Although most music fans seem to be gravitating toward Spotify or Apple Music, Amazon, Google, and others are still fighting for a slice of the pie and come with some interesting perks. We've narrowedmore
Although most music fans seem to be gravitating toward Spotify or Apple Music, Amazon, Google, and others are still fighting for a slice of the pie and come with some interesting perks. We've narrowed the field down to six major players to help you decide which one is the peanut butter to your jelly.
While you can get Prime Music for free with an Amazon Prime subscription, you are limited to about two million songs. Amazon Music Unlimited, meanwhile, is a direct competitor to services like Spotify Premium and Pandora Premium. You get tens of millions of songs that you can download for offline listening, playlist recommendations based on your detected tastes and editor picks, and compatibility with a wide range of devices, from Amazon's Echo devices to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The mobile app integrates the company's Alexa virtual assistant, so you can tell her the name of a song, artist, or album, and she'll get it from the catalog and play it for you, if it's available. If you have Amazon Prime, you can also pay $79 a year for Music Unlimited, which works out to just $6.58 a month. Amazon is an economical choice made more accessible via Alexa. Were it not for the absence of bass and treble adjustment options, it would rival Spotify as the best overall choice for music streaming.
iOS users should note that subscribing within the app will cost $10.99 a month, because Apple takes a cut. To get the better offers, sign up for Music Unlimited on Amazon's website instead.
Apple Music integrates its own Spotify-like streaming service with your past iTunes Music Store purchases. If your tastes have changed over the years, this can negatively impact the service's personalized playlist recommendations, but for everyone else, getting their old tunes seamlessly integrated into a flat-rate music service is handy. (Google Play Music has a similar system, but you must manually upload your MP3s to its cloud, and it's limited to 50,000 tracks.)
Apple Music doesn't let you individually tweak bass and treble, but it does have a wide variety of presets to choose from. Apple Music costs the usual $10 a month, with a $15/mo family plan, and there's a generous 90-day trial. There is no free ad-supported version of this service. And because of Apple's affinity for verticals, you won't find Apple Music in your Smart TV or in any non-Apple devices that are capable of streaming content, other than a Windows PC.
Apple Music has a selection of exclusive content, notably "Carpool Karaoke," which is a popular segment of The Late Late Show where its host James Corden rides around in a car with a celebrity musician, and they sing along to a variety of songs. (Disclosure: Download.com and The Late Late Show are owned by the same parent company.) You may also find some recommended playlists created in collaboration with other celebrities, such as Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef and author. Overall, Apple Music is a good service, but it's not as widely available as Spotify or Pandora, which also excel at exposing you to new music.
Google Play Music (GPM) is the company's own premium monthly music subscription service, distinguishing itself from the pack by throwing in YouTube Red. Red removes all ads from YouTube in a way that still compensates content creators, integrates downloads for offline viewing, and grants access to exclusive original shows. (Conversely, if you sign up for YouTube Red, you get a GPM subscription for free.) Like the others at the $10/month level, you get tens of millions of songs that you can download for offline listening, and a selection of curated and personalized playlists.
GPM's official compatibility list itemizes every single Android phone and tablet that works with it, making it difficult to get an accurate snapshot of what current and popular platforms will work with it. But we know that you can get GPM natively on Roku boxes, Android TVs, Google Home devices, the Nvidia Shield TV, and in your car via Android Auto.
The iOS version of GPM does not have treble and bass adjustment tools, or sound presets. But it does let you filter explicit content out of its radio stations.
If you watch YouTube a lot, GPM has a pretty good sales pitch, though we'd like to see an equalizer in the iOS app.
Pandora has been around for a long time as an ad-supported "radio" service, streaming tunes over the Internet on a variety of "stations," which you vote up and down within the app to personalize to your tastes. In 2017, it launched a $10/month service like the others, but its ability to fetch good music that you probably haven't heard before remains its chief attraction -- followed closely by the dizzying variety of devices where you'll find a Pandora app ready to pick up where you left off on your phone, tablet, or PC.
Note that iOS customers should sign up for Pandora directly on its website to avoid paying $3 more a month when subscribing within the iOS app.
It may be the most widely available music streaming service in the United States (it's not yet available in other countries). It's in most smart TVs, most cars' infotainment systems, many home theater receivers, Apple Watch and Fitbit, game consoles, Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, and more. The company actually dedicated an entire section of its website to listing all the brands.
Were it not for the absence of treble and bass controls in the mobile app, Pandora would be right up there with Spotify as a dynamite choice for music streaming, especially for people who want to explore new sounds and artists.
Spotify has been the default choice for the majority of music streamers for some time, but Apple Music is projected to eclipse it in 2018, thanks in part to how difficult the latter is for an iOS user to ignore. Spotify is available on a much wider range of platforms and devices, including Android Auto, almost all the popular home streaming devices and smart speakers, and most smart TVs -- and it's predicted to arrive on the Apple Watch before the end of 2018. Unlike most music streaming services, both the iOS and Android versions of the Spotify mobile app offer a 6-band equalizer and a variety of EQ presets to tailor the stream to the capabilities of your audio equipment.
$10 a month gets you access to tens of millions of songs that you can download for offline listening, personalized and curated playlists, and the ability to generate new dynamic playlists on the basis of a single song or artist. Like Pandora, it also offers an AutoPlay feature, which keeps streaming personalized music recommendations after you have reached the end of an album or static playlist.
Spotify is still the overall best choice for music streaming, but the competition increasingly nips at its heels. If Pandora or Amazon Music added an EQ to its mobile app, that may be enough to tip the balance.
Last but not least is Tidal, the premium music streaming platform co-founded by Jay-Z, one of the most successful artists on the planet who has also become quite the entrepreneur. $10 a month gets you the usual set of features, and you can also pay $20 a month for the HiFi tier, which provides lossless audio quality. However, most people don't have the audio equipment necessary to take advantage of lossless streams. On the other hand, Tidal may be the best music service we've found for hip-hop, R&B, funk, and soul -- not just in the sheer size of the catalog but also in variety, from major acts to indie up-and-comers.
Tidal doesn't let you tweak bass or treble, nor does it offer presets for those, but it does at least let you set different quality levels for streaming and downloading. Plus, if you are a Sprint or Boost Mobile subscriber, you can get a free six-month trial of Tidal HiFi, though the trial is tied to that specific device. (Sprint purchased a large stake in Tidal in early 2017, and it announced in April 2018 that it intended to merge with wireless competitor T-Mobile, which offers its own media streaming perks already.) If you're a hip-hop or R&B fan who hasn't been satisfied with other services, Tidal may be the one for you.