providers

Providers usually cost $10 a month and do not have a contract, however swapping between them is not as simple as TV streaming. In case you do not wish to rebuild your playlists and library from scratch while you change, you’ve two important choices — a music locker service corresponding to YouTube Music, or the library import device Soundiiz. The latter possibility can learn the library from every of your music providers and switch them, and whereas there is a $4.50 month-to-month cost, you possibly can at all times cancel as soon as you’ve got transformed your library. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

So which music streaming providers supply the most effective mixture of worth, sound high quality and library dimension? Learn on to seek out an in-depth take a look at every of the providers and a characteristic comparability, together with a full worth breakdown within the chart on the backside of the web page. We’ll replace this listing periodically. And if you’d like the TL;DR, these are the highest three.

Angela Lang/CNET

Spotify is the pioneer in music streaming and arguably the best-known service. It gives quite a few curated music discovery providers, together with its Uncover Weekly playlist, and is consistently implementing new ones, corresponding to Stations. It is also ramped up its non-music content material with a push in direction of podcasts.

It is a shut race between Spotify Premium and Apple Music, however Spotify wins as the most effective music streaming service total because of a enjoyable, easy-to-use interface, an intensive catalog and the most effective gadget compatibility. Spotify additionally gives the most effective free tier: With out paying a dime or offering a bank card quantity, you possibly can stream Spotify Join to quite a few Wi-Fi gadgets.

Whereas Spotify has introduced a new HiFi tier it seems to be capped at CD high quality, in contrast to the spatial and hi-res choices accessible at Apple Music, Amazon Music Limitless, Tidal and Qobuz. The corporate additionally hiked costs on quite a few plans not too long ago, though the bottom worth stays $10 a month within the US.

The Good 

  • Free model is impressively sturdy
  • Spotify Join simplifies connecting to wi-fi audio system and AV receivers 
  • Straightforward to construct your personal playlists and sync them for offline listening
  • Lets you comply with artists and to be alerted after they launch new music or announce an upcoming present
  • Now with podcasts

The Dangerous

  • Ads within the free service will be intrusive
  • You possibly can’t hearken to particular songs within the free tier, only a combine primarily based on the requested music

Finest for: Individuals who need a strong all-around service, and particularly for individuals who like to make, browse and share playlists for any state of affairs.

Learn our Spotify overview.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple Music runs a detailed second to Spotify. It gives a pleasant interface, over 75 million tracks and compatibility with each iOS and Android gadgets. Sure, it has spatial audio albums for no additional cost, however these 1,000 tracks are dwarfed by the remainder of {the catalogue}.

Not surprisingly, Apple Music is your best option in the event you’ve invested closely within the Apple ecosystem. In case you personal an Apple HomePod or Mini, it’s the default subscription service to summon music together with your voice. Apple Music additionally makes the perfect companion for an iPod Contact, which, after 20 years, remains to be a factor. There’s additionally a ton of curated playlists, many handcrafted by musicians and tastemakers, however it lacks the sturdy sharing choices constructed into Spotify. 

Apple Music is the one certainly one of our high three with a digital locker to retailer your personal library of songs — YouTube Music, beneath, is the opposite music locker possibility. There are two methods to add your music: free with a Music subscription, however with DRM; or $25, £22 or AU$35 a yr for iTunes Match, which can allow you to obtain once more even and not using a Music subscription.

The Good

  • Spatial and hi-res music included to your $10 a month
  • Combines your iTunes library with music you do not personal and a selection of music lockers
  • Human music consultants and algorithms assist discover music you will wish to hear primarily based on what you play
  • You possibly can management what you hear or seek for new music utilizing Siri on Apple HomePod or different Apple gadgets

The Dangerous

  • The Android app and expertise is not as easy because the iOS one
  • Would not work with previous iPods (besides the iPod Contact)
  • Hello-res does not work on HomePod

Finest for: Those that are wrapped up within the Apple world, or who merely need glorious bang for buck.

Learn our Apple Music overview.


Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Qobuz gives hi-res audio streams too and in contrast to Tidal you do not want a specialised MQA decoder to hearken to them. They will sound nice on an Android telephone or a high-end music system. It might not supply Dolby Atmos music, however the present catalog of songs on different providers is not that spectacular anyway. 

The service gives two plans — the hi-res Studio Premier for $13 a month and the $180 annual Chic Plus. Uniquely, the service gives its personal hi-res obtain retailer and in the event you join that second plan you get a reduction on purchases.

At 70 million tracks, Qobuz’s streaming catalog rivals Tidal’s and Spotify’s in quantity, although it could not have essentially the most obscure artists. Qobuz usually steers in direction of hi-res recordings so is particularly suited to jazz and classical followers, although its rock choice is pretty sturdy. The truth that it is cheaper than Tidal, and does not require a particular DAC to pay attention in 24-bit/192Hz, makes Qobuz our favourite service for critical music lovers.

