Sure, vinyl may be making a resurgence among audiophiles with lots of great inexpensive turntable options, but wrangling physical records is a pain for casual music fans. While most offer music catalogs of more than 50 million songs, each has its own unique pros and cons.
We've also left out services that only play music in a radio format and don't offer à la carte listening. Get more out of your tech Learn smart gadget and internet tips and tricks with CNET's How To newsletter.
Services typically charge $10 a month and don't have a contract, but swapping between them isn't as straightforward as TV streaming. In most cases you'll need to build your library and playlists from scratch if you switch, unless you use a music locker service.
Sarah Too/CNET Read on to find an in-depth look at each of the services and a feature comparison, along with a full price breakdown in the chart at the bottom of the page. It offers a number of curated music discovery services, including its Discover Weekly playlist, and is constantly implementing new ones, such as Stations.
Free version is impressively robust Spotify Connect simplifies connecting to wireless speakers and AV receivers Easy to build your own playlists and sync them for offline listening Allows you to follow artists and to be alerted when they release new music or announce an upcoming show Apple Music also makes the ideal companion for an iPod Touch, which, amazingly, is still a thing.
There's also ton of curated playlists, many hand-crafted by musicians and tastemakers, but it lacks the robust sharing options built into Spotify. In third place is Tidal, which offers a wide selection of music beyond its most eye-catching urban names.
The mobile apps and web player aren't as straightforward as some others The catalog isn't as exhaustive as Spotify Premium Most high-res music uses MA, which needs a specialized decoder Best for: Musically inclined purists who care deeply about sound quality and discovering new, up-and-coming artists.
Artist profiles don't have biographies Officially advertised as “tens of millions” of tracks strong, it's unclear if the catalog is quite as large as its competitors The service no longer includes a music locker Best for: Amazon Prime members who want to save a few bucks on a decent music catalog.
Instead of playlists, YouTube Music offers well-curated radio stations, which are the standout features. Unlike playlists, which are finite and contain specific tracks, radio stations play endlessly and are updated often.
One of the most popular streaming radio services in the US, Pandora now offers the à la carte Premium and no-ads Plus tiers. The result is more flexibility than most competitors and Premium is gaining in subscribers, even if it's behind in terms of overall catalog size.
Screenshot: Ty Pendle bury/CNET Soyuz launched in the US in February 2019 with a clean interface, hi-res audio streams (which unlike Tidal's don't need an MA decoder) and the ability to buy lossless music. French stalwart Deezer has been operating in the States since 2016, and it has a lot to offer including a free tier (mobile only) and 56 million tracks.
Until recently this list excluded Pandora, but now that the company also offers a Premium tier we've included here. Slacker Radio, Tune In and iHeartRadio are other radio-style services that play music stations based around a theme or artist, without you explicitly picking tracks.
If you're musically inclined, constantly on the hunt for your favorite new band, a streaming service like Spotify or Tidal may be more up your alley. Apple Music is somewhere in the middle, offering a healthy mix of mainstream tunes and underground unknowns.
^ Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, Spain, US, UK ^ Full access in the Middle East and North Africa, Arabic music only elsewhere ^ Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, St. Kits & Nevis, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe ^ 180+ countries ^ Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand ^ Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan. ^ France, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, US ^ Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, Vietnam ^ Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.
^ Amazon Echo, Fire TV, Bose, Sonos, BlackBerry, Xbox One, Roku ^ BlackBerry, CarPlay, Android Auto, Chromecast, PlayStation, Apple Watch, Wear OS, Apple TV, Android TV, Webs, Samsung TV ^ Sonos, AirPlay, Apple TV, Apple Watch, Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo ^ Bose, Sonos, Chromecast, webs Symbian, BlackBerry, Fitbit ^ Samsung & LG TV, Android TV, Alexa, Sonos, CarPlay, Android Auto ^ BlackBerry, Bose, Chromecast, Android TV, PlayStation, Roku, Sonos, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Tito, Xbox One, Fitbit ^ Bose, Palm, Sonos, Symbian, Android TV, Android Auto, CarPlay, Boxer, Celia Digital-TV, Virgin Tito, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox One, BlackBerry, Chromecast, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Tesla, Webs, Roku, Comcast X1 ^ Bose, Sonos, Xbox One, Vita, PS3, Holocene, Squeezebox, Tesla ^ Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Sonos, Chromecast, Android TV, Android Auto You can even create your own tracks without leaving your small screen, using a variety of music -creation apps.
