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Best Streaming Music Service: Spotify vs Rhapsody vs Pandora vs Google Music vs Rdio vs Beats vs Napster

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1st
2nd
Apple Music logo
3rd
Napster

Companies providing audio streaming grow daily, with them the services they are offering are growing as well. With audio streaming you have access to millions of songs, from your PC, from your mobile device or from your home audio system. When you pay a monthly flat fee you have access to millions of tunes. This flat rate often includes additional features such as creating your personal radio, sharing your playlists or reading reviews about newest releases. What is the best music streaming service where you can listen to as many songs as you like for a low flat rate? We have researched some of the most popular streaming services and selected our picks for Best Music Streaming Service.

Terminology and Common Features

Type of Streaming Music Services

There are different types of streaming music services:

  • Music Library: These services offer unlimited access for a flat rate (and partly for free). Generally these will have a library of millions of song titles, which you can browse and listen anytime and anywhere you like. All services offer access via browser or a desktop application and different mobile devices. These services are the subject of our review.
  • Cloud Storage: Services that offer cloud storage for your songs and the possibility to stream your songs anytime you like and anywhere you like.
  • Theme Radio Stations: These offer radio stations that stick to a specific theme that you can stream to your PC, home audio or many mobile devices.

Streaming Music Devices

You can stream and listen your music from every PC, sometimes directly with the browser, sometimes you need a dedicated Windows / iOS Desktop application to browse and play the music. Also you can stream your tunes from mobile devices such as iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android Phones and Tables, Windows or BlackBerry. Not all services cover all mobile devices; check our comparison table for an overview. Since this is fast growing business we recommend also to check the providers website for the latest update of supported devices.

Some services also support home audio systems such as Logitech Squeezebox or Sonos and others.

The number of devices connected to an account is limited, often two or three devices. And, important to know, in most cases you can use only one device at a time. A workaround is to listen to music in the offline-modules, which is possible with iOS and Android Apps. In parallel you can stream live music from another device.

Search for Your Favorite Tunes & Artist Radio Stations

You can search for your tunes by interpreters, titles or albums. Often the streaming services offer additional ways to search and browse for your favorite songs, for example you can create artist radio stations (Rhapsody, Spotify, Xbox). You choose first a song and then create the radio station based on this song. Now the service searches similar songs and plays one after the other. If you like a song, you can press a like button, if you don’t like it, you can jump to the next song.

Editor’s Picks and Reviews

Several services offer also editor picks, reviews of new tunes or recommendations for selected genres.

Sharing Playlists and Social Media

All services have social functions, where you can share your playlists and songs with your friends using the same service, or for example, Facebook. If you connect to a friend with Rdio, you can access even his whole play history. And with Spotify you can make a playlist collaborative, so that you can build the playlist together with a friend.

Sound Quality

The highest quality music streaming services have is a stream of 320 Kilobits per second (Kbps) which is called the bitrate. If you stream music from your mobile device you probably prefer less bandwidth.

Online/Offline Mode

To put it simple, online mode is when you have the ability to connect to the Internet. So when you’re at work or at home you’re most likely online. Offline mode is basically the opposite. With this feature you don’t need to have an Internet connection to playback songs or playlists. It works by downloading and storing a local copy of the songs in your library. This is useful for listening to music when you can’t easily go online like on a plane, in the car, etc. It is also a useful feature to have if you need to conserve data usage for your broadband package or want to minimize bandwidth usage.

Winner: Spotify Review

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Spotify is the winner of our best music streaming service review. The combination of a large library, good user interface, wide support of devices and great features made it our first choice. You can access Spotify with their own desktop software for Windows and Mac OS as well as mobile devices for iOS, Android and more. The desktop software scans your local folders and imports playlists from iTunes and the Windows Media Player, so that you can play either tunes from the Spotify server or your local ones. Currently over 30 million songs are accessible; you can create a free account to test the service. Best of all, you can now use your Spotify account on all your mobile devices.