The Good

  • The app is admittedly clear and enjoyable to make use of
  • Capacity to hearken to 24-bit music without having a specialised decoder
  • One of many extra reasonably priced hi-res providers
  • Gives a obtain retailer as effectively

The Dangerous

  • Could also be some gaps within the catalog 
  • No spatial audio

Finest for: Audiophiles who need hi-res music for an honest worth plus the flexibility to purchase and obtain albums.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tidal which gives a wide array of music past its seemingly city focus. Its higher-priced choices are aimed toward individuals searching for the most effective audio high quality, even when opponents now supply related high quality for half the worth. Qobuz is catching as much as it now, too, because it guarantees arguably higher sound high quality (no MQA decoder required), a less expensive worth and up to date enhancements in its catalog. 

In fact, Tidal’s important hook has at all times been that its increased subscription worth interprets to raised payouts to artists. Particularly musicians who aren’t on the high of the pop charts. 

Now partly owned by Jack Dorsey’s Sq., Tidal gives lossless audio and Dolby Atmos streaming with sound high quality that’s just about an identical to — or higher than — CD. Tidal says its catalog exceeds 70 million tracks, and now consists of longtime holdouts Metallica as effectively. In case you’re an audiophile, a fan of city music, or a mixture of each, then Tidal ought to enchantment to you. 

The Good

  • Excessive-fidelity music streams together with Dolby Atmos encompass mixes
  • A lot of video content material, together with live performance livestreams
  • Profiles and report opinions on each web page, plus up-and-coming artist spotlights

The Dangerous

  • The cell apps and internet participant aren’t as simple as some others
  • The catalog is not as exhaustive as Spotify Premium
  • Most high-res music makes use of MQA, which wants a specialised decoder

Finest for: Musically inclined purists who care deeply about sound high quality and discovering new, up-and-coming artists.

Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Amazon Music Limitless is the “grownup” (a.ok.a. paid) model of Amazon Prime Music, which any Prime subscriber will get for “free.” As a service, Music Limitless has had fairly the improve not too long ago because it now consists of the unique HD service at no cost (sure, the one Neil Younger stated would change the Earth without end.) For $8 for Prime members, or $10 if you do not have Prime, you get entry to thousands and thousands of lossless tracks in addition to 1,000 “spatial” remixes. These remixes are capable of be performed again on Dolby Atmos soundbars, iOS gadgets in addition to the Amazon Echo Studio. When it comes to usability, the Music Limitless interface can also be extra expanded than ever with playlists, genres and podcasts all accessible from the primary web page.

The Good

  • Cheaper than the highest three in the event you’re an Amazon Prime member
  • Lyrics routinely pop up on the “now enjoying” display
  • Hello-res and spatial audio from Sony 360 Actuality Audio and Dolby Atmos for no additional cost
  • Gives free music stations for Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Faucet (consists of advertisements)

The Dangerous

  • Artist profiles do not have biographies
  • Formally marketed as “tens of thousands and thousands” of tracks robust, it is unclear if the catalog is sort of as massive as its opponents
  • The service now not features a music locker

Finest for: Amazon Prime members who wish to save a couple of dollars on an honest music catalog.

Learn our Amazon Music (Android) overview.


YouTube Music


Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

YouTube Music is the successor to Google Play Music, and in the event you join the ad-free YouTube Premium you get YouTube Music thrown in at no cost. The excellent news is that YouTube Music is a principally spectacular service, and Google has retained the predecessor’s music locker system. When you have a legacy Google Play Music account you could possibly nonetheless switch your library over to YouTube Music. And it is not simply legacy content material: YouTube Music permits customers to add new tracks to its on-line music locker, too.  

In even higher information, YouTube Music gives a cleaner interface than Google Play Music. As a substitute of playlists, YouTube Music gives well-curated radio stations which play endlessly and are up to date usually. 

The Good

  • Month-to-month charge consists of commercial-free streaming on YouTube as effectively
  • Over 60 million tracks
  • Retains Google Play Music’s music locker system: You possibly can switch present songs from the previous service, plus add new ones in YouTube Music

The Dangerous

  • Rivals supply a greater music focus for the cash
  • Bit-rate is decrease than Google Play Music

Finest for: Heavy YouTube customers and Android gadget customers.

Pandora Premium

Nonetheless some of the standard streaming radio providers within the US, Pandora additionally gives the a la carte Premium ($10 a month) and no-ads Plus ($5 a month). The result’s extra flexibility than most opponents, and Premium has gained loads extra subscribers in recent times, even when the service is behind by way of total catalog dimension.

