When we turn on the tunes for dinner music, dance music, or spring cleaning, we connect to a streaming device. Gone are the days of CD towers; we have millions of tracks at our fingertips, and we want to be able to play the songs we we want, when we want.
There are drawbacks among all that choice, though. Our smartphone, tablet, computer, or other connected device may not offer the quality of sound our high-end stereo once did. Streaming services may limit your musical choices, and some have privacy issues (do you want your friends to know you are listening to Britney Spears after your breakup?).
But there are ways around streaming music issues. Let’s look closely at favorite streaming services (arranged alphabetically) to see how each stacks up, and which are best for you.
This ad-free streaming service is part of an Amazon Prime subscription, so you may already have it. You can import your own music to Amazon’s cloud or listen to curated playlists culled from a million tracks. Quality varies depending on the speed of your internet connection.
See Related: Amazon Echo
Apply Music bought Beats streaming service, combined it with Apple Radio and created Apply Music. It’s subscription only ($9.99/month), with curated playlists, the ability to upload your own music to its cloud, and it learns your musical taste, like Pandora. If you’re an Apple aficionado or have an iTunes catalog, it’s easy to try it out. Stream to any Airplay-compatible devices in your home (or Carplay-compatible for your car).
Google Play Music
Google Music is a player, music store, and streaming service that allows you to upload 50,000 of your own tracks. There’s a free tier with ads and a $9.99 subscription with unlimited song skips. The quality is good and through the Google Music app, you can stream to a connected device.
Groove includes a media player, online store, and streaming at $9.95 per month. You can get local downloads and a 38-million-track library, and the MP3-quality sound is good. Groove is designed to work best with Microsoft products but you can also play it in web browsers and on iOS and Android.
Pandora is the time-tested streaming music model, a method of creating custom radio stations that learn your musical taste. There’s a free version and an ad-free $4.99 paid model that allows you to skip more songs and get a higher bit rate for better quality. Pandora is easy to set up and there are apps on every platform. The music library is limited to about a million tracks, which may not be enough for serious audiophiles.
Similar to Pandora but less well-known, Slacker solves the musical choice issue with 13 million available tracks. There’s a free tier with ads, an ad-free $3.99 tier, and a $9.99 tier that allows you to play any song or album and create custom playlists. Real humans, not algorithms, create Slacker radio stations. Slacker has wide access across platforms.
Spotify is beloved for its ability to stream any song or album, even on free accounts. Paid accounts at $9.99 offer a high-quality streaming rate (320KBPS) and local downloads. Spotify’s catalog has 30 million tracks, but some top artists have publicly spurned the service because of low payouts. Spotify Connect allows a Spotify app to control payback remotely on connected receivers, audio streamers, and speakers.
Tidal was designed for audiophiles, with a lossless 16-bit format and 30 million tracks. At $9.95 monthly, $19.95 for lossless service, Tidal is one of the pricier streaming services. There is exclusive content and artist-curated playlists, but sound quality is the touchstone here.