Pros

Cons

  • Large library for unlimited music streaming
  • Clean and good user interface
  • Excellent audio quality 320Kbps
  • Compatible with iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and home audio systems
  • Offline mode
  • Great social media tools
  • Free mobile service
  • Podcasts and video clips
  • Taste Rewind feature plays songs from different decades
  • Login either via Mail or Facebook, if you login with both, it can cause troubles with your playlists

Price

  • Spotify free: Listen on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone to millions of songs, interrupted by ads. Good to get a first impression, but soon you will probably get rid of the ads. Limited to 10 hours per month.
  • Spotify Premium ($9.99/month): For the price of an album every month, you get the full-fledged version. With the premium option you not only can stream unlimited to your desktop, but also to your mobile devices, using offline mode and home audio systems such as Sonos and Squeezebox. Also you get top sound quality with many tracks being provided at 320Kbps.
  • Spotify Trial: Spotify offers a 30-days trial for Spotify Premium.

2nd Place: Apple Music Review

Apple Music logo

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Apple Music was launched June 30, 2015. Even though they’re new to the game, they’ve quickly made it to the top. They are basically the “newer” version of Beats Music, which is now obsolete. Apple came out with their music streaming service because iTunes sales were declining and change had to be made. Perhaps they’ll make their way to the top, but for now it’s too early to say.

Pros

Cons

  • Includes Beats1 live DJ radio
  • Available in 100 countries
  • Sync songs to offline mode
  • More than 30 million songs
  • Apple has a great reputation
  • Comes pre installed on Apple devices
  • No free plan

Price

  • Free 3 month trial
  • $9.99/month
  • $14.99/month Family Plan (up to 6 users)

3rd Place: Naspter Review (formerly Rhapsody)

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Napster (formerly Rhapsody) won 3rd place with its large library, good user interface, good mobile device support and the possibility to buy many songs also as MP3 files. Napster is compatible with a large selection of home audio systems and receivers. You can access Napster via any browser on the desktop, with a windows desktop application or with mobile apps for mobile devices with iOS, Android and more. Currently there are more than 32 million songs available.

Pros

Cons

  • Large library for unlimited music streaming
  • Clean and good user interface
  • Compatible with iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and Blackberry
  • Offline mode
  • Compatible with a wide range of home audio systems and receivers
  • Offers interviews and reviews about new tunes and interesting tips
  • Decent sound quality, 192Kbps (apps for iOS (3.11.1) and Android (4.14.1.247) can stream and download songs with 320kbps)
  • Site isn’t very detailed about Napster’s offerings

Price

  • unRadio ($4.99/month): unlimited skips, live worldwide radio, first 14 days are free
  • Premier ($9.99/month): everything from unRadio, download any song, album or playlist, full control of your music

Music Streaming Service Comparison Table

To help you sort through the music streaming services, we’ve also created a comparison table that highlights the main features for each music streaming service.

Due to the large size of our music streaming comparison table, we are putting it on a separate page so you can reference it more easily. Please visit our music streaming comparison table (or click on the image at left) for feature details on the music streaming services we review in this article. We’ll continue adding music streaming services to the table as we gather data, and update existing ones as they add and support new features.

Best Music Streaming Services

Other music streaming services reviewed in this article:

Beats MusicGoogle Play Music | Myspace Music | Pandora | Rara | Rdio | Slacker | Sony Music Unlimited | Tidal | Xbox Music Pass

Beats Music Review

On November, 30, 2015, Beats Music began phasing out since Apple Music is live.

Google Play Music Review

Google Play Music logo

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Google Play Music has more than 30 million songs to choose from and an unlimited amount of time to stream music users couldn’t be happier. Google Play Music users can also upload music from their own libraries. Another cool feature is that you can store up to 50,000 of your own songs in your online locker. Of course, Google loves itself so you can share with others via Google+.

