By Becky Scarrott
Contributions from Olivia Tambini, Becca Caddy
Olivia Tambini, Becca Caddy
There's more to music streaming than Spotify
Editor's Note, February 2023
Tidal, Apple Music and Amazon Music HD take the top three spots in our best music streaming services guide. The reason? Sound quality. Spotify might be popular with great social features, but it’s limited to lossy, compressed audio. Many of its rivals now offer both CD-quality and higher bit-rate streams, often at an equal or lower price. What’s more, Apple Music has received an iOS 16 upgrade that adds Spatial Audio. So if you have an iOS device and the latest AirPods, it’s a solid choice.
Becky Scarrott, senior audio staff writer
Gone are the days of extensive MP3 music collections — nowadays, the best music streaming services make music and podcasts more accessible than ever before. These music streaming services can completely change your listening experience too, with millions of tracks at your fingertips, a great experience across all of your devices, playlist creation tools, and personalized recommendations.
Where Spotify used to be the primary option — and at one point, the only option — thanks to its vast library and easy-to-use platform, it's got competition nowadays. The likes of Tidal, Amazon Music, and Apple Music offer fantastic alternatives, with each platform offering its own unique strengths and features.
Especially given the controversies Spotify faced in 2022 such as the situation surrounding The Joe Rogan Experience podcast and misinformation, as well as its lack of a promised ‘Spotify HiFi’ tier, now is a fantastic time to consider moving to a different platform.
Choosing the best music streaming service that’s worthy of your monthly subscription fee is easier than ever as well, but we'll make it even easier for you. We've used and tested every single one extensively. So, we put together this guide to show you the best music streaming services to consider, covering everything from what we like and dislike about them to our experiences during testing them and the audio quality they offer.
These days, Spotify is no longer at the top of our list. Because although it’s promised high-res audio for some time, it’s nowhere to be seen. In contrast, services like Tidal, Apple Music, and Amazon Music HD offer much better audio quality. Still, you decide which one's ideal for you, and this list should help you do exactly that.
Make sure you have a pair of the best headphones or best stereo speakers to make the most of the upgraded sound —oh, and if you're already immersed in Apple's ecosystem with an iPhone, AirPods and HomePod mini, say, Apple Music (with its Lossless and head-tracked Spatial Audio output –all of which can be accessed by Siri) should definitely be your first port of call.
The best music streaming services 2022
Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Exceptional sound quality for audiophiles
Reasons to buy
+ Exceptional sound Music videos Great interface
Reasons to avoid
- HiFi is expensive Playlists not quite as polished as Spotify No podcasts
HiFi is expensive-
Playlists not quite as polished as Spotify-
Our favorite streaming service, Tidal, first launched in 2014, but most of us first heard about it a year later when it was relaunched by Jay-Z at a celeb-studded event in March 2015. In March 2021, the recording artist reportedly sold a huge part of the streaming service to Jack Dorsey's Square, but looks-wise, it’s very similar to Spotify. However, there are two key things that make it stand out.
The first is that it’s billed as being artist-owned. This means it gets a better deal (although not necessarily a great deal) for musicians, paying them higher than many services per stream.
The second is that listeners get a better deal too, thanks to superb CD-quality sound, especially if you’re willing to pay extra for Tidal’s highest-tier premium subscription, HiFi Plus. That means if you take your listening more seriously, you and its MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) files could be a match made in heaven.
Again, although Tidal is better across the board, it’s the $19.99/£19.99 Tidal HiFi Plus streaming that makes the most sense and is the most significant jump in quality.
This will be a high price for some to pay, for others it’s a no-brainer. Especially if you’ve already invested in the audio hardware – like a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones. Tidal is one of the streaming services out there with lossless and high-res audio files that’ll do your love of music and top-notch audio set-up justice.
If you’re interested, start with the 30-day free trial (or, if you're lucky enough to live in the US, give Tidal's free tier, Tidal Free, a whirl). You might not notice a difference between Tidal and your music streaming service of choice here (because the file quality is capped), but plump for a paid-for subscription and you might soon realize what you’ve been missing out on.
