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What's the Best Music Streaming Service of 2022? (It Depends on You)

Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal — what's the difference? And what other music streaming services are out there?

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Tucker Bowe

The easiest and most convenient way to listen to music is to stream it. You can open an app or use your voice (via a smart assistant like Alexa, Google Home or Siri) to play basically any song by any artist, ever. It's really quite amazing.

There are quite a few music streaming services to choose from in 2022. Spotify and Apple Music continue to be the most popular, but there are other options like Pandora, Amazon Music, Tidal and Deezer (and that's just naming a few) that are excellent, too. So, if you haven't yet subscribed to a service (or if you're considering switching to a new one), how do you choose?

In the past, you could more easily separate music streaming services by superlatives — for example, Spotify had the biggest library of songs, Amazon Music was the most affordable (especially if bundled with Prime) and Tidal had by far the best selection of high-resolution tracks — but the truth is that these days most music streaming services are a lot more alike than they are different.

They all require a subscription fee to listen to ad-free music, but all these fees are now roughly the same (about $10/month). If you're willing to pay a little more, some of these streaming services now offer a lossless tier (which again are all priced similarly). Every service now has a vast catalog of music, so you'll likely find the songs you're looking for. And they all have pretty great apps, so the user experience won't be that much different between services.

That said, there still definitely are reasons to choose one music streaming service over another. In 2022, those reasons can be mostly narrowed down to these things:

The Factors to Consider

How will you listen to your music? You want to make sure that the hardware you already havesmartphone, headphones, speakers, wireless receivers — work well with the music streaming service you subscribe to. For example, you want to make sure your wireless speakers support Spotify Connect or AirPlay if you plan on subscribing to Spotify or Apple Music, respectively. Also, many of Apple's products work best with Apple Music; for example, you need an Apple Music subscription to use "Hey Siri" voice commands with a HomePod. And finally, for those considering a lossless streaming service, you also want to make sure that the headphones or speakers that you have are capable of playing those high-bitrate tracks properly.

Podcasts. If you plan on listening to a lot of podcasts then the music streaming service you subscribe to is vitally important for two reasons. First, not every music streaming service has podcasts; Apple Music doesn't have podcasts as Apple has designated a separate app, Apple Podcasts (no subscription required), for people to listen and discover podcasts. And second, not every podcast is available everywhere as some music streaming services have signed exclusive deals so that podcasts only appear on its platform. (This is the case with Spotify for popular podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, Armchair Expert and Call Her Daddy.

Family plan? It makes sense to use a music streaming service that your family (or friends) use as it makes sharing music more streamline and if somebody has a question or issue it's easier to solve. Also, if you and multiple family members go in on a family plan it can save you all money. Most services make it pretty easy for subscribers to upgrade plans and add family members. (However, many services have also added extra verification and security measures to make it more difficult to beat the system with a group of friends.)

Lossless and Master Quality tracks.
And finally, not every music streaming service has lossless tracks. Spotify still doesn't support lossless tracks (but it eventually will when it launches Spotify HiFi) and neither does Pandora. And not every lossless streaming service has the same number (or same quality) of lossless tracks. For example, lossless audio is generally referred to as CD-quality audio (up to 1411kbps), but several services like Tidal HiFi have a large library Master Quality Authenticated certified tracks (up to 24bit/96kHz) that are much higher quality.

Free trial: If you're curious about a music streaming service, the best way to see if you actually like (or can notice the bump in sound quality) is to try it — and pretty much every streaming service offers a free trial. These free trials vary in length, from a week to a month, or sometimes you can get a really good deal for a small fee; Tidal is currently offering three months of its HiFi service for $1.

Why You Should Trust Us

We've been writing about and reviewing audio products — including speakers, headphones, earbuds and other audio components that run the gamut from consumer to hi-fi — for near-on a decade. We also have experience with all the below music streaming services as well as testing them on a wide variety of wireless speakers and headphones.

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Spotify
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Spotify has been one of the most popular music streaming services for years. It has a huge music catalog, arguably the best app experience, the most popular podcasts (many of which are exclusive) and a proprietary tech (Spotify Connect) that makes streaming to wireless speakers super easy. The only real downside is that, despite promises it would arrive by end of 2021, Spotify has yet to launch a lossless tier of its streaming service.

