The 5 best music streaming services you can subscribe to in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Music streaming services give you access to millions of songs for a monthly subscription fee.
  • Spotify is the best service for most people thanks to its big selection, features, and free plan.

Music listening has come a long way over the past few decades. Gone are the days when you had to buy CDs, vinyl records, or cassette tapes. You don’t even have to buy digital downloads anymore. These days, you can simply sign up to a music streaming service and have on-demand access to all the music you’ll ever need on a device that sits in your pocket.

Of course, there are quite a few music streaming services out there, and they’re all a little different. Because of that, it can be hard to find the service that’s perfect for your needs.

When deciding which music service to get, it’s worth considering a few things. For starters, you’ll want to make sure that there’s an app for your chosen streaming platform on every device you use for music listening. You’ll also want to consider things like streaming audio quality and support for extra features, like digital assistants, music videos, lyrics, playlist sharing, and more.

Still figuring out which music streaming service is for you? We’ve done the research and testing so you don’t have to.

Here are the best music streaming services:

The best music service overall

Spotify

Spotify has a ton of music and audio content, along with a free streaming option and support for a range of devices.

Pros: Huge library of songs, podcasts, app support on many devices, free option, collaborative playlists, group listening

Cons: No live content, no lossless audio option yet (coming soon)

Looking for a music streaming service that has a huge range of songs and is compatible with all your devices? Spotify is the way to go. Spotify has apps for all major platforms — including iOS, Android, and your preferred web browser. There’s a free, ad-based plan that you can use for as long as you like, but ad-free streaming requires a monthly subscription.

One of the perks of Spotify is its focus on discovery and playlist curation. This includes the service’s playlist “enhance” button that lets you add similar songs to existing playlists. The app lets you filter songs by mood and genre, too. Spotify is also planning to add a “recently played” list to show songs you’ve heard over the past three months.

The service also has podcasts and video content, plus it streams music in up to a 320Kbps, which should be good enough for the majority of listeners. If that quality isn’t to your liking, however, Spotify does plan to introduce a CD-quality option, called Spotify HiFi, later this year. 

New subscribers to the Spotify Premium, Duo, or Family plans can receive a one-month free trial period. 

The best music service for Apple devices

Apple Music

Apple Music works beautifully on Apple devices, plus there’s an app for it across a range of platforms, including Android.

Pros: Large selection, live radio, excellent integration with Apple devices, curated playlists, three-month trial, discounted bundle with other Apple services

Cons: No free version, no lossless audio option

If you use an iPhone and other Apple products, then it’s worth considering Apple Music. Apple Music integrates perfectly with Apple’s hardware and software, plus it’s well-designed and works with your existing library of iTunes music.

One of the best things about Apple Music is that it integrates with Siri and the Apple Watch seamlessly, plus it can be played on a HomePod without issue. In other words, if you have other Apple devices, then Apple Music is probably the most convenient service to go for.

Apple Music has a nice selection of content, too. Apart from on-demand songs, the service offers the Apple Music 1 radio station and some exclusive music.

Though Apple Music was initially missing a web browser option, Apple now allows subscribers to use the service through internet browsers on computers and laptops without having to install a separate app. 

If you want to tap into what your friends are listening to, Apple Music also offers curated playlists for that, as well as other playlists for new music, personal favorites, and more.

New members can receive a free three-month trial. That’s two months longer than the trial period that Spotify Premium offers. Unlike Spotify, however, Apple Music does not offer a free version with ads. 

The best music service for audiophiles

Tidal

Tidal HiFi is available on a range of platforms, plus it offers much better audio quality than the majority of other music streaming services out there.

Pros: Excellent audio quality with lossless playback, available on a range of platforms, exclusive content, includes music videos

Cons: No free version, missing some features, HiFi plan is expensive

Tidal is a little different from other music streaming services in that it’s targeted toward those who want a higher resolution audio experience — and as such, it provides excellent sound quality. 

While Tidal offers a Premium plan that uses the same 320Kbps bitrate that Spotify uses, Tidal also has a HiFi plan that steps things up to a whopping 1,411Kbps in the lossless FLAC format. This means that you get to listen to music in full CD-quality exactly as it was meant to be heard. The HiFi plan also includes Tidal Masters, a feature with songs at a bitrate between 2304 and 9216Kbps.  

Tidal is also known for streaming some notable exclusive content. Albums like Jay-Z’s “4:44” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” were first launched on Tidal. There are also music videos and other behind-the-scenes content, too.