Pros

Cons

  • Large library for unlimited music streaming
  • Clean and good user interface
  • More than 30 million songs
  • Excellent audio quality, 320Kbps
  • Compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows
  • Store specific songs on your mobile app and listen while offline
  • Share with others
  • Upload your own music from your library (up to 50,000 songs)
  • Sony’s AAC’s are often more clear than Google’s MP3s even though that have the same bitrate

Price

  • Google Play Music Standard Free: Store up to 50,000 of your own songs in your locker, access your music anywhere without syncing, experience music without ads, and buy new music.
  • Google Play Music All Access ($9.99/month): Unlimited listening to millions of songs, create personalized radio from any song or artist, listen to radio with unlimited skips, get smart recommendations based on your tastes PLUS the Standard package perks. The first 30-days are free.
  • Google Play Music Family Plan ($14.99/month): Up to 6 people for up to 10 devices

Myspace Music Review

Myspace Music logo

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We all remember the days when Myspace was what we consider Facebook to be today. If you look at the way Myspace has recreated itself, you will see that it is strictly a music service, period. With more than 53 million songs, it’s easy to say that Myspace has one of the largest libraries. However, Myspace prides itself in supporting new up and coming music artists so many of their songs are from unheard of bands that have yet to be signed.

Pros

Cons

  • Compatible with iOS and Windows
  • Free
  • Great for those who want to discover new music
  • Web player requires you to disable 3rd party cookie blocking in order to play music
  • Doesn’t include some of the top artists today
  • Unknown to many web users because most think of Myspace as the “old version of Facebook”
  • Difficult to navigate
  • Average audio quality of, 96Kbps

Price

  • Free

Pandora Review

Pandora logo

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Pandora is the most widely compatible music streaming service. It does a great job suggesting songs and has great customizable options. It also shows the lyrics to each song. Pandora’s downfall is that it only allows so many skips per hour with the free version and there is no rewind or repeat function.

Pros

Cons

  • Compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, Android, PS3, PSP, PS Vita, Blu-Ray players, and TVs
  • Shows lyrics to each song
  • Rate songs with a thumbs up or down which helps determine future songs recommended
  • Pandora Premiers allows listeners to access albums that haven’t been released from a variety of different artists
  • Decent audio quality, 192Kbps for Pandora One
  • No rewind, repeat function
  • Can only skip so many songs
  • Fewest songs in its library, only 1 million

Price

  • Pandora Free: Unlimited music with advertisements.
  • Pandora One ($54.89/year or $4.99/month): Consists of no advertisements and a desktop application. Also includes a 24-hour free trial.

Rara Review

Rara shut down its services in early 2015.

Rdio Review

Rdio has been acquired by Pandora.

Slacker Radio Review

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Slacker Radio offers a library of over 12 millions songs, which is low compared to its competitors but is still a good chunk of tunes. Only the premium subscription gives you the possibility to play songs on demand as other services do. One of Slacker’s perks is it offers several ways to discover music: Slacker Stations are genre stations; My Music contains your playlists, custom stations and recently played stations. The interface is nothing special and the audio is decent but there are artist biographies and lyrics for each song, which is pretty neat.

Pros

Cons

  • Free version is good if you just like to listen to radio stations
  • Compatible with iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Offline mode
  • Decent audio, 320 Kbps
  • Includes artist biographies and lyrics
  • Full access to single songs only with premium subscription, but this offers much less selection than Spotify or MOG
  • Offline use only with Premium subscription
  • User interface average

Price

  • Slacker Free: Stream millions of songs within radio stations and hundreds of expert-programmed stations. You can listen on any device. Financed with advertisement. You can select a song to listen, you can select only a song/artist and based on this artist a radio station is created. You can skip to the next song for a limited number of times.
  • Slacker Radio Plus ($4.99/month): Stream millions of songs within radio stations and hundreds of expert-programmed stations; listen on any device, no ads, unlimited song-skips. Note, that you cannot select a song to listen, you can select only a song/artist and based on this artist a radio station is created. You can skip to the next song played.
  • Slacker Premium ($9.99/month): Stream millions of songs you like to any device, download playlists on mobile, listen offline.

Sony Music Unlimited Review

Sony Music Unlimited is now a part of Spotify.

