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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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- Free 3 month trial
- $14.99/month Family Plan (up to 6 users)
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.
- 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:
On November, 30, 2015, Beats Music began phasing out since Apple Music is live.
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+.
- 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
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.
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.
- 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 shut down its services in early 2015.
Rdio has been acquired by Pandora.
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.
- 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 is now a part of Spotify.
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.
- Tidal Premium $9.99/month (standard sound quality)
- Tidal HiFi $19.99/month (lossless “HiFi” sound quality)
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.