Tidal also offers 50% off its HiFi and HiFi Plus plans to students, with the same 30-day free trial to check it out.
Read more: Tidal review
2. Apple Music
Apple design and smarts make this a true Spotify competitor
Reasons to buy
+ Massive music library Can integrate personal music Lossless and Spatial Audio Good music discovery
Massive music library+
Can integrate personal music+
Lossless and Spatial Audio+
Good music discovery
Reasons to avoid
- Spotify wins recommendations Podcasts in a separate app Mobile app a bit clunky
Spotify wins recommendations-
Podcasts in a separate app-
Mobile app a bit clunky
Apple Music is the tech giant's streaming service. It offers more than 90 million songs in its massive library, as well as music videos and exclusives – to be honest, there isn’t much you won’t find here. Apple Music is geared towards helping you to discover new tracks and artists, whether that’s through recommendations, curated playlists or its 24/7 digital radio stations.
You can also add all the music you currently own in iTunes to the service, so everything is in one place. While you don’t need a house-full of Apple products to use Apple Music, as you might expect, all of your Apple devices – as well as Apple’s smart assistant, Siri – work seamlessly with the company’s streaming service. Also, Apple isn't backwards about coming forwards when it comes to telling you the extra benefits of using its own top tier AirPods Max or AirPods Pro – namely, personalized, head-tracked Spatial Audio.
Apps are slick and easy to use. There isn’t much clutter, although some of the icons on the mobile app feel a little too big for the screen – you’ll get a more superior experience on a desktop or tablet – but this isn’t a dealbreaker; we’re just being picky.
Up until recently, we’d have said there was little to set Apple Music apart from Spotify. But since June 2021, Apple Music’s offering includes Lossless and Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos. This gives users the ability to listen to more than 90 million tracks in Lossless Audio at no extra cost.
Apple Music is priced at $9.99/£9.99 month for individuals and $14.99/£14.99month for a family plan with up to 6 users. A student plan is also available for $4.99/£4.99 month that comes with a free Apple TV+ subscription.
Read more: Apple Music review
(Update:Apple Musicalso now has a new, half-price plan – the Apple Music Voice Plan.
Half the price of the standard Apple Music plan, it’s designed for those that like to useSirito command their Apple devices (although how many people thatreallyis remains to be seen).
3. Amazon Music HD
Great value music streaming with high-quality audio
Reasons to buy
+ Huge selection of music Great for people with Prime Hi-res audio Simple and easy-to-use
Huge selection of music+
Great for people with Prime+
Simple and easy-to-use
Reasons to avoid
- Not as good-looking as the competition Music discovery is good, not great No video content No free ad tier
Not as good-looking as the competition-
Music discovery is good, not great-
No video content-
No free ad tier
Over the years, Amazon has launched several different streaming services. The best, which competes with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, is Amazon Music HD.
This is a high-quality music service to rival audiophile-grade services, like Tidal, at a great value price. It brings users lossless FLAC audio at 24-bit/192kHz, while Spotify only offers 320kbps.
Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers can upgrade to the high-quality streaming audio – which used to be reserved for Amazon Music HD subscribers – for free. This means it’s on par with Apple Music for offering a free audio quality upgrade – other services require you to pay extra, like Tidal and, soon (if it ever makes good on its promise), Spotify.
If you have Amazon Prime, you get a discount on this streaming service (it’s $7.99 / £7.99 / AU$6.99 per month rather than $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$11.99 per month). There's also a $14.99 / £14.99 / AU$17.99 per month family tier, along with a $4.99 / £4.99 per month student plan.
And, as you expect, all of the controls of Amazon Music HD have good Alexa integration. That means if you already use Amazon and its products regularly, this might be the best music streaming service for you. Even if you don’t, this is a good value option with hi-res audio and a solid library of tunes.