Tidal Review

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Tidal is an “artist owned coalition”. The founders are Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire, Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Shawn “JAY Z” Carter and Usher. Since it’s created by artists it also puts the artists’ needs higher. Artists, producers and songwriters get the highest percentage of royalties from Tidal than any other music streaming service. Tidal prides itself in serving lossless 1411kbps sound quality music. They call this high fidelity music streaming, or HiFi for short.

Pros

Cons

  • 30 day free trial
  • Import playlists to Tidal by using Soundiiz.com
  • Ad free
  • Great sound quality at 1411kbps
  • Great FAQ section
  • Highest royalty percentages for artists, songwriters and producers
  • Student discount
  • No Offline Mode on PC/Mac
  • Not available on Windows Phone, but coming soon
  • HiFi is only available at the highest subscription and it’s fairly pricey

Price

  • Tidal Premium $9.99/month (standard sound quality)
  • Tidal HiFi $19.99/month (lossless “HiFi” sound quality)

Xbox Music Pass Review

Xbox Music nobo

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Use Xbox Music Pass to stream on your Xbox 360 or Xbox One. It is also compatible with smartphone and tablet devices including Windows, Android and iOS. Up to four devices can be registered for one account and all of your devices sync up automatically to stay up to date. Xbox Music is now known as Groove and works well with Cortana in your vehicle when you’re using bluetooth.

Pros

Cons

  • 30 day free trial
  • Over 90,000 music videos
  • Apps for Windows Phone, Android and iOS
  • Devices sync automatically
  • Offline listening on PC, tablet and phone
  • Ad-free
  • Create artist based radio stations to find new music
  • Free trial continues onto a paid version so if you don’t want it make sure you cancel it

Price

  • $9.99/month

Kimberly researches everything before she buys. She wants to make sure she is getting the best bang for her buck by purchasing the best product/service, which is why she loves her work. She has a degree in Multimedia Journalism and has been researching and writing professionally since 2013 to help consumers make more educated decisions.
newest oldest most voted
Robert Chandler
PlayLists – Why do you think cassette tapes took off 🙂 People love making and sharing personal playlists. But many love radio for the fresh surprise too.
Aaron
I just swapped Apple Music for Pandora, but now I read this and will try out Spotify. Apple Music, for a radio, is utter garbage. Their preference-learning algorithms are crap compared to Pandora. I feel like these were derived from Genius, which at one time was good, but has been awful for years now. Also, the radio lacks SO MUCH functionality. You cannot undo a dislike, cannot view radio station history, cannot purposefully add variety to a station, cannot rename or delete a station, and it’s even somewhat difficult to add a station based on an artist – need to do it a backdoor way of finding the artist first, then playing a song, then creating a station.

I don’t find Apple Music to be a very enjoyable program for people who have an eclectic taste in music or anyone who wants good control over what they’re listening to. The program is flat and lacks functionality.

Victor Tabarnack
In case someone hasn’t mentioned it, Google Music has one additional premium option: Family plan with up to 10 Accounts (10 playlists, 10 libraries) for $5 more than the All-Access subscription.
PJ
Great article, although now YouTube has released YouTube Red it would be great to get that added to the list. YouTube Red comes with free Google Store music.
mjsmit
Curved * ads – How can you listen to Spotify with your family when the music is interrupted with ads like “Do you or your partner suffer from a curved * when erect?” Thanks but no thanks – Back to Pandora
Alvin
Yea, you missed SoundCloud.
C.O. Jones
Great comments on codecs/bit rates. Off the main topic, but if you want your music to sound good, play a CD or better yet an LP. BTW besides streaming services, vinyl is the only music market that’s growing.
janxspiritt
No Chromecast support for Apple Music is a massive deal breaker.
vinocat
Yeah, I’m pretty happy about Tidal, including its curated content over and above the albums. However, the user interface and device support are still pretty marginal. It’s a business curiosity that at least some of the other major players haven’t figured out they could offer lossless at a premium.
Blanca Perez
Tidal with the higher resolution steaming is $19.99 a month. At the $9.99 point Tidal is not competeitive.
Aubrey
What about Amazon music?
iKrontologist
About as mixed up and with so much Applewellian FUD and misinformation laced into this selection as it gets. But then this writer clouds her prized music list of streaming services, even further with this statement: “Apple came out with their music streaming service because iTunes sales were declining and change had to be made. Perhaps they’ll make their way to the top, but for now it’s too early to say.”