Number of tracks: more than 82 million tracks
Lossless audio? Not yet
Cost: $10/month
Free Trial: 30-day

Apple Music
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Apple flipped the script on the music industry in mid-2021 when it rolled a lossless streaming tier to its service at no extra cost. In an instant, it became the most popular and most affordable lossless streaming service overnight. But if high-fidelity streaming isn't that important to you, Apple Music is still one of the best services around. In fact, it's the perfect service for anybody with an iPhone, a large iTunes library and other Apple products — like a HomePod, AirPods Max and Apple TV — as they work really well today and (most of which) support new-age immersive technologies like spatial audio and Dolby Atmos.

Number of tracks: more than 90 million tracks
Lossless audio? Yes
Cost: $10/month
Free Trial: 3-month

Tidal HiFi and Tidal HiFi Plus
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Tidal is still the king when it comes to lossless music streaming, although it has been forced to change its business model recently in large parts to Apple Music introducing its own lossless tier. Today, Tidal has two lossless services: Tidal HiFi and Tidal HiFi Plus. Tidal HiFi costs $10/month and lets you listen to more than 80 million tracks in lossless CD-quality sound (up to 1411kbps), while Tidal HiFi Plus which costs $20/month and additionally lets you listen to Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) certified tracks (up to 24bit/96kHz) as well as audio tracks like 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos Music. With Tidal subscription, you also get access to an incredibly large library of music videos.

Number of tracks: more than 80 million
Lossless audio? Yes
Cost: $10/month or $20/month
Free Trial: 30-day

Amazon Music Unlimited
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There are two different tiers to Amazon's music service. The most entry-level is Amazon Music Prime, which is included in a $13/month Prime subscription and gets you access to two million sounds (no lossless). Then there's the higher-end Amazon Music Unlimited, which costs $8/month for Prime members and gets you access to over 75 million songs, a large catalog of lossless tracks, as well access to various podcasts and curated playlists. This is obviously a great option for Prime members looking to get a great deal on lossless tracks.

Number of tracks: over 75 million
Lossless audio? Yes
Cost: $8/month for Prime members ($10/month for non-Prime members)
Free Trial: 3-month

Qobuz
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Qobuz is another popular lossless streaming service that gives subscribers access to both CD-quality and higher-resolution Master Quality Authenticated certified tracks (up to 24bit/96kHz). The advantage of Qobuz is that a subscription is a little cheaper than Tidal, even if it doesn't have quite as extensive of a catalog or some of the exclusive features. The other downside is that, at this time, Qobuz doesn't support Dolby Atmos or spatial audio tracks.

Number of tracks: over 70 million tracks
Lossless audio? Yes
Cost: $13/month
Free Trial: 3-month

Deezer Premium and Deezer HiFi
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Deezer is a super popular lossless streaming service that rivals Tidal in terms of library size, excellent software and a diverse feature list (for example, Deezer is one of the few services that works with the Apple Watch for offline downloads and Apple Car Play for easy streaming on-the-go.). The downside to Deezer is that it maxes out at CD-quality lossless tracks, so it can't match the super high-end sound quality of other lossless streaming services. Deezer has two main subscription services, Premium ($10/month) and HiFi ($15/month), the latter of which gets you access to immersive tracks that support Sony's 360 Reality Audio

Number of tracks: over 73 million tracks
Lossless audio? Yes
Cost: $10/month (for Premium) or $15/month (for HiFi)
Free Trial: 1-month

YouTube Music Premium
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If you're somebody who listens to a lot of music from your desktop and/watches a lot of videos on YouTube, then this service is right up your alley. The big advantage of YouTube Music Premium is that in addition to giving you access to a large catalog of music, it also allows you to watch any video on YouTube without having to watch an ad. And that's a huge time saver.

Number of tracks: over 70 million tracks
Lossless audio? No
Cost: $10
Free Trial: 1-month

The Best Active Speakers of 2022 (And Which You Should Buy)
best bookshelf speakers
Hunter D. Kelley

Active speakers combine all of the traditional components of a stereo system into a pair of speakers. The amplifier is built inside the speaker and it’s optimized to provide the best possible sound quality for that specific speaker. Most active speakers have a sufficient number of inputs for all of your playback devices and, in most scenarios, a pair of powered or active speakers require only a power source and a minimal number (if any) of cable connections.

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