Read more: Amazon Music HD review
The world’s most popular streaming service
Reasons to buy
+ Fantastic personalized playlists Huge library of music and podcasts Easy-to-use interface
Fantastic personalized playlists+
Huge library of music and podcasts+
Reasons to avoid
- No high-res audio Web player feels basic Not the best for compensating artists
No high-res audio-
Web player feels basic-
Not the best for compensating artists
Spotify first launched in 2008, and at present has a library of more than 82 million tracks and 2.2 million podcasts. Oh, and there's a free tier. It’s no surprise, then, that it also has 365 million users globally, and counting.
However, Spotify is more than just a sizable catalogue of tracks and podcasts. It has an intuitive interface, a fantastic recommendation engine powering its customized playlists, new features added all the time, social tools that make sharing easy, plus you can use it almost anywhere through almost any device.
Although Spotify’s core features – a great catalogue, intuitive experience, affordable price plan – make it a fantastic service, the platform stands out for its constant innovation by way of new features, redesigns, customized playlists and even new offerings such as Spotify Lite. These improvements are rolled out regularly and ensure it’s truly offering the best experience for everyone.For example, in November 2021 Spotify has added a simple way to block other users –a great idea for stopping online harassment or allowing people to cut ties with old friends and exes they'd rather not have looking at their playlists or activity.
The one biggest drawback is that it lacks the high-quality audio experience on offer from some of its competitors – chiefly Tidal and Amazon Music HD. Spotify promised that its lossless, CD-quality offering, Spotify HiFi, would be here before the end of 2021, but there's still no sign of it.
What's more, the service was in the centre of a controversy at the beginning of 2022, as it hosts The Joe Rogan Experience – a podcast in which the host claimed healthy young people don't need the Covid vaccine.
Due to this, a number of artists, including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, removed their music from the service. Spotify responded by stating it would add content advisory warnings to any podcasts on the platform that covers the topic of the pandemic, but as a result the service has since lost well over $2 billion.
Spotify Premium is priced at $9.99 / £9.99 for individuals and $15.99 / £15.99 for a Premium family plan that allows for up to 6 members. There's also a Student Premium plan offered for $4.99 / £4.99 that bundles Showtime and Hulu's ad-supported tier for free.
Read more: Spotify review
Good value for money if you’re looking for higher-quality streams
Reasons to buy
+ CD-quality streams Good value for money Support for Sony 360 Reality Audio
Good value for money+
Support for Sony 360 Reality Audio
Reasons to avoid
- Sparse interface No hi-res audio Social aspects could be improved
No hi-res audio-
Social aspects could be improved
Deezer has a catalogue of more than 90 million songs and its well-priced subscription plans mean that there’s a streaming tier for everyone. They all come with a free three-month trial period, giving you the opportunity to really dig into the platform before you commit.
The user interface doesn’t feel quite as intuitive as Spotify or Apple Music, with a rather sterile aesthetic. That being said, Deezer is easy to use and navigate, whether you’re engaging via the desktop browser, desktop app, or mobile phone app.
Like other streaming services, Deezer’s music curation consists of a mixture of curated and personalized playlists. In addition, your listening habits will inform algorithmically generated playlists tailored to your tastes. The latter, while perhaps not as well curated as Spotify and Tidal’s offerings, are pretty good, and the platform’s innovative Flow technology means you can listen to an infinite stream of personalized tracks with just one tap/click.
The audio quality on offer depends on the subscription tier you sign up to: Deezer’s Free subscription plan offers MP3 files at 128kbps, while its Premium tier tops out at 320kbps, matching Spotify’s own Premium tier.
What interests us most, however, is the Deezer 'HiFi' tier. Costing $14.99 / £14.99 / AU$14.99 per month, it allows you to stream songs in CD quality, with 16-bit / 44.1kHz FLAC files at 1,411kbps, which is the same as Tidal’s mid-range HiFi tier. Note, though, that there’s no access to true hi-res audio files with Deezer – because hi-res audio (make sure you revise this for homework, now) tends to refer to music files that have a higher sampling frequency and/or bit depth than CD, which is specified at16-bit/44.1kHz.
However, Deezer’s HiFi tier does come with access to Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, via a dedicated app. These tracks have been given the spatial audio treatment, sounding as though every instrument is coming at you from a different angle within a virtual sphere of sound. Tidal offers this, too – but again, it’s more expensive.