Not that I expected my comment to even be posted or approved here! xD

So tell how a totally new service basically built on iTunes Radio failure, and now actually using very little of the good stuff they got with their $3+ Billion Purchase of Beats Radio fail, add up to push Apple Music ahead of so many more great long established music streaming services. Tell us too, did you actually use all of them for longer than a couple of minutes? Or did you even bother to try anything but the pay for streaming services to fully evaluate them?

I am of course specifically speaking of my choice for best all around value with more fringe benefits than you could shake a stick or your finger at, Google Play Music. Which actually has the best available to it in both music streaming and music video services via YouTube. And what about for us long time Play Music Subscribers with established collections and playlists that can’t simply be transferred to any other comparable service? Now nearly 4 yrs into still paying that $7.95 introductory price for all they’ve got. Which is the largest streaming collection of music choices available on the entire planet.

Which also offers free music streaming choices to go with their pay for subscription plans. Which also include a Family Plan and other vast assortment of niceties none of the others can ever offer. They had offline downloading before any competitor even thought of it. Google Cloud even allowed us to upload 20GB of our own music free for streaming to go with that largest ever collection they offer over any other competitor! Get real and get off the Applewellian back door funded payroll. After all, you don’t really expect them to break that 100 million paying, subscriber goal they set for their first year, do you? When here they are nearly 9 months into it and still haven’t broke 10 million paying subscribers to iTunes Radio rehashed into Beats $3+ Billion purchase, Beats Music wearing an Apple Music disguise, as it’s claim for finally getting at least some success against their greatest competitors in steaming content! 😀

Ronnie Craig
As someone with a new iPod Touch 6th Generation, would it seem best to go with Apple Music? I mean since it’s built into the device, and seems to work great. It has radio stations based on genre, genius playlists based on bands or tracks, curaters from apple maybe other places as well, that make playlists that introduce you to new music while mixing it with music that it’s picked up on you listening to a lot. It has a way to connect with other people. You can follow bands and individual artists sort of like Twitter and meet up with others that follow them and get good ideas for new music. It’s got 30 million songs in its library I think, but no Beatles. But this is the first Apple product I’ve ever owned (the iPod Touch), I’ve had Android tablets since they came out and used Google Play Music since it came out, but I don’t need the 50,000 song locker, and, as I mentioned, since I have the Apple iPod, I thought maybe the Apple Music might be best; especially if they would update the Apple Music app for Android to work on my Galaxy Tab S.
Anybody got any thoughts or tips for me?
disqus_jTbchRrBq0
Beware, Spotify’s “Your Music”, which is how they encourage you to bookmark albums you like (as opposed to saving them as playlists), has a 10,000 song limit. Once you hit that the only way to add more songs is to remove some others first. What’s nasty about this is you only stumble across it once you’ve been a heavy user of Spotify. I’m not aware of whether other services have similar limits.
Ronnie Craig
If I’m right, Apple Music has a 100,000 song limit for songs added to your ‘My Music Library’, not downloaded.
Ronnie Craig
Not sure if my post worked earlier but Apple Music has a 100,000 song limit for adding songs to your ‘My Music Library’ not downloaded, just tagged to be in your Library to stream.
Pate Yate
I don’t know why Live 365 isn’t offered as a choice. It’s been on longer than all these, doesn’t need an “app” as you can play right from a browser and has thousands of stations with a lot these others don’t come close to having (Greek, Church Organ, etc.) I can’t speak for split hair details, but it plays well, that’s all I know. Just wondering.
Jacob
With Beats out of the picture now, what would you say would win 2nd?
Greg Counts
Are there any services that let you rate individual tracks? Rhapsody used to have that feature but it’s being dropped in their most current release.
Ronnie Craig
Apple Music lets you rate individual tracks on a 5 star basis, and a heart you can hit to mark it as a favorite.