The mobile app boasts the same functionality as its desktop counterpart, allowing you to stream single tracks or entire albums with the option to create custom playlists. If you’re using the app on Android, you can even stream directly to a Chromecast device, making it as flexible as it is powerful.
You can also upload 100,000 songs to Apple’s servers, but unlike Google Play Music and Spotify, there’s no free option. It’s no secret many artists don’t get a great cut from most streaming services, but that’s not true for Band camp.
It proudly bills itself as the platform for directly supporting artists, and 80% to 85% of the money you spend goes directly to the singer, band, or creator you’ve bought from, making this one of the best ways to easily support more niche acts. While you won’t find every artist on Band camp, it’s an excellent place to buy content if you can afford to.
While Shazam is better known for its music -detection skills, it’s also a convenient means of streaming tracks once they are recognized. Amazon Prime members also get free access to a pared-down version of full membership with 2 million songs.
Despite being something of a foundational genre, there’s a significant lack of real streaming services for classical music. There are a million streaming services, but Audiotape specializes in getting you the hottest new songs, mixtapes, and playlists from genres such as hip-hop, rap, R&B, EDM, Afro pop, and reggae.
Sign up, and you’ll be asked to select a few artists to listen to, or you can jump straight to the trending list instead. It only has 4 million tracks to choose from, so it’s not as wide-ranging as the bigger apps, but it’s a must-download if you love the musical genres available.
SoundCloud Go costs $5 a month and offers ad-free listening and the ability to save tracks offline. Essentially a personalized radio service, the app’s For You feature creates a ceaseless playlist of new music and podcasts just for you by taking your likes and dislikes into account as you listen.
The Premium experience costs $10 (with discounts for family, student, or military plans) and mostly grants the ability to create a share playlists. Designed for the audio aficionado, Tidal boasts more than 60 million lossless-quality tracks, an offline mode, quick access to music videos, tailor-made suggestions, and in-depth interviews covering everyone from Jack White to Jay-Z.
Deezer Premium gives unlimited access to all 56 million songs, offline playback, and no ads, and starts at $10 a month. If you want the highest quality of music available, then Deezer also offers a $15 HIFI subscription that uses high-definition FLAG codecs for the best possible listening experience.
You can browse music, explore by category, or create your own station by searching for an artist. Though battling Metallica and Dr. Dre shouldn’t put you in good stead in the music business, it doesn’t seem to have done Napster much harm.
The real deal is the $10 monthly subscription, which offers an experience similar to Spotify and other services. Crucially, the Premium $10 subscription also comes with a Kids mode, which strips out unsuitable music, which may give Napster’s offering the edge if you’re looking for a child-friendly option.
You can play and loop a variety of instruments, from cello and acoustic guitar to drums and synths, using your iPhone’s touchscreen display. Then look no further than Band Lab, an entirely free (no in-app purchases) alternative to Graceland that’s very popular and very well-rated on the Google Play and Apple App Stores.
Groove pad brings a similar approach to music -making as other apps, but there are other features here to justify the download. The tutorial Beat School is high up on that list, and it walks you through the process of making a cool song, building it from the ground up.
It comes with a bunch of effects, and you can expect to find limiters, parametric equalizers, a chorus tool, and MIDI controller support. It syncs your projects between devices as well, so you can start a track on the iPad at home, and make tweaks to it on your Galaxy smartphone while waiting for the bus.
Definitely one for the kids, Hospital creates music loops by representing each individual part of the track as a different animal or shape. With DJ Studio 5, you can mix, remix, scratch, loop, pitch, and record any of your music files by using the two virtual turntables.
When you’re finished putting your masterpiece together, you can even save and post the final mixes to SoundCloud, or share them on Facebook. While the app itself is free, you’ll need to pay to access certain features, but it comes with a bunch of stuff that makes learning the guitar a lot easier.