Read more: Deezer review
How to choose the best music streaming service for you
If you don't have any specific requirements for a new music streaming service and simply want to be able to play music on all your devices, make playlists and see recommendations, you can't go wrong with any of the options on this list.
They all, largely, offer the same kind of service with a huge choice of music and cool discovery features. But if you're looking for something specific in terms of experience, audio performance or interface, that's when you can be pickier.
For example, although all the music streaming services we've included below have a similar interface, they're not the same. If the service you have in mind has a free trial, it is really worth signing up to see if you like how it works and looks. Most people will get the hang of any new app after a week or two, but we found Spotify and Tidal to be the slickest and most intuitive.
What's more, you'll need to check if your favorite artists are available on the music streaming platform you're considering signing up for. These days you'll find most artists on most platforms, but there are still a few that crop up on some and not others.For example, in early 2022, both Neil Young and Joni Mitchell removed their music from Spotify due to the ongoing controversy surrounding The Joe Rogan Experience.
Another point is audio quality. Over 2022, many of the best music streaming services in this list have ramped up the quality of the tracks they offer, with Apple Music and Amazon Music HD both bringing hi-res audio to their platforms. Even Spotify has announced a high-quality offering called Spotify HiFi, but although it promised to deliver this top-tier option by the end of 2021, it still isn't available…
Even then, there are still differences in terms of how much you pay for CD-quality audio and how many tracks you can listen to that would be audiophile-approved. With that in mind, take a look at our selection of the best music streaming services below.
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Senior Audio Staff Writer
Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.
With contributions from
- Olivia Tambini
- Becca Caddy
Which music streaming service is best 2022? ›
- Spotify. Best music streaming service overall. Spotify. ...
- Tidal. Best music streaming service for audiophiles. Tidal. ...
- Apple Music. Best music streaming service for Apple users. Apple.
Tidal HiFi offers exceedingly better audio quality at the same price as Spotify's Premium plan. It also has more subscription options, including a new free plan, making it a more flexible platform.Is Apple Music or Spotify better 2022? ›
Best alternative to Spotify
Despite a small price increase in 2022, Apple Music is still able to offer a lot for the money, including 100 million tracks and boasting both iOS and Android compatibility. The service runs second to Spotify in terms of subscribers, but surpasses its rival in one key respect.
Globally, Spotify is the most popular streaming platform, followed closely by the likes of Apple Music and Amazon Music. However, if we only take the US into consideration, then Apple Music comes out on top with over 49.5 million subscribers as of 2021. It is followed closely by Spotify, with 47.7 million subscribers.Who streams the highest quality music? ›
As mentioned, Tidal offers the highest audio quality of all other music apps on this list. There are a total of 4 audio quality settings to enjoy: Normal: 96 kbps. High: 320 kbps.Should I get Tidal or Spotify? ›
TIDAL HiFi Plus offers high-fidelity audio whereas Spotify does not, or at least won't until Spotify HiFi comes to fruition, but TIDAL HiFi Plus is more expensive than Spotify Premium. TIDAL HiFi, on the other hand, costs just as much as Spotify and offers lossless playback, making it a strong alternative.Is Apple better than Tidal? ›
Conclusion. If we sum up the facts, there is no real Tidal vs Apple Music battle winner. Tidal might be better than Apple Music because it's cheaper and pays artists more revenue. However, Apple Music has a broader music library than Tidal and offers some great features such as voice control and personalized playlists.What does Tidal have that Spotify doesn t? ›
Spotify offers five audio settings: Automatic, Low, Normal, High, and Very High. Audio quality tops out at approximately 320Kbps (Very High setting). Spotify doesn't offer lossless streaming like Tidal, so it's not the best choice for audiophiles.Who is winning Spotify or Apple Music? ›
|Spotify Music Amazon||Apple Music Apple|
|Student||$5 per month||$6 per month|
When it comes to music streaming apps, Spotify has the best user interface—which is surprising considering Apple is typically the king when it comes to design. In this case, Spotify's app layout is much cleaner and better organized than Apple Music.