The Good

  • One of many largest person bases, because of its free model
  • Pandora’s Music Genome Challenge analyzes every monitor in accordance with 450 completely different attributes to be able to give higher ideas

The Dangerous

  • Its audio high quality is among the many lowest accessible, even on the Premium subscription (192Kbps)
  • It does not actually supply sufficient of an incentive for an improve from its free tier in comparison with the others right here
  • Not accessible outdoors the US

Finest for: Pandora Premium is of most curiosity to individuals who already use Pandora and need to have the ability to choose precisely what they hearken to. We might suggest it to nearly nobody else.


French stalwart Deezer has been working within the States since 2016, and it has lots to supply, together with a free tier (cell solely) and 56 million tracks. It has extra subscribers than some others on this listing thanks, partially, to its earlier affiliation with Cricket Wi-fi. The principle Premium plan is $10 a month however customers are additionally capable of improve to a lossless model (CD high quality) for $15 a month. Whereas it reportedly boasts extra customers than Tidal, the service does not supply sufficient to distinguish it from its equally priced opponents.

High providers in contrast

Amazon Music Limitless Apple Music Qobuz Spotify Tidal YouTube Music
Month-to-month charge Prime members: $8, £8, N/A; Non-Prime members: $10, £10, AU$12; Echo-only service: Free, AU$5 $10, £10, AU$12 $13, AU$20 $10, £10, AU$12 Premium: $10, £10, AU$15; HiFi: $20, £20, AU$24 $10, £10, AU$12
Free possibility? Sure, with advertisements No No Sure, with advertisements No Sure, with advertisements
Free trial interval 30 days 3 months 30 days 30 days 3 months 30 days
Music library dimension 75 million Over 75 million 70 million Over 70 million Over 80 million Over 60 million
Most bitrate 256kbps, 3730 Kbps (HD) 256kbps, TBD 6,971 kbps 320kbps 1,411kbps 320kbps
Household plan? Sure, $15, £15, AU$18 for as much as 6 individuals Sure, $15, £15, AU$18 for as much as 6 individuals Sure, $16.67, £16.67, AU$44.99 Sure $16 monthly, as much as 6 Sure, 50% off every further account, as much as 4 Sure, $15, £15, AU$18 monthly for as much as 6 individuals
Pupil low cost No Sure, Worth varies by nation No Sure, $5, £5 with Hulu and Showtime Premium: $5, HiFi: $10 (US solely) Sure, $5
US navy low cost No No No No Sure No
Offline listening Cell and desktop Cell solely Cell and desktop Cell and desktop Cell solely Premium and cell solely
Radio stations Sure Sure No Sure No Sure
Podcasts Sure No No Sure Sure Sure
Music movies No Sure No Sure Sure Sure
Music locker performance No Sure No No No Sure

What else do you’ll want to know? 


The ’60s are alive and effectively on my Spotify app. 

Erin Carson/CNET

Do I want spatial or Atmos audio?

The quick reply is “No” and the lengthy reply is “Not within the slightest”. Stereo music has been round because the 50s and it makes the handful of Atmos audio tracks accessible appear insignificant as compared. Apple might rave about how “magical” spatial music is, however until you’ve a pair of suitable AirPods or an costly Atmos system you will not be capable to hear it correctly anyway. In our personal listening assessments we have discovered that the catalog is certainly fairly restricted and the standard of the mixes varies wildly. The music trade tries to push encompass music each twenty years or so — starting with Quadraphonic within the 70s, and persevering with with DVD-Audio within the 2000s — however we predict it’s going to proceed to stay area of interest.  

Music catalog sizes in contrast

The variety of songs provided by a music service was one of many important differentiators, however the entire main ones now have over 60 million tracks. Nevertheless, relying in your favored style, a few of them have a extra sturdy catalog that embrace many under-the-radar, indie or hip-hop artists. In case you’re musically inclined, continuously on the hunt to your favourite new band, a streaming service like Spotify or Tidal could also be extra up your alley. Customers who’re much less bold about increasing their musical style can be glad with the smaller catalogs Amazon Music Limitless or Pandora supply. Apple Music is someplace within the center, providing a wholesome mixture of mainstream tunes and underground unknowns.

Streaming radio vs. on-demand

This information covers on-demand music streaming providers, and for that motive, we have purposely neglected providers that solely play music in a radio format. Till not too long ago this listing excluded Pandora, however now that the corporate additionally gives a Premium tier we have included it right here. Slacker RadioTuneIn and iHeartRadio are radio-style providers or playlists primarily based round a theme or artist, with out you explicitly selecting tracks. 

Music lockers: Your MP3s within the cloud

Amazon was one of many first providers to supply importing your MP3 assortment into the cloud, however this was formally discontinued in 2018. In the meantime, the Apple and Google providers listed both help you mix your private music assortment with the streaming catalog, although tagging and group could be a time-consuming problem (your myriad reside Phish tracks will not arrange themselves). Nonetheless, in the event you’ve invested cash in digital music through the years, these two providers supply a patch to proceed having fun with that music on-line.  

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