When it comes to other lossless music options, Tidal has some competition from Amazon’s Music HD plan. This service offers similar audio quality for a lower price of $15 a month. Unlike Tidal, however, Amazon Music HD doesn’t include videos. Music HD is also available on fewer devices and it lacks the exclusive releases that Tidal features.

The best music service for Amazon Prime members

Amazon Music

Amazon Music Unlimited integrates perfectly with Alexa and offers discounts for Prime subscribers or Echo owners.

Pros: Discounts for Amazon Prime members, large selection, Alexa integration

Cons: No content other than music

If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you might want to save a few bucks and go for Amazon’s music subscription service, Amazon Music Unlimited.

Prime subscribers already get access to Prime Music with their membership, but if you want a more comprehensive music selection, then it’s worth stepping things up to Music Unlimited, which offers a bigger library of songs.

Music Unlimited is available on a range of platforms, including iOS, Android, and the web. The service is tightly integrated with Amazon’s Alexa, so if you have an Echo or other Alexa product, it’ll work perfectly.

New members usually receive a free 30-day trial, but for a limited time, Amazon is offering a three-month trial. After the trial, your subscription will automatically continue for the regular monthly price unless you decide to cancel.

When it comes to audio quality, Music Unlimited streams at 256Kbps. Music Unlimited doesn’t offer any non-music content, but apart from that, it’s a solid service for those plugged into the Amazon ecosystem.

For those who want lossless audio, Amazon also offers a Music HD plan with support for high resolution playback. 

The best music service for Android users

YouTube Music

YouTube Music has a decent library of songs, plus it integrates very well with Google’s other apps and services, including Google Assistant. 

Pros: Interesting playlists, good integration with Google services, free version available

Cons: Doesn’t integrate with Alexa, no lossless audio option

YouTube Music is the way to go if you’re really plugged into Google’s ecosystem of products. In other words, if you have an Android phone and want your music streaming service to integrate well with Google Assistant, then YouTube Music is a convenient option.

It’s also available on iOS and on the web, so you should be able to access the service wherever you are. The platform even offers location-based playlists and the ability to search for songs based on lyrics.

YouTube Music isn’t perfect, but Google has been working on making it better. The app doesn’t really integrate with other voice assistants like Alexa, so if you have an Echo you’ll be stuck with playing music through the Bluetooth connection on your phone. With that said, the service does now support Siri. 

Like Spotify, YouTube Music offers a free, ad-supported version. New subscribers also get a one-month trial to test out the ad-free Premium plan. 

If you’re interested in bundling ad-free YouTube Music and YouTube video streaming, you can package the two services together under a YouTube Premium plan for $12 a month. YouTube Premium also includes exclusive video content. Since this option is only $2 more than Music Premium is on its own, it’s a better value for music fans who also like to watch YouTube videos.

What is HiFi music?

iFi Audio DAC lifestyle

Most music streaming services offer base plans that feature songs presented with “lossy” compression. This means that some of the original audio recording’s quality is being sacrificed to make the file smaller and easier to stream. In other words, standard streaming audio isn’t equal to the quality you’d hear on an actual CD.

Though this loss in quality is hard to notice for the average listener, most audiophiles demand “lossless” music that preserves the full range of the original track. This is where “HiFi” music streaming comes in.

Different platforms brand their lossless audio plans under different names, including HiFi, HD Music, and Hi-Res Music. Though there are some differences between them, they all generally refer to streaming audio tracks that are presented in at least CD-quality. 

Tidal and Amazon Music HD are some of the most popular services with lossless audio options, making them a better fit for listeners who want the very best quality. Spotify will also add a CD-quality plan later this year. 

On the downside, lossless audio streaming requires more bandwidth so you’ll need a fast internet connection and big data plan. To take full advantage of the audio quality benefits you’ll also need a nice pair of headphones and a dedicated digital-to-analog converter, or a high-end set of speakers.

You can learn more about lossless audio formats in our guide to HD audio.

Check out our related buying guides

Apple Airpods

If you’re signing up for a music streaming service, chances are you’ll need a reliable media player or smartphone to access the app, along with a nice pair of speakers or headphones to actually listen to your favorite tracks on.

With that in mind, we’ve highlighted some of our other buying guides for streaming players, mobile devices, headphones, and speakers that are sure to come in handy for anyone who wants to stream music.  

The best streaming sticks and boxes


The best smartphones


The best cheap headphones


The best noise-cancelling headphones


 The best true wireless earbuds


The best speakers


The best Bluetooth speakers


The best digital-to-analog converters

 

Read the original article on Business Insider