Why does Apple Music sound so much better than Spotify? ›
Even if you're not part of the AirPods army, Apple Music has another big advantage over Spotify: lossless and high-resolution audio. Lossless audio essentially avoids a lot of the data loss that happens when songs are compressed from their original source, giving you CD-quality sound from a digital file.Which music service has most songs? ›
Which streaming services have the most number of tracks as of January 2023? Apple Music recently hit a huge milestone at 100 million songs. While they claim “More music than any other platform” looking at other platforms, we're not sure whether they checked all of the other platforms.Which music streaming service has biggest library? ›
Thanks to its user-uploaded library, SoundCloud has by far the most songs of any streaming music service at 300 million. Apple Music is the runner-up at 100 million, while Spotify is actually in last place at 80 million.Who is the number 1 streamed artist? ›
Ed Sheeran is the most-followed artist on Spotify, while Ariana Grande is the most-followed female artist. Drake is the most-streamed artist of all time on Spotify, while Taylor Swift is the most-streamed female artist.Does Tidal actually sound better? ›
It will likely come as little surprise that Tidal wins this category hands down. It offers CD-quality streaming for the same price as Spotify's comparatively lowly 320kbps streams, and goes beyond that to offer hi-res audio for those who are willing to pay a premium for it.How much does Tidal cost per month? ›
The standard TIDAL HiFi membership costs $9.99 USD/month. You get full access to the TIDAL catalog without interruption. You also get offline capabilities and access to TIDAL Connect and can stream music quality up to 1411kbps.Why is Tidal not more popular? ›
The prices have since dropped exponentially, now the service is $10 a month and the premium tier is $20, but still, the major criticism of Tidal when it first launched was how consumers felt it was too expensive, even though it had higher quality streams of the music from artists like Daft Punk, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and ...Is Apple better than Spotify? ›
Spotify Has More to Offer Than Apple Music
Spotify definitely comes out on top in most categories, but if you have a lot of local files in your library or want to listen in Dolby Atmos or Lossless audio quality, Apple Music is still the better option for you.
|Search screen of Tidal for iOS app|
Tidal is an excellent listening experience, despite the high cost of entry. Curated playlists, exclusive albums, video content, and master-quality audio make the service a stellar choice for audiophiles.
Does Jay Z own all of Tidal? ›
According to Vox, Jay-Z owns 20% and Square has majority ownership of 80% of Tidal. Square made the purchase public information via its website in March of 2021. We explained more about it here.Who pays artists more Spotify or Tidal? ›
TIDAL ranks higher than both Spotify and Apple Music in terms of royalty rate and the direct artist payouts available on the platform. It's definitely worth weighing up your options when deciding which DSP(s) to upload your music to.What musicians are against Spotify? ›
Entertainment figures Neil Young, left, Joni Mitchell, Ava DuVernay and India Arie have cut ties with Spotify. Veteran singer-songwriter Neil Young recently urged “other artists and record companies” to “move off the SPOTIFY platform and stop supporting SPOTIFY's deadly misinformation about COVID.”Who treats artists better Spotify or Apple Music? ›
Even for L. Dre, there is no clear winner in the overall Apple Music vs. Spotify comparison because the latter offers “much better” features for artists, including features like a Shopify integration for merch, smart links, and more. Apple Music “is still far, far, far behind Spotify for artists,” concludes L.Why Apple Music is cheaper than Spotify? ›
Spotify: Price. The pricing for Spotify and Apple Music was very similar, with one big difference: the former offers a free starting tier. However, Spotify's free option will interrupt your listening with recorded ads, as well as ads within the app, while paying for the Premium tier will get rid of both.Why do people prefer Spotify? ›
Spotify keeps listeners listening with its personalized Discover Weekly and Release Radar playlists. Listeners who want to put a little elbow grease into finding new music can wade through any number of artist and song-specific radio stations.Is there a better option than Apple Music? ›
There are more than 100 alternatives to Apple Music for a variety of platforms, including Android, Windows, Online / Web-based, Mac and iPhone. The best alternative is Spotify, which is free. Other great apps like Apple Music are foobar2000, AIMP, Last.fm and SoundCloud.Which music app has all songs? ›
One can listen to their favorite songs, albums, podcasts, and much more. They have a vast collection of music. Although one can stream music for free on this app, if you want to listen to music ad-free or save it for listening offline, then you will need Spotify Premium plans.
|Service||Best For||Monthly Cost|
|Netflix||Most movies||$8.99 to $17.99|
|Hulu||Current TV||$5.99 to $11.99|
|HBO Max||Latest movies||$14.99|
Netflix's growth has stalled after it lost subscribers two quarters in a row. Its stock has fallen roughly 60% so far this year and, in a bid to course correct, the platform is transforming itself from a streaming revolutionary to a new age legacy media company.
What are the most popular music streaming services in US 2022? ›
The best music streaming services 2022: Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and more. Tidal, Apple Music and Amazon Music HD take the top three spots in our best music streaming services guide.Which music platform pays the most 2022? ›
Amazon Music, the third most popular streaming service after Spotify and Apple Music, pays out one of the highest royalties – roughly $0.00402 per one stream, around $1 per 235 streams, $100 per 23,474 streams, and $1000 per 234,742 streams.What streaming service should I watch 2022? ›
- The Bear (Hulu/Disney+) ...
- Andor (Disney+) ...
- Severance (Apple TV+) ...
- Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone (BBC) ...
- Bad Sisters (Apple TV+) ...
- The White Lotus season 2 (HBO/Sky Atlantic) ...
- Better Call Saul season 6 (AMC/Netflix) ...
- Pachinko (Apple TV+)
Most streamed albums and songs in 2022
According to Spotify Wrapped 2022, Un Verano Sin Ti by Bad Bunny is the most streamed album, followed by Harry's House by Harry Styles, SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo, = (equals) by Ed Sheeran and Planet Her by Doja Cat.
Tidal and Apple Music are both leaders in music streaming. To say the least, the Tidal vs Apple Music battle is a tight one. While Tidal has cheaper pricing options and offers artist-centered service, Apple Music has some cool features that you can't get with Tidal.What is the largest streaming service 2022? ›
Amazon Prime Video overtook Netflix as the most-subscribed to streaming service in the United States, according to new data released by market research firm Parks Associates on Friday.Which is better Spotify or Tidal? ›
TIDAL HiFi Plus offers high-fidelity audio whereas Spotify does not, or at least won't until Spotify HiFi comes to fruition, but TIDAL HiFi Plus is more expensive than Spotify Premium. TIDAL HiFi, on the other hand, costs just as much as Spotify and offers lossless playback, making it a strong alternative.Which streaming platform pays most music? ›
In 2023, Apple Music pays artists $0.01 per stream on average - so essentially equalling 1 penny earned per stream. TIDAL ranks higher than both Spotify and Apple Music in terms of royalty rate and the direct artist payouts available on the platform.Should I get Apple Music or Spotify? ›
Even if you're not part of the AirPods army, Apple Music has another big advantage over Spotify: lossless and high-resolution audio. Lossless audio essentially avoids a lot of the data loss that happens when songs are compressed from their original source, giving you CD-quality sound from a digital file.Which sound quality is better Spotify or Apple Music? ›
Audio streaming quality
Because of its recent update, Apple Music now offers lossless audio quality of up to 24-bit/192 kHz as well as spatial audio with Dolby Atmos. This update allows them to stream music in audiophile-grade qualities, compared to Spotify's highest setting of up to 320kbps bitrate.
What is the #1 song in 2022? ›
"Anti-Hero", the lead single from American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift's tenth studio album Midnights (2022), was the best-selling song of 2022.What is the #1 song right now 2022? ›
Taylor Swift, “Anti-Hero”What is the number 1 song of 2022? ›
Harry Styles & Bad Bunny Lead the Charge: The Year in Global Charts 2022. Styles' “As It Was” is the top song of 2022 on the Billboard Global 200 